Namakan Lake, Minnesota USA & Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario - USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northeast -

Also known as:  Namakan Reservoir

Namakan Lake’s delights await the lucky visitor. Covering more than 24,000 acres with many small islands, about half of the lake is located in Minnesota’s Northeast Region and the other half in Ontario, Canada. The USA portion of the lake lies within Voyageurs National Park, a vast expanse of woods and water protected from development to remain in much the same condition as the famed fur trappers and traders found it. Namakan Lake is only a part of the huge reservoir bearing the same name: Namakan Reservoir also includes Sand Point Lake, Little Vermilion Lake, Kabetogama Lake, and Crane Lake. All flow into Namakan Lake. Waters then flow northward into Rainy Lake at three points from Namakan Lake.

Long the property of a succession of lumbering interests, Voyageurs National Park was formed in 1975, creating the only national park within Minnesota. The hundreds of miles of lakeshore on the connected lakes never became developed for private cottages, although several resort properties offered lodgings and fishing trips. Due to distance from large metropolitan areas, with the Twin Cities five hours, Winnipeg four hours and Duluth three hours away, Namakan Lake remained a remote resort lake reached primarily by boat or float plane. When lumbering interests decided to sell their holdings, the USA side promptly became the national park, with a few private cottages located on the Canadian shoreline and on some of the larger islands. The heavily wooded shoreline still presents an unbroken expanse of forested lakefront, providing the signature solitude and wild nature so necessary to a traditional up-north vacation.

Water is always the focus of time spent at Namakan Lake: swimming, paddling, wildlife viewing and nature photography consume most of visitors’ days. The clear, cool lake is a delight to swim in, with many natural sandy beaches. The water is so clear that boaters can see over ten feet in depth. All types of boats are permitted except for personal watercraft as long as they are legally registered according to Minnesota law. Boats crossing into Canadian waters must obtain a CANPASS Remote Area Border Crossing permit in advance from the nearest port of entry or by mail. Comparable regulations are in effect when returning to the United States side. These permits are not easily available along the shoreline, so it is best to obtain necessary forms by mail before embarking on any boating adventure. There are no marinas on Namakan Lake, and most boat ramps are located along the Ash River between Namakan Lake and Kabetogama Lake near the Ash River Visitors Center. A number of campsites-all primitive-can be accessed by boat on the Namakan Lake shoreline. Permits are available at the Visitors Center with reservations required for most.

Fishing is always a big attraction at Namakan Lake. Most commonly caught are black crappie, bluegill, northern pike, rock bass, sauger, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch. Fishing guides in the area regularly lead fishing expeditions on Namakan Lake and its connected waterways and may be the better option for first-time visitors because they know where the whoppers are hiding. Those fishing Canadian waters will need an Ontario Non-Resident Fishing License, along with approved Canadian bait. Ice fishing is permitted but not very common due to the distance to the lake from traveled roads. Luckily, snowmobiling within the park is allowed on the many marked trails, and snowmobilers can access the more remote parts of the lake via snow machine.

Many visitors to Voyageur National Park stay at one of the several resorts located along the Ash River. Boats and houseboats can be rented at several locations, and houseboat camping trips are very popular. The several lakes of the Namakan Reservoir are all accessible by boat, and one could spend a month lazily exploring the hundreds of miles of shoreline. A few private cottage rentals are locate on the Canadian side of Namakan Lake, and there is even a limited amount of real estate available-usually in the form of existing cottages. Other properties are located on the many smaller lakes in the area. Most private rentals will help prospective vacationers arrange transportation to their remote properties. Arrival in winter offers the unique opportunity to travel the marked ‘ice road’. Wildlife is plentiful, with moose, bear, bald eagles, otters, loons and timber wolves seen along with a wide variety of songbirds.

There is little in the way of tourist accommodations or conveniences available at Namakan Lake. The entire park is meant to be a wilderness experience. Visitors are expected to pack in their food, drinking water and sleeping gear and pack out their trash. The nearest Visitor Center to Namakan Lake is the one located at Ash River, which does offer some services, including food, supplies, maps and boat rentals. The Visitors Center offers extensive information on the history, geology and ecology off the area. Voyageurs National Park is a natural extension of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the east and receives many paddling visitors from that area.

The Voyageurs National Park Association is a volunteer group which works to protect the area and promote pleasant wilderness experiences to outside visitors. One project they have recently been involved in has been stopping the development of a large hydroelectric dam on the Namakan River, west of Namakan Lake. Their overall goal is to protect the natural environment of this beautiful area, including the natural watercourses. The association coordinates information on local attractions, points of interest, lodgings and restaurants near the park.

Water levels at Namakan Lake are controlled by small dams at Kettle Falls and Squirrel Falls. The entire system within the Park has levels controlled by a larger dam at International Falls, MN/Fort Frances, ON. Because of the cross-border nature of the waterway, the entire system is under the ultimate control of International Rainy Lake Board of Control. Adjustments have been made in recent years to more closely replicate the natural seasonal water level changes so as to provide better habitat for fish spawning. This appears to have improved walleye fishing, which is being closely monitored.

Add Namakan Lake to your ‘must-visit’ list soon. Such natural beauty and solitude are a rare find in today’s busy world.

Things to do at Namakan Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Namakan Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Namakan Lake Photo Gallery

Namakan Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Water Level Control: International Joint Commission

Surface Area: 24,066 acres

Shoreline Length: 285 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,112 feet

Average Depth: 45 feet

Maximum Depth: 151 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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