Sea Gull Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northeast -

Sea Gull Lake is at the end of Gunflint Trail, one of Northeast Minnesota’s best known and most loved Scenic Byways. The trail provides 57 miles of near-wilderness scenery and outdoor sporting venues, with Sea Gull Lake very near the actual end of the route. Gunflint Trail goes around the north end of the lake and makes a loop around the National Forest Service Campground at nearby small Gull Lake. Sea Gull Lake is also one of the entry points into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the huge canoeing paradise along the USA-Canada border that receives thousands of visitors each year. Most of the sprawling 4,000-acre lake is within the Superior National Forest; there is very little private property on Sea Gull Lake.

Sea Gull Lake is far from deserted, however. Several resort lodges and outfitters are located along the shoreline. One even provides a paddler’s camp for canoeing groups, complete with bunk rooms sleeping up to eight people. In addition to rental cabins and rooms, the camps provide such welcome amenities to area paddlers as hot showers, meals, equipment rental and supplies. Boats with motors are restricted to less than a quarter of the water’s surface, so a vacation here has a feel of remoteness and solitude. The proprietors of these camps know paddling and hiking, and can be counted on to organize all types of outdoor-related activities for their guests.

The heavily forested area is great for backpack treks and wildlife watching. The shoreline is rocky, and granite outcroppings protrude from the landscape, particularly in areas impacted by fire. Fishing is likely the main attraction for non-paddlers; the lake holds burbot, lake trout, lake whitefish, northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye. In recent years there has been a bumper catch of northern pike in the lake. The Minnesota DNR hasn’t stocked the lake since 1992, and the lake trout and walleye are reproducing well naturally. Although the lake reaches 145 feet deep in spots, other areas are shallower, with many islands and granite islets emerging above the surface. Ice fishing for lake trout is productive enough here that a great many fishermen make the mid-winter trip up the Gunflint Trail to try their luck on the ice. The camps and outfitters in the area sell fishing licenses, bait and necessary supplies for a great winter outing.

Sea Gull Lake area suffered from three major natural events that changed the landscape in the past few years. A major ‘blow-down’ in 1999 felled a huge number of trees. Two forest fires also burned over large areas, destroying many of the existing homes on the lake. Those areas can still be recognized as a scar upon the forested face of the region; however, the fires brought rewards, too. Dead and downed trees supported beetles and insects which made the area a woodpecker heaven. New, low growth provides protection for moose and deer. Bald eagles, broad winged hawks, pine marten, flycatchers, warblers and sparrows are often seen here. The lake hosts a variety of waterfowl and ducks, while osprey and turkey vultures often soar above. Conditions created by the fires appear to be the cause of the large upswing in northern pike. Although forest fires are devastating to property, they serve to rejuvenate the forest, allowing for plant and tree diversity and provide food and shelter to a wider range of wildlife.

Entering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area requires a permit obtainable from the US Forest Service Ranger in Grand Marais. Only a limited number of permits are issued for each entry-point lake to keep the wilderness route wild and pristine. Many paddlers allow the outfitters and resorts to organize their canoe trip and can count on them to arrange for all necessary gear and supplies. Guides can be provided if desired. Some camps will even tow canoes to the starting point of the Boundary Waters water route, saving them the effort of paddling the length of the lake. Many of the camps and outfitters have been in business for several generations at Sea Gull Lake and know the area intimately.

A number of trails in the area allow for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and winter hiking. In warmer weather, abandoned logging trails make for excellent exploring by mountain bike. There are primitive campsites nearby on National Forest lands, and the organized campground at the Gunflint Loop provides water and restrooms for vehicle camping. Not far north of the lake, the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center tells the story of the Gunflint Trail and the history and environment of the region. The Chik-Wauk Museum is a project of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, Gunflint Ranger District and Superior National Forest.

The Gunflint Trail roughly follows the old Native American and Voyageur waterway trail that served the area for many years before roads were built. The old Gunflint Trail took many years and many tries before the Civilian Conservation Corps came in to complete the piecemeal project during the Depression. One of the CCC Camps was in the Sea Gull Lake area. Although CCC programs were in general well-received, the Gunflint Trail project was anything but a smooth operation, with the locals of the 1930’s era concerned about the influx of ‘outsiders’ being used to construct the trail. The trail is now a paved, two-lane road with many trailheads for hiking, resorts and campgrounds. There are few homes allowed near the trail, but there are a number of discretely-placed facilities for lodgings, meals and outdoor equipment and guides.

The Gunflint Trail website provides detailed descriptions of various parts of the trail and highlights the many tourism-related businesses along the route. This is one wilderness area that is well-supplied with hotels, motels, resorts, guest cabins, restaurants and activities for vacationers. Sea Gull Lake may be near the end of the trail, but it is also the beginning of many outdoor adventures. Choose the kind of adventure that suits your fancy and head toward Sea Gull Lake.

Things to do at Sea Gull Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Sea Gull Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Burbot
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish

Sea Gull Lake Photo Gallery

Sea Gull Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,958 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,452 feet

Maximum Depth: 145 feet

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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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