Upper Red Lake, Minnesota, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Upper Red Lake.

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Upper Red Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northwest -

Nestled in the Northwest Region of Minnesota, Upper Red Lake has an incredible comeback story and is becoming a popular vacation place for the second time. Set on the edge of the Big Bog, Upper Red Lake is located near the town of Waskish. Upper Red Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Minnesota when combined with Lower Red Lake. Upper Red Lake considered alone however, is the second-largest lake in Minnesota with Mil Lacs Lake the largest. The two Red lakes are connected by the Narrows, a three-quarter mile wide channel, and have 288,000 acres of excellent fishing waters.

Upper Red Lake has 120,000 acres of water; however, only 48,000 acres are owned by the State of Minnesota with general public access. The remaining acres, as well as the whole of Lower Red Lake, are owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and their waters are off-limits to anyone not enrolled in their band. The Red Lakes were greatly known for their excellent walleye fishing in the early 1970s. However, with angling harvesting and gill net fishing, the walleye population collapsed and in 1999 walleye sport fishing was closed. In 2006, after considerable efforts from both Native American and government agencies, the restocking of walleye was a success. Now with harvesting regulations set in place, anglers can enjoy fishing for walleye in Upper Red Lake. Upper Red Lake is also known for its great crappie and northern pike catches.

In 1951, the Red Lake Dam was completed along with 3.2 miles of channels through surrounding marshes. By locating the Red Lake Dam at the outlet of Lower Red Lake, the US Army Corps of Engineers had to receive permission to construct the dam from the Red Lake Tribal Council. The Corps of Engineers does not own land around the dam, but they own and operate the dam; the project supplies water and provides for flood reduction, fish and wildlife management, pollution abatement, and recreation. Visitors can enjoy the part of the Upper Red Lake that is owned by the State of Minnesota. Public access to Upper Red Lake can be found on the south shore as well as three places on the Tamarac River.

Lakefront property can be purchased or rented on Upper Red Lake, and lake visitors may find their dream home or favorite vacation rental awaiting them. For those who would rather camp, they can find cabins and camping areas at Big Bog State Recreation Area. The Big Bog is the largest bog located in the lower 48 states. Big Bog State Recreation Area came about as way to draw tourists to the Waskish area after the crash of the walleye population. There are electric and non-electric campsites as well as heated and rustic cabins. Other amenities include a sandy beach for swimming, grounds for picnicking, and a mile-long boardwalk that takes visitors into the beauty of the bog where they can view the unique plant and animal life. Also, campers may enjoy Red Lake State Park which offers drive-in campsites, picnic tables, fishing docks and hunting area. Red Lake State Park is a great place to go canoeing, fishing, hiking and swimming.

Near Upper Red Lake are the Pine Island State Forest and the Lost River State Forest. Both places make excellent opportunities for more camping and hunting. Moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, gray wolves, bobcat and fox roam the woods and the Big Bog. The Upper Red Lake area offers miles of public hunting places. There are also miles of ATV trails and hiking paths. So whether lake visitors are interested in hunting or wildlife viewing, there is plenty of room in the woods around Upper Red Lake.

Lake visitors will enjoy vacationing in the wilderness of Upper Red Lake, or even choose to call it home. So cast your line, sunbathe on the beach, or explore the beauty of the area by boat.

Custom Upper Red Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Upper Red Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • State Forest

Fish species found at Upper Red Lake

  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Upper Red Lake

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Upper Red Lake photo gallery

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Upper Red Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 119,271 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,175 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,170 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,179 feet

Average Depth: 7 feet

Maximum Depth: 18 feet

Water Volume: 2,129,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1951

Drainage Area: 1,950 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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