Upper Red Lake, Minnesota, USA

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.

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

Upper Red Lake Photo Gallery

    Upper Red Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    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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    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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