Winter Park Chain of Lakes, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - East Central -

Also known as:  Lake Mizell, Lake Minnehaha, Lake Osceola, Lake Virginia, Lake Maitland

The Winter Park Chain of Lakes has been a major feature contributing to quality of life in Winter Park, Florida for well over a hundred years. The City of Winter Park was developed as a resort community beginning in 1885 soon after the railroad first was constructed across this East Central Florida region. A chain of beautiful small lakes soon became the centerpiece of the growing town. Past presidents often vacationed here at some of the opulent lakefront resort hotels.

Before the turn of the last century, Florida was discovered as a warm winter retreat by wealthy northerners; the City of Winter Park grew to accommodate that need. Canals were dug between several of the lakes to facilitate drainage and to accommodate boat traffic. Although several other small lakes connect to the main five lakes in the Winter Park Chain, most of the smaller channels are not navigable. Boating enthusiasts and fishermen can access Lake Osceola (157 acres), Lake Minnehaha (98 acres) and Lake Mizell (68 acres) from public launch sites on Lake Virginia (225 acres) and Lake Maitland (449 acres). Water skiers in particular like Lake Virginia and Lake Minnehaha .

The City of Winter Park provides a small park with picnic area, swim beach, fishing dock and boat launch at Dinky Park on Lake Virginia. Another public boat launch is located on Lake Maitland. To avoid boat congestion, a boat permit, either daily or annual, must be purchased for any motorized watercraft. The price varies according to size. Very little public land is located around the lakeshores, which hold exclusive upscale homes. As many famous people have lived here over the years, the popular pontoon boat tours allow visitors to marvel at the elegant architecture of the lakefront homes and the amazing boathouses built along the shore. Some websites advertise these boat tours as the Florida version of a historic walking tour. The one-hour tours are filled with historical information and a knowledgeable guide to point out the most unique properties. Other boaters should note that the canals between these lakes are quite narrow, and the pontoon tour boats take up the entire canal, so enter at your own risk. Luckily, most of the canals are quite short.

Fishing is a popular sport on the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. The 2,781 acres of water hold sunshine bass, bass, black crappie, striped hybrid bass, bream, tilapia and gar. As there is little public shoreline for fishing other than the fishing dock at Dinky Park and another at Kraft Azalea Garden Park on Lake Maitland, many utilize canoe or kayak to reach their favorite fishing holes. The lakes are quite shallow, with the deepest spot among them being a 29-foot ‘hole’ on Lake Maitland. Many anglers prefer to fish the largest lakes early in the day before the water fills with watersports fans. Little Lake Nina, just off the main canal between Lake Minnehaha and Lake Maitland, is a peaceful spot for casting a line into the weed beds without choppy waves created by ski boats.

During periods of high water, some of the other small lakes attached by drainage course to the Winter Park Chain of Lakes may also be reached by canoe or kayak. Many of these smaller lakes are bordered by wetlands and harbor a wide variety of wildlife and waterfowl. Otters are frequent in the canals between the lakes, while ospreys, bald eagles, woodpeckers and kingfishers join wading birds and waterfowl along the canals and at the lakeshores. Kraft Azalea Garden Park is particularly busy with nesting birds during hatchling season. So numerous are the birds flying overhead there that birdwatchers often suggest an umbrella as required gear right along with binoculars!

Early a favorite getaway of the wealthy, Winter Park continued to grow in popularity and size until it was nearly encompassed by nearby Orlando and the various theme parks. City leaders realized they had a unique environment within the lake-based town and worked to protect the local ambiance through zoning and environmental education. Maintaining and enjoying the Winter Park Chain of Lakes as a playground for residents and visitors alike is a large part of the focus of city planning. Along with Kraft Azalea Garden Park and Dinky Park, the city holds nearly 70 other parks and several walking trails, including one along the old railroad bed that first drew visitors to the area.

Scenes of Olde Winter Park show a neighborhood with narrow brick streets winding between live oaks and camphor trees draped with Spanish moss. Historic buildings have been preserved with care. Nationally-known Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is one of the country’s oldest outdoor juried art festivals, rated as the best of its kind by national magazines. The festival draws thousands to the city every year. The Winter Park Farmer’s Market serves residents and visitors every Saturday with fresh produce and baked goods.

Though surrounded by ever-expanding cities, Winter Park has maintained its sense of history with particular emphasis on the Arts. A city filled with unique shopping and dining experiences, Winter Park also hosts Florida’s first four-year college-Rollins College-which opened along the shore of Lake Virginia in 1885. Among the cultural events the city is known for, the Bach Festival Society calls Rollins College home and offers an annual concert series and the yearly Bach Festival. Nationally-accredited Full Sail University, formed in the 1970s, offers degree programs in business, computer animation, audio, and film and design which brings a young and creative class of residents to the area.

Other cultural treasures near the Winter Park Chain of Lakes include the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Mead Botanical Garden, and the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. The Botanical Garden encompasses nearly 48 acres featuring several eco-systems with flowers, butterfly garden, amphitheater and recreation center. Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens on Lake Osceola features the home and works of the famous Czech-immigrant sculptor along with visiting exhibits. The Morse Museum features the largest collection of Tiffany glass art in the world along with other collections of American art produced in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Winter Park Concours d’Elegance Exotic Car Shows attract a completely different audience that enjoys unusual luxury cars on display.

Winter Park can easily be reached by major highway or by Amtrak. A number of major hotels have locations near the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, with other lodgings in the form of bed & breakfasts, short-term rental condos, and occasional private vacation rentals on the chain itself. Real estate is available and usually in higher demand than some of the surrounding areas. The mixture of history and creativity offers an ambiance that will suit any discerning visitor. The lakes themselves are inviting for fishing, boating and wildlife watching. And the major tourist attractions are just down the road near Orlando. So plan a vacation a bit different from the usual tourist-geared scene and enjoy a cruise along the Winter Park Chain of Lakes.

*Statistics are for the lake chain as a whole, not individual lakes,whose acreages are shown in the summary above. The figure listed for total acreage includes peripherally-connected lakes and the canals. Actually navigable water acreage is closer to 1000 acres.

Things to do at Winter Park Chain of Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Winter Park Chain of Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Crappie
  • Gar
  • Sunshine Bass
  • Tilapia

Winter Park Chain of Lakes Photo Gallery

Winter Park Chain of Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,781 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 66 feet

Average Depth: 14 feet

Maximum Depth: 29 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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