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The Lake Winnibigoshish Destination covers a portion of the central northern region of Minnesota. Its namesake, Lake Winnibigoshish, is found in the lower southwestern section of the destination, with its primary inflow and outflow being the Mississippi River. Outdoor recreation is a fairly popular pastime in and around Lake Winnibigoshish, as a considerable number of people visit the lake to go fishing. Cut Foot Sioux Lake, a body of water that conjoins with Lake Winnibigoshish, contains a notable population of bass, crappie, bluegills, jumbo perch, muskie, walleye, and other types of fish. Directly alongside the lake is Chippewa National Forest, which features 41 miles of paved biking trails, 43 miles of unpaved biking trails, 160 miles of hiking trails, 380 miles of snowmobiling trails, and 21 developed campgrounds. Occupying 666,623 acres of land, the national forest provides habitats for various types of wildlife. Hawks, woodpeckers, weasels, red squirrels, and bald eagles are some of the species that may be spotted in Chippewa National Forest. The destination’s northern half is dominated by Minnesota’s largest state forest, Pine Island State Forest. Similar to Chippewa National Forest, a number of fishermen visit Pine Island State Forest, as several streams and rivers course through the land, one of the most notable being the Big Fork State Water Trail.
Encompassing a portion of Minnesota’s northernmost region, the Lake Winnibigoshish Destination is primarily comprised of woodlands and natural areas. The destination's namesake, Lake Winnibigoshish, is located in the southwestern section of the region and covers a total of 67,000 acres, which ranks it the fourth-largest lake in Minnesota. Often referred to as “Lake Winnie,” the lake tends to be frequented by fishermen and those who enjoy outdoor recreational activities, as a relatively high quantity of campgrounds and resorts are found along the lake’s 70 miles of shoreline.
Lake Winnibigoshish serves as the home for a variety of fish species, namely northern pike, walleye, slab crappies, panfish, jumbo perch, and musky, among others. Fishing can be undertaken on the lake year-round, as the winter season brings opportunities for ice fishing. Adjacent to Lake Winnibigoshish is the Chippewa National Forest, which covers 1.6 million acres that contain 1,300 lakes–including the entirety of Lake Winnibigoshish and the conjoining Cut Foot Sioux Lake. Within this extensive acreage, over 100 miles of trails wind throughout the national forest, allowing visitors to go mountain biking, wildlife viewing, hunting, and cross-country skiing. Out of all of America’s contiguous 48 states, Chippewa National Forest is reportedly the location inhabited by the largest bald eagle population. Aside from the outdoor recreational aspect of the national forest, the neighboring towns of Deer River and Grand Rapids offer a wide range of activities that may pique the interest of tourists. Musical productions, art galleries, museums, gift shops, mini golf courses, restaurants, casinos, and historical sites are a few pastimes that people are drawn to in the previously listed towns.
One of the largest and most prominent cities that can be found in the Lake Winnibigoshish Destination is Grand Rapids. The city is known by many locals and tourists for being the birthplace of Judy Garland, the actress who played Dorothy in the original Wizard of Oz. On account of this, Grand Rapids features a museum called the Judy Garland Museum that was intended to honor the actress.
The largest of Minnesota’s 60 state forests, Pine Island State Forest, occupies 900,153 acres of land in the northern portion of the Lake Winnibigoshish Destination. Akin to Chippewa National Forest, Pine Island State Forest primarily receives those who enjoy outdoor recreation, as the park offers 168 miles of hiking trails, 2.5 miles of cross-country skiing trails, and opportunities for boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and snowshoeing.
The Lake Winnibigoshish Destination is mainly composed of woodland areas and chiefly dominated by several state forests and natural sites, which are as follows: Pine Island State Forest, George Washington State Forest, Chippewa National Forest, Big Fork, and Koochiching. The topography of these state forests comprises marshlands, lakes, and rivers, with the destination’s namesake being the largest body of water that is entirely found within the Lake Winnibigoshish Destination. Coursing directly through Lake Winnibigoshish is the Mississippi River, which enters the lake from its western shore and flows from its eastern side toward the city of Grand Rapids. At its deepest point, Lake Winnibigoshish reaches an estimated depth of 70 feet, though the lake generally sinks to an average depth of 15 feet in most areas.
Minnesota State Scenic Byway 36, also known as the “Avenue of Pines,” winds through Chippewa National Forest past Lake Winnibigoshish. From this route, some of the forest’s “most scenic areas” can be viewed, including the lakes, marshes, and aspen tree stands. Due to the varying topography around Lake Winnibigoshish that supports a diversity of habitats, Chippewa National Forest contains an ecosystem that is home to an abundance of wildlife—most predominantly the bald eagle. White-tailed deer, black bears, porcupines, and osprey are a few types of animals that inhabit the Chippewa National Forest. Concerning the forest’s vegetation, a fair amount of aspen, birch, balsam fir, pine, and maple trees characterize the landscape.
The town that is located within the closest proximity to Lake Winnibigoshish is Bena, Minnesota. Lake Winnibigoshish and Bena experience similar climates, as June, July, and August have been reported to be “the most pleasant months,” in terms of average temperatures, compared to other times of the year. Temperatures typically reach their highest point in Bena and its encompassing areas during the month of July, with a high of around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, the winter season receives more extreme temperatures that drop to a low of roughly -3 degrees Fahrenheit in January. With regard to precipitation, Bena averages approximately 40 inches of snow and 27 inches of rainfall each year.
The name of Lake Winnibigoshish has its genesis in the Ojibwe language, deriving from the term “Wiinibiigoonzhish,” which translates to English as “filthy water.” Lake Winnibigoshish was named in reference to Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. The former Winnibigoshish Township that was once established on the lake’s northern shore was named after the lake; however, the township is currently unorganized. Between 1881 and 1884, the dams of Lake Winnibigoshish, Pokegama Falls, and Leech Lake were built with the intent to control water flow and flooding on the Mississippi River. The construction of these dams prompted “a new era of water regulation projects” along the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.
Chippewa National Forest, adjacent to Lake Winnibigoshish, was reportedly the first national forest that was established east of the Mississippi River in 1908. The park had originally been titled Minnesota National Forest, though the name was changed to Chippewa National Forest for the purpose of honoring the original inhabitants. As a result of the Morris Act, nearly 200,000 acres of the Chippewas of the Mississippi, Leech Lake, Cass Lake, and Winnibigoshish Indian reservations were classified as Forest Reserves. Presently, over 3,000 archaeological and historical sites are found throughout Chippewa National Forest, with two of the most significant being the Chippewa National Forest Historic Supervisor’s Office and Camp Rabideau, both of which are open to the general public.