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Mille Lacs Lake
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The Mille Lacs Lake Destination encompasses Minnesota’s central and southern regions in the Midwestern United States. Hills and rough terrain characterize the northern quarter of Mille Lacs County, just below Mille Lacs Lake—the destination’s namesake.[8] Mille Lacs Lake’s name has its genesis in the French language, translating to English as “Thousand Lakes.” Historical maps of Mille Lacs Lake and its surroundings have identified the lake by several other different names since the time it was first inhabited by settlers.[1] Aside from the namesake, other aquatic features compose the destination. For example, the Rum River courses from Lake Onamia in the northern region of Mille Lacs County to the south.[8] In addition, the Mississippi River runs from the north to the southwest, past the Savanna State Forest. Fishing is a fairly popular activity that visitors undertake in various locations of the destination, the Mississippi River being one of them.[3] Mille Lacs Lake also offers opportunities for fishing, as a significant inhabitation of largemouth bass, black crappie, and northern pike dwell in the waters.[1] For those who plan on engaging in outdoor recreation, June through August generally has moderate temperatures and somewhat reasonable climatic conditions.[4]

What Mille Lacs Lake is known for

Located in central Minnesota, the Mille Lacs Lake Destination occupies a considerable portion of the state’s southern regions. Little Falls, Mora, Hinckley, St. Cloud, Long Praire, Aitkin, Onamia, McGregor, Princeton, and Cambridge are a few cities that comprise the destination, all of which are found within the state of Minnesota. A fairly small portion of northwestern Wisconsin also accounts for part of the southeastern region of the Mille Lacs Lake Destination; however, Minnesota constitutes the vast majority of the destination as a whole. The namesake, Mille Lacs Lake, can be found near the heart of the destination, slightly east of Minnesota’s central region, and stretches approximately 132,516 acres.[2] The lake covers a surface area of nearly 207 square miles, making it Minnesota’s second-largest inland lake after Red Lake.[1] 

Outside the boundaries of the destination to the west, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area—a significantly prominent city in Minnesota—can be found about a 1.5- to 2-hour drive from Mille Lacs Lake. The lake itself is most notably known for the abundance of fishing opportunities that visitors can pursue. One of the most sought-after species of fish that can be caught in Mille Lacs Lake is the walleye.[2] Each year, billions of walleye eggs and fry are produced throughout the lake. In comparison to other seasons of the year, the winter months typically receive the highest number of fishermen who visit the lake to go ice fishing, specifically for walleye. Other species that inhabit the lake include northern pike, jumbo perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, muskie, burbot, black crappie, and tullibee.[1]

Situated in the southwestern corner of the Mille Lacs Lake Destination is the city of St. Cloud, Minnesota’s 12th largest city.[7] St. Cloud is most commonly known for the granite quarries that have been in operation since 1868. The city is reportedly located in Minnesota’s “top agricultural region,” which allows for the production of dairy products, poultry, barley, oats, hay, rye, corn, and soybeans. Other aids to the economy include poultry processing, printing, financial services, and warehousing.[6] People often tour St. Cloud to visit sites such as the Cathedral of Saint Mary, which is the “mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Cloud;” the St. Cloud Commercial Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens, which date back to the 1930s.[7]


Much of the Mille Lacs Lake Destination is characteristic of forested regions and vegetation, as a relatively high quantity of state parks and nature preserves can be found throughout the destination. Savanna State Forest, Solana State Park, Snake Creek River, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, Rum River State Forest, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Kimerbly State Wildlife Management Area are a few of these natural areas, among several others. Many outdoor enthusiasts visit Savanna State Forest for recreational activities. Nearly 15 miles of hiking trails wind through the area, and a number of lakes dot the state forest, where visitors can go fishing and swimming. Notably, the Mississippi River courses through the Savanna State Forest from the destination’s northern region to the southwest above Mille Lacs Lake. Fishermen often frequent the Mississippi River to utilize the boat/canoe routes.[3]

The Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge serves as the home for a diverse range of bird species. From summer to early fall, visitors may spot ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, herring gulls, American white pelicans, and a state-threatened species known as the common tern. The state of Minnesota has five breeding colonies for common terns, and one of them is found in the Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge. Common terns inhabit the Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge particularly due to the abundance of minnows, which common terns feed on.[5]

In comparison to previously recorded temperatures that took place in towns and cities throughout Minnesota, Mille Lacs County is believed to be “cooler than most places in Minnesota.” The hottest month of the year in the county tends to be July, with an average high of around 80.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures generally range between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout June, July, and August, which many visitors consider “the most pleasant months” for outdoor activities. January is most commonly the coldest month of the year in Mille Lacs Lake County, as temperatures drop to roughly 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit on an average nightly basis. Temperatures fall below freezing approximately 175.4 days of the year annually.[4]

A total of 90.7 rainy days occur annually in Mille Lacs County. Generally speaking, the days that receive precipitation are rather dispersed throughout the year, though June frequently has the highest number of rainy days, with an average of 11 days that receive precipitation. The rainiest season, however, is typically autumn, as it rains 33% of the time. As for snow, Mille Lacs County receives about 43.5 inches annually.[4]


Toward the end of the glaciation period about 15,000 years ago in Minnesota’s neighboring state, Wisconsin, the Mille Lacs moraine was formed by a tongue-shaped lobe of ice that was named the Superior Lobe. Sediments of rock were carried by the ice along the Superior Basin and the North Shore and deposited beneath the ice at its margin. To the south, the Superior Lobe extended past Minneapolis, and to the west, it reached beyond St. Cloud. About 3,000 years later, another lobe of ice advanced from the northwest, overriding the northern portion of the Mille Lacs Moraine. This, in turn, caused the lobe's meltwater to drain into what is now known as Mille Lacs Lake. Following the conclusion of this influx, the water levels of Mille Lacs Lake were maintained due to small streams and precipitation that derived from the ice lobe.[9]

The area that surrounds Mille Lacs Lake is reportedly one of the earliest known sites of human settlement in Minnesota, according to archeological research. Mille Lacs Lake has been identified by several different names throughout its history. Early French maps indicate that the lake had formerly been referred to as “Lac Buade” or “Minsisaugaigun.” Moreover, a map created by Henry Popple in 1733 called the aquatic landform “Lake Miſsiſsucaigan or Baude.” Circa 1843, United States government maps then referred to the lake as “Mini Sagaigonin” or “Mille Lacs.” Mille Lacs Lake, the current name, derives from the French who called it such in accordance with the Brainerd Lakes Area that was titled “Region of Thousand Lakes.”[1]

Prior to the creation of Mille Lacs County in 1857, a division of what is currently the southern end of the county was in what was then known as Monroe County. In 1860, the county lines were redetermined to the present-day boundaries. Until the year 1920, the county seat was located in Princeton before being moved to Milaca.[8]