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About Lake Minnetonka
It's the gem of Minnesota's metro and one of the most sought-after lake areas in the upper Midwest. Yet despite its fame, Lake Minnetonka is still a surprising oasis in the midst of hectic urban life. The lake - a beautiful maze of interconnected bays and waterways dotted with islands sits only 15 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul. It's known for unmatched natural beauty, small-town ambiance, historic homes and its ability to transport city-weary dwellers into a magical world of boating, swimming, fishing and relaxing sunsets within a matter of minutes. Lake Minnetonka is also known as a playground for some of Minnesota's most affluent families. That history, the natural beauty and ease of escape from urban life, make it a fascinating place to be.
Lake Minnetonka & Its Communities
Ranked the 10th largest lake in Minnesota, Lake Minnetonka spans 14,004 acres and nestles along 125 miles of shoreline. It lies just west/southwest of the Twin Cities. The lake has a maximum depth of 113' and a 10.9' water clarity level. View the DNR Report.
Despite high-density use, Lake Minnetonka is one of the best trophy largemouth bass fishing sites in the state. It's packed with yellow perch, sunfish, northern pike, walleye and muskies, and is the site of several premier fishing tournaments each season. Anglers find friendly waters and experienced guide services. Numerous public boat landings are available for easy access, as well as private boat charter services.
Tucked along the winding shores, the communities of Deephaven, Woodland, Greenwood, Excelsior, Long Lake, Minnetonka Beach, Minnetrista, Mound, Navarre, Orono, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay and Wayzata offer a diversified lifestyle to visitors and lake residents. The surrounding areas are developed and the entire Lake Minnetonka region had a 2005 population of around 100,000. A mix of residential suburban life and small-town lakeside villages, Lake Minnetonka communities offer an eclectic mix of charming antique shops, hip urban cafes, boutiques, marinas, art galleries, sports shops and fine dining.
A Glorious Past
In 1822, two adventurous teenagers, Joe Brown and Will Snelling, paddled their way from Fort Snelling up the Minnehaha Creek and discovered the then un-named lake. For years after, few European settlers visited the blue waters. But the lake and its surrounding land were harvested and held sacred by the Dakotah tribes. (The city of Mound was later named after the presence of Dakotah burial grounds.) It wasn't until the 1851 Treaty of Mendota that the U.S. government acquired 2 million acres of Native American land, including the lake and its surrounding territory. During this time, the area now known as Minneapolis was occupied by the military post, Fort Snelling. During the 1850's the towns of St. Anthony and Minneapolis were established. Lake Minnetonka was named in 1851 after the Dakotah pronunciation "minn-ni-tanka" which meant, "big water."
It didn't take long for settlers to recognize the value of a sprawling lake set so close to a growing population. In 1853 the first hotel was built along the Minnetonka shores. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Song of Hiawatha, published in 1855, mentioned Minnehaha Falls and gave the lake and Minnesota national attention.
By 1861, the first steamboat, Governor Ramsey, was launched on the lake, and in 1867, the St. Paul & Pacific Co. established a rail line to the lake. By the 1880's the lake was a booming resort destination. The first inland steamboat with electric lights was crafted in Wayzata in 1881, and the Belle of Minnetonka, a massive 300 ft. steamboat that could carry 2,500 passengers, sailed the lake by 1882. The early 1900's brought streetcars, more resorts and tour boats to the lake. An amusement park was built on Big Island, which at its heyday was a day trip destination for many area families. As the nation's economy dipped and dived into depression, Lake Minnetonka lost its flock of summer tourists, and many of the tour boats ended their illustrious careers sunk off of Big Island. In 1980, the Minnehaha tour boat was raised to the surface and after years of restoration is back in service today as part of the Minnesota Transportation Museum.
Many of the founders of Twin Cities' commerce, including the Pillsburys, Daytons and Burnetts built mansions along the lake. During its long history, Lake Minnetonka has always drawn an elite crowd, and today many of the top Twin Cities executives own Lake Minnetonka Homes.
The Lake Today
Lake Minnetonka is a prestigious lake, with exclusive real estate ownership. Properties situated on the lake sell for anywhere from $500,000 to over $20 million. The wide range in value depends largely on the quality of the lakeshore and the home, although many homes are from the early 20th century. The history of the home and property can be an intriguing aspect for those looking to own a piece of Minnesota's past. Most Lake Minnetonka Homes have between 40-60 feet of shoreline. Property values continue to rapidly increase as demand soars.
While there are no longer active resorts on the lake, the public access and nearby hotels afford vacationers and weekenders easy access to the water. The lake bustles with families and boaters over the hot summer weekends.
Enjoying Lake Minnetonka
Aside from area shopping and art galleries, the communities around Lake Minnetonka provide fun festivals and wonderful restaurants that draw area residents and visitors alike. Activities are geared toward enjoying the lake, and some of the most popular restaurants sit right on the water. Wayzata's Blue Point Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Lord Fletchers on Lake Minnetonka in Spring Park, the Bayside Grille in Excelsior offer succulent cuisine and fantastic lakeside views. A wide range of ethnic restaurants, bars, grilles and clubs offer a variety of tastes. Visitors can charter a boat or partake in a lunch or dinner cruise, which is a unique and relaxing way to explore the lake.
Lake Minnetonka has much to offer those looking for a historic lake atmosphere and modern summer fun. Come to Lake Minnetonka for the fun, experience, history and the delicious cool water that will remind even urban dwellers that Minnesota is a land of natural wonder.