Lake of the Woods sprawls over the border of the U.S. and Canada. Otherwise, it would be the 6th largest freshwater lake in the U.S. It’s former name of Lake Minitie, an Ojibway name meaning Lake of the Islands, seems quite appropriate considering there are over 14,500 islands in the lake!
Gill’s Morson marina
is located in the southeast region of the lake, inside the Canadian border so U.S. visitors will need their passports. Morson is home to the historic Tomahawk Lighthouse, in operation until 1962.
If it’s your first time visiting the lake, the marina staff will drive your houseboat
to your first night’s destination and help you get anchored. You may want to find someplace out of the way where you can sit back and enjoy watching the movement of the water and listening to the sounds of birds and wildlife or you may venture to different islands and beaches throughout the lake. You will find islands of all kinds; those where only nature exists, islands where nature has taken over an endeavor of man’s, islands of historic significance, and more.
You may travel to Sioux Narrows where a historic battle ensued, a joint force of Ojibwa-Cree defeated an invading army of Sioux. Near there you can also visit Nestor Falls, a natural waterfall once used for transporting logs to various locations.
At Magnuson’s Island you may walk around the restored site of Fort St. Charles. A possibly “haunted” ghost town exists at the old Sultana Mine on one of the lake’s northern islands. Mining was shut down after an accident there in the 1800’s. Penasse Island is home to the once northernmost post office in the United States. A visit to Massacre Island can be both educational and sobering when hearing of the events that took place there; twenty Frenchmen and Cree traders were beheaded by a party of Sioux inciting decades of war between the groups. A large wooden cross marks the location of these events.
Along the miles of shoreline on Lake of the Woods are a number of other interesting sights. Some native pictographs, or rock paintings, can be seen along the shores of islands reached only by boat. Painted with berry juice and sap, the pictographs are referred to as Spirit Rocks. A more recent painted rock can be found at Devil’s Gap Rock. First painted as a joke by brothers in 1894, the rock has since been repainted many times and is a unique tourist attraction.
Parks and public beaches are numerous in the area. Many such parks have picnic areas, playgrounds, docks, and facilities, while some also have some scenic and nature trails for hiking. Coney Island park has small boat rentals, Norman Park has a railroad museum with an old engine and caboose housed there. Zippel Bay State Park and Garden Island state recreation area are both on the Minnesota shoreline and also have public beaches, picnic areas, docks, and more.
If you’re coming by way of Kenora you may want to stop at the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre. There you can learn some of the history of the native tribes of the area and also about some of the early developments on the lake. Be sure to take your picture beside Husky the Muskie at McLeod Park in Kenora. Husky, a large sculpture of a muskie, is the town’s unofficial mascot reminding visitors to keep the lake clean. You may also stay to see the eruption of the Kenora Rotary Goodwill Geyser, as often and predictable as Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.
Throughout the year you may also catch such events as First National Pow-wows, fishing tournaments, farmers markets, music festivals, dragon boat festivals, regattas, and more! The houseboating season starts in mid-May and completes before the end of October typically. Over the winter Lake of the Woods freezes over and becomes a very popular location for ice fishing, there is even an Igloo Bar that opens up out on the frozen lake in the winter months. At times, you may catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.
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