Whether you are new to the area, or are a long time resident, there is a lot to love and learn about the history of lakes country. Otter Tail County, and the surrounding communities, are immersed in beautiful streams, rivers and lakes. We are also the gateway to even more recreational areas. From our home base, you could create a lifetime of memorable recreational experiences, all within driving distance. This includes some of the most unspoiled wilderness on the planet.
What’s in a name?
The great outdoors
Overall, Minnesota offers 66 state parks and 57 state forests with a total area of approximately 6,177 square miles, and various nature reserves. The first state park, the Itasca State Park, was established in 1891. Just two hours north of Fergus Falls, this 32,000 acre park with 100 lakes includes the headwaters where the Mississippi river begins it’s 2,350 mile flow to the gulf of Mexico. There are miles of hiking trails through old growth timber, historic sites and iconic fishing, with plenty of places to camp or find lodging and services nearby. Note: prepare in advance to temporary changes due to COVID-19 HERE.
The two National Forests Chippewa National Forest and Superior National Forest stretch across 8,571 square miles from the north central town of Bemidji, all the way east to Duluth. There you will find a stunning drive up the scenic coast of Lake Superior. Many state forests stretching in between. In fact, if you look at a Google map of the state, from our west central location, pretty much everywhere you go to the north and east is covered by forest and bodies of water.
Have you ever wondered what Minnesota may have looked like before being touched by mankind? The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeast Minnesota will give you a glimpse. Part of the Superior National Forest, the boundary waters are accessible primarily by canoe. It is truly one of the most beautiful and remote places places in the world. Even though the area sees a fair amount of visitors, there is ample opportunity to be alone in unspoiled nature across 19,000 acres, including 1,100 lakes. The state’s tourism website, Explore Minnesota has some tips on experiencing the area in winter (try out dogsledding!) or plan your first summer adventure as a wilderness beginner.
The group Save the Boundary Waters is one entity working to keep the boundary waters pristine by preventing development of mining that would impact the area.
More about the lakes
No matter where you are in West Central Minnesota, you can find a home near a lake! There are over 3,000 lakes just in our area. Did you know that Minnesota’s waters flow outward in three directions:
- North to Hudson Bay in Canada
- East to the Atlantic Ocean
- South to the Gulf of Mexico
We couldn’t close a lakes section without mentioning Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. It is the largest water-based park in the National Park System. Teeming with wildlife (including great fishing), the park consists of various connected waterways, perfect for exploring by boat. If camping out in the area, you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, where radiant shimmering colors sporadically light up the night sky. Note: check with the National Park Service before visiting for advisories.
Find more fun lake facts, and some great lake homes, on our lakeshore page HERE.