How many lakes are there in Minnesota?


Minnesota, also known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” is famous for its abundant water resources. However, the actual number of lakes in the state surpasses this well-known moniker. In this article, we will delve into the topic and explore the true extent of Minnesota’s lake-filled landscape.

The Origins of the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” Phrase

The term “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has become a popular nickname for Minnesota, but it is important to note that the state is home to considerably more lakes than the name suggests.

The phrase itself is believed to have originated from the 1881 book by Charles Lanman titled “The Red Book of Michigan.” In this book, Lanman referred to Minnesota as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The number was likely used as a figurative expression to emphasize the abundance of lakes in the state, rather than an accurate count.

Understanding the True Number of Lakes

To truly comprehend the number of lakes in Minnesota, it is crucial to define what constitutes a lake. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides a specific definition:

A lake is defined as a basin, or a natural depression, that holds water for a significant part of the year and is deeper than 10 acres in size.

Based on this definition, Minnesota boasts a staggering number of lakes. Although the exact count may vary depending on different sources and methodologies, the estimated number of lakes in the state ranges from 11,842 to over 15,000.

Why Does Minnesota Have so Many Lakes?

Types of Lakes in Minnesota

The lakes in Minnesota can be classified into various categories based on their origins, characteristics, and uses. Some common types of lakes in the state include:

Natural Lakes

Natural lakes in Minnesota form as a result of glacial activity, volcanic activity, or tectonic activity. These lakes are typically fed by precipitation, groundwater, or streams, and they play a vital role in the state’s ecology, recreation, and economy.

Glacial Lakes

Glacial lakes are among the most common types of lakes in Minnesota. These lakes are formed when the depressions left by retreating glaciers become filled with water. They often have irregular shapes and are known for their clear, cold waters.

Oxbow Lakes

Oxbow lakes are formed when a meander of a river gets cut off from the main channel, creating a crescent-shaped body of water. While oxbow lakes are not as prevalent in Minnesota as glacial lakes, they can still be found in some regions of the state.

Reservoir Lakes

Reservoir lakes, also known as impoundments, are human-made lakes created by constructing dams across rivers or streams. These lakes are often used for flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and recreational activities such as boating and fishing.

Significance of Minnesota’s Lakes

The abundance of lakes in Minnesota has significant implications for various aspects of the state’s culture, environment, and economy.

Ecological Importance

Minnesota’s lakes provide essential habitats for numerous plant and animal species. They contribute to the overall biodiversity of the region and support various ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and prairies. The lakes also play a crucial role in maintaining water quality and sustaining aquatic life.

Recreational Opportunities

The vast number of lakes in Minnesota offers ample opportunities for recreational activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and camping. The state’s lakes attract outdoor enthusiasts from around the country, contributing to tourism and local economies.

Economic Impact

The lakes in Minnesota have a significant economic impact on the state. The recreational activities associated with lakes generate revenue through tourism, hospitality, and the sale of outdoor recreational equipment. Additionally, lakes support industries such as commercial fishing and provide water resources for agriculture and industry.


Minnesota’s reputation as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” only scratches the surface of the state’s true lake count. With thousands of lakes spread across its diverse landscape, Minnesota offers a wealth of ecological, recreational, and economic opportunities tied to its abundant water resources. Whether you’re a nature lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone interested in exploring the wonders of Minnesota, the state’s lakes are sure to captivate and inspire.

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