Lake Minnetonka

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Lake Minnetonka
Map
LocationHennepin / Carver counties, Minnesota, USA
Coordinates44°56′00″N 93°34′00″W / 44.9333333°N 93.5666667°W / 44.9333333; -93.5666667Coordinates: 44°56′00″N 93°34′00″W / 44.9333333°N 93.5666667°W / 44.9333333; -93.5666667
Primary inflowsSix Mile Creek
Primary outflowsMinnehaha Creek
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area14,528 acres (59 km2)
Max. depth113 ft (34 m)
Shore length1125 mi (200 km)
Surface elevation929 ft (283 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
 
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Lake Minnetonka
Map
LocationHennepin / Carver counties, Minnesota, USA
Coordinates44°56′00″N 93°34′00″W / 44.9333333°N 93.5666667°W / 44.9333333; -93.5666667Coordinates: 44°56′00″N 93°34′00″W / 44.9333333°N 93.5666667°W / 44.9333333; -93.5666667
Primary inflowsSix Mile Creek
Primary outflowsMinnehaha Creek
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area14,528 acres (59 km2)
Max. depth113 ft (34 m)
Shore length1125 mi (200 km)
Surface elevation929 ft (283 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Minnetonka is a 14,528-acre (59 km2) lake in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is located west-southwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The lake is irregularly shaped with numerous bays, peninsulas, and islands that make up approximately 125 miles (200 km) of shoreline.[1] The lake is located almost entirely within Hennepin County; however, its southernmost extension, Smithtown Bay, reaches into the City of Victoria, which lies within northeastern Carver County. Lake Minnetonka is divided into two separate sections, the Upper Lake and Lower Lake (which refer to the flow of water from west to east, not geographical location).

Contents

Discovery & Early History

The first known people of European descent to have visited the Lake were two seventeen-year-old boys named Joe Brown and Will Snelling, who canoed up Minnehaha Creek from Fort St. Anthony (later renamed Fort Snelling) in 1822.[2] Few people visited or even knew the Lake existed for the following three decades.

Lake Minnetonka was given its name by Minnesota's territorial governor, Alexander Ramsey, in 1852. He had been informed that American Indians in the area used a phrase sounding like Minn-ni-tanka, meaning “Big Water,” to refer to the Lake. That same year, the first settlements were established along its shores, and, in 1853, the first hotel was constructed.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote an epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, in 1855, which referred to Minnesota and landmarks of the area such as Minnehaha Falls. This gained the area national and international interest.

1861 saw the introduction of steamboats on Lake Minnetonka, the first of which being the Governor Ramsey, named in honor of the man who gave the Lake its name. Following the Civil War, a rail line operated by the St. Paul & Pacific Co. was extended to the area in 1867, running through the town of Wayzata.

Glory Years

The first inland steamboat to ever be equipped with electric lights, the City of St. Louis, was built in Wayzata in 1881 and began servicing lakeshore communities and resorts later that year. The following year in 1882, the largest vessel to ever operate on Lake Minnetonka launched similar services; the Belle of Minnetonka was 300 feet (91.44 m) long and could carry 2500 passengers.

The 1880s also saw the rise of grand hotels on Lake Minnetonka. The first of these extremely large hotels was the Hotel St. Louis in Deephaven, Minnesota. The Lake Park Hotel in Tonka Bay, Minnesota and the largest hotel ever built on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the Hotel Lafayette in Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota, soon followed. Affluent visitors came from around the world to spend summer-long vacations on the Lake, many of whom came from the American South to escape the opressive heat. This period of time is known as Lake Minnetonka's "Glory Years."

As the railroad expanded into the West in the 1890s, many of Lake Minnetonka's summer visitors began to find new places where they could spend their summers, such as Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. This caused most of the hotels and steamboats on Lake Minnetonka to run out of business and cease operations. During this same period of time, however, an increased number of people began to own private summer cottages and permanent homes in the Lake's vicinity as the metropolitan area of Minneapolis-St. Paul expanded outward.

Golden Years

Express Boat Hopkins on Lake Minnetonka circa 1915.

In 1905 the Twin City Rapid Transit Company (TCRT) expanded its streetcar system to the town of Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka's southern shore. The Lake saw dramatic growth within 1905 and 1906 as the TCRT opened the Big Island Amusement Park on the eastern side of Big Island and launched their Express Boat system. Informally known as “streetcar boats,” these splendid steam vessels were merely treated as floating streetcars. At first six, and later seven, such boats would transport arriving streetcar passengers from Excelsior to twenty-seven different landings around the Lake, however, most of these passengers were commuters who lived in the lake area. Tourists, on the other hand, would board one of three large ferry boats that would specifically transport them to Big Island Amusment Park, where they could spend the day relaxing and enjoying several attractions. Big Island Amusement Park closed after only five years due to excessive operating costs, however the streetcar boats proved successful until the 1920s.

The Crane Island, on the western side of the Lake, was organized as a summer cottage retreat in 1907. The Crane Island Association platted a number of lots around the perimeter of the Island and dedicated a commons area in the center. Crane Island had originally been a heron rookery until a storm blew down many of its trees in 1906. The Island is now a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

President William Howard Taft made Lake Minnetonka's Lafayette Club his summer White House in 1911[citation needed].

1926 marked the end of Lake Minnetonka's "Golden Years." Roads and automobiles had become more prevalent in the area, and in June of that year three of the beloved Express Boats were scuttled in deep water north of Big Island due to lack of ridership. Three others were scrapped, and one was sold and used as an excursion boat until it, too, was scuttled in 1949. Streetcar service to Excelsior became evermore limited and was eventually discontinued in 1932.

Latter 20th Century

The Excelsior Amusement Park (not to be confused with Big Island Amusement Park) opened in Excelsior in 1925. Attractions included a funhouse, the Silver Streak, the Scrambler, a carousel, picnic accomodations, and a roller coaster. The Rolling Stones performed live at the Park's "Danceland" Pavilion in 1964 for a crowd of approximately 300 concert-goers. The Excelsior Amusement Park proved to be a very popular tourist destination until its closure in 1973. Today the site is occupied by a condominium complex and two restaurants.

In 1946, Mound Metalcraft was established in Mound, Minnesota, a town near the northwestern end of the Lake (an area known as "Westonka"). It later changed its name to Tonka Toys. The Company is no longer based in Minnesota.

Excelsior Beach

Lake Minnetonka was mentioned in the 1984 Prince film Purple Rain during a scene in which Prince's love interest attempts to "purify" herself in the waters of the Lake. After she has entered the water, Prince reveals that the water she has entered is not actually Lake Minnetonka. Dave Chappelle (as Prince) mocked that scene of the film in an episode of Chappelle's Show when he asked, "Why don't you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?" Since his rise to fame in the 1980s, Prince has lived in the area but never on the Lake itself. He has had a home on Lake Ann in Chanhassen.

In 1980 the Steamboat Minnehaha, one of the beloved "streetcar boats" that had been scuttled in 1926, was raised from the bottom of Lake Minnetonka and completely restored by 1996. This piece of Lake Minnetonka history once again carries passengers between the cities of Excelsior and Wayzata as it did over a century ago. It is currently the only steam-powered vessel-for-hire based in Minnesota.



Boating

Boats of all sizes and horsepower may be legally launched on Lake Minnetonka, although speed and noise restrictions apply. Several of the larger bays are used for sailing, however motorboats are in the clear majority as far as quantity. Lake Minnetonka is home to a thriving antique boat community, the Bob Speltz Land O' Lakes Antique and Classic Boat Association, which hosts an annual antique and classic boat show. There are also many large cruise vessels on the Lake, the largest of which is 83 feet long.

Fishing

The lake contains black bullhead, black crappie, bluegill, bowfin, carp, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, pumpkinseed, rock bass, walleye, white sucker, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch.[4] Some fish consumption guideline restrictions have been placed on the lake's bluegill, carp, largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye due to mercury contamination.[4]

According to popular legend, a sturgeon in excess of 10 feet (3 m) in length lurks in Lake Minnetonka's waters and has been sighted on more than one occasion. These sightings have been persistant since the 1980s. The sturgeon is often referred to as "Lou."[citation needed]

Environmental Issues

Environmental issues became prevalent after curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus L.) was discovered in the Lake in 1900. Purple Loosestrife was found in the Lake in 1940 and Eurasian Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in 1987. In 2010, Zebra Mussels were also discovered in the Lake.

Lake Minnetonka also experienced problems with pollution from both sewage and fertilizer runoff, until the 1970s. The Lake is now closely monitored.

Geography

Google Map of Lake Minnetonka with Cities Listed.

Gray's Bay Dam on the lake's east end helps control Lake Minnetonka's water level. This structure is also called the Headwaters Control Structure of Gray's Bay. The flow over the Dam ranges from zero to 300 cu ft (8.5 m3) per second or a daily rate of up to 26 million US gallons (98,000 m3). Evaporation from Lake Minnetonka can be as high as 50 million US gallons (190,000 m3) a day. According the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, annual evaporation from the Lake is about 30 inches (760 mm) of water, or 11.5 billion US gallons (44,000,000 m3). This is countered by an average rate of 28 inches (710 mm) of rainfall, and 20 inches (508 mm) of run off.

Scandals

On October 26, 1926, Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was arrested for violating the Mann Act while vacationing at a cottage in Tonka Bay, Minnesota with a woman who would later become his wife.

On October 6, 2005, Lake Minnetonka gained national attention due to the scandal, in which members of the Minnesota Vikings football team allegedly performed and received sexual favors for a variety of individuals during a cruise on a pair of chartered cruise boats, leading to widespread criticism of the players and embarrassment within the organization.

See also

References

External links