chisago_lakes_water_trailAt one time, Chisago Lake was one large lake known by the local First Nation People (Ojibway) as “Kichisaga” meaning “fair and lovely waters”. The Swedish settlers, who arrived in the 1850’s, called the body of water “Big Lake”. Over time the name changed to Swede Lake then to “Chisago Lake”. The lakes were used for water, food, ice, transport, freight and recreation. With the advent of the railroad in the 1880’s, hotels sprung up on the lakes and visitors enjoyed fishing, sailing, boating and passenger steamers carried guests on cruises across the water. In winter, beginning in the early 1930s, Arne and Bernie Swanson hosted yearly ice carnivals as well as speed skating and figure skating contests. A 1935 event was the largest of all: approximately 1200 people arrived in Lindstrom for the Minnesota State Skating Championships. Today, we use the lakes in winter for ice fishing, snowmobiling and other recreational activities.

In 1948, the railroad closed, the railway bridges were removed and the channels filled in with dirt to carry the highway. The lakes were divided into five separate basins taking on the names of the towns they abutted: North Center Lake and South Center Lake with Center City; North Lindstrom Lake and South Lindstrom Lake with Lindstrom; and Chisago Lake with Chisago City.

Today, the Chisago Lakes System is incorporated into the greater Chisago Lakes Watershed and includes 24 lakes. Various connections between the lakes and a weir system control the water levels on the chain. The Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District, established in 1976, is responsible for maintaining the ditches and weirs and regulating lake levels.

chisago_lakes_water_traiimg2There have been efforts to reestablish the historical connections between our lakes. The first efforts to re-establish connections between the lakes was in 1939. In 1945 the channel between North and South Lindstrom Lake was dredged and a navigable culvert installed. In 2005, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDot) as part of the Highway 8 reconstruction bridged the channel and reestablished the navigable connection between South and North Center Lakes. In 2012, MnDot reconstructed Highway 8 in Lindstrom and bridged the channel and reestablished the navigable connection between North and South Lindstrom Lakes. There is a continuing effort by the Chisago Lakes Restoration Association to re-create the final navigable connection between North Center and North Lindstrom. This would be the last connection to reestablish the original Kichisaga Lake.

Chisago Lakes includes three unique and fiercely independent cities; Center City, Chisago City and Lindstrom. These cities are all nestled in among the lakes and have restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, motels, bed and breakfast and a variety of vacation rentals. The Chisago Lakes are both fair and lovely, and together make a spectacular year round Minneapolis – St. Paul Metro region getaway.


Linn Lake Linn Lake is made up of 176 acres and an average depth of 9 feet is at the top of the watershed. It outlets into South Center Lake and is accessible by a short portage through Kichisaga Park.

South Center Lake South Center Lake is 1,003 acres and at 109 feet depth is the deepest lake in the chain with an average depth of 16 feet. It has a navigable connection with North Center Lake.

Ogrens Lake Ogrens Lake is 48 acres but mostly covered with cattails. It might be navigable in high water.

North Center Lake North Center Lake covering 868 acres with a maximum depth of 46 feet and an average depth of 10 feet. The City of Center City is accessible from the city’s lakeshore property on the south end of the lake.

Pioneer Lake Pioneer Lake is a small 77acre lake accessible by a very short portage through the Chisago County Government Center property. This lake allows access to the historic Chisago Lake Lutheran Church.

Bull Lake Bull Lake is 11 acres but has a depth of 30 feet or more and sits within the City of Lindstrom’s Allemansrätt Park. It is accessible by portage from North Center and North Lindstrom lakes.

North Lindstrom Lake North Lindstrom Lake is 225 acres of water with a maximum depth of 29 feet and an average depth of 16 feet. A bridge covered channel large enough for a pontoon to travel through connects North Lindstrom with South Lindstrom Lake.

South Lindstrom Lake South Lindstrom Lake is 450-acres and averages 34 feet deep. South Lindstrom has access to Lindstrom’s downtown from the Lindstrom Beach.

Chisago Lake Chisago Lake is connected to South Lindstrom. Chisago Lakes has 873 acres of water and a maximum depth of 32 feet.

Little Green Lake Little Green Lake (224 acres) and Green Lake (1,714 acres) were not part of what the Swedes called Big Lake, but they are considered part of the Chisago Lakes Chain of Lakes. Chisago City’s Ojiketa Regional Park is on Green Lake.

Lake Martha Lake Martha is 21 acres and boasts access to the Northern Grill restaurant. Lake Martha is accessible by portage from Green and Chisago Lakes and requires crossing Highway 8 at the Old Towne Road signalized intersection.

Future connections

School Lake School Lake is 106 acres. We currently do not have easement from Lake Martha but the lake is accessible from Chisago City’s Rotary Park.

Lake Mattson Lake Mattson is 24 acres and is connected to School Lake.

Kroon Lake Kroon Lake is a beautiful 181 acre lake. It currently is not accessible by water or portage. But, it does have a DNR boat ramp on the east side. The lakes are considered excellent for fishing. Black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike and pumpkinseed (a special variety of sunfish) can all be found in the lakes, and the DNR periodically stocks them with walleye and other fish. Bass, Ice and Carp fishing tournaments take place every year. Many of the lakes are small and undeveloped providing a sense of being in the wilderness. But, there are many homes on the bigger lakes and during holidays and weekends the lakes can fill up with lots of boats. During the winter, the lakes are a great location for ice fishing and snowmobiling. In winter, try cross country skiing and Fat Tire Biking the Water Trail.


Throughout the length and breadth of the trail the system can be accessed through MN DNR boat ramps, City and County Parks, City beaches, lakeshore restaurants and motels. Official accesses are provided at Ojiketa Regional Park in Chisago City and Kichisaga Park in Lindstrom. Between these two parks are thousands of acres of water to explore.


The water trail provides opportunities to canoe, kayak and paddle board in summer.  While here enjoy; fishing, bird watching or get out and walk the trails of our wilderness parks.  If you’re inclined lock your canoe at our canoe and kayak stations, stroll into one of our downtowns, and get a cup of coffee, eat at one of our many fine restaurants or enjoy a beer at a local establishment. In winter, come and snowmobile, snow shoe, cross country ski, fat tire bike the water trail and winter camp in the park.  The lakes are open for use in winter so try something new and expand your recreation into the cold season.


This a suburban Water Trail and must be shared with other users.  Please watch out for boats in summer and snowmobiles in winter. The wind can create large waves and that power is something every paddler must respect and not underestimate. A paddler needs to be prepared mentally and physically to deal with these conditions and possess the paddling skills necessary to assure their own safety and that of others. A paddler needs to understand the implications the weather has on overall lake conditions. Please monitor local weather conditions before setting out on your adventure.

  • Always wear an appropriately sized and fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.
  • Be familiar with dangers of hypothermia and dress appropriately for possible cold water and weather
  • Seek instruction and practice kayak, canoe and paddle board skills, including rescues, before paddling on Chisago Lakes.
  • Always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to return
  • Know the skill level of other paddlers in your group. Discuss safety issues before leaving shore.
  • Pay attention to motorized boat and snowmobile traffic while on the lakes
  • There must be a bright white light on board each kayak, canoe or paddle board after sunset to be displayed to prevent a collision.  Carry a light if using the lakes after dark in winter.
  • Learn how to use maps and a compass for navigation before setting out on the lake.
  • Anticipate changes in weather, wind, waves and snow by monitoring a weather or marine VHF radio, and using your awareness and common sense.
  • This map is not adequate for sole use as a navigational aid. USGS topographic maps and NOAA charts of the Chisago Lakes Area can be obtained from a variety of sources, such as kayaking or camping gear retailers.
  • All watercraft (including non-motorized canoes and kayaks longer than 9 feet) must be registered in Minnesota or the state of residence.
  • Choose your trip and daily travel distance in relation to experience, fitness and an average kayaking/canoeing/skiing speed of 2-3 m.p.h. Bring kayak/ canoe wheels for portages.


Camping is permitted at designated sites only. The following options are available; Ojiketa Regional Park-Chisago City.  Ojiketa Regional Park has campsites and cabins for rent.  651-257-4162 or Allemansrätt Park’s Anderson Peninsula -City of Lindstrom. These primitive sites are accessible from the lake only. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis, self-registration fee charged at the campsite. The campsites are intended for a one night maximum stay, weather permitting.  For more information call 651-257-0620 or email Lakeview Motel 12520 Lake Blvd, Lindstrom, 651-257-6291 Välkommen Inn 12715 Lake Blvd, Lindstrom 651-257-4888 or 612-810-3070 Go Boat Motel– 516 Grand Avenue South, Center City 651-213-6119


Drinking water is not provided at the campsites. Be prepared to treat all water from the lakes.  You can also buy water in any of the downtowns along the way.


Our Water Trail is unique in Minnesota outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  We are lake, not river based and boast opportunities to loop back to your starting destination.  But, if you choose to canoe the length of the trail here are some ideas to get back to your beginning;

  • Leave a car or bike at either end to drive or ride back
  • The trails two ends are not more than 5 miles apart, someone can run that in less than an hour or walk it in an hour and a half.
  • Call a local taxi-Northern Lights Taxi Transportation 612-325-4813
  • Hire an outfitter

This is a Suburban Water Trail, respect private homes and property along the shore!   Please take your breaks and camp only in designated public areas.