Lake Life

Lake life in northern Minnesota is a year-round experience. Water is abundant on the Chippewa National Forest, with over 1,300 lakes, 925 miles of streams and 400,000 acres of wetlands.

Opportunities to enjoy the water are plentiful. Some visitors seek out the slow tempo of paddling down the Mississippi River, while others relish the spray of water while skiing. Anglers rush to catch that first walleye of the season, while some enjoy a quiet evening on the lake surrounded by fall colors. Whatever your lake life pace, you’ll find it on the Chippewa National Forest.


The walleye fishing opener officially kicks off the summer season. Many fishing enthusiasts try their luck on Cut Foot, Winnie and Cass lakes, but smaller lakes are popular for sunfish and bass. Visitors can try their hand at fly fishing for pan fish or bundle up to ice fish in the winter. There are many family fishing events hosted by local community and fishing groups throughout the year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regulates fishing seasons and a fishing license is required. Fishing Licenses can be purchased at local bait shops, sporting goods stores or the Minnesota DNR website.

Fishing Piers

Visitors don’t need a boat to enjoy fishing in northern Minnesota. Look for more than a dozen fishing piers located throughout the Forest. All fishing piers are handicap accessible.


Fishing Piers

Nearest Town

Cass Lake Wayside Rest Area on Cass Lake

Cass Lake

Mission Bridge on northwest side of Cass Lake

Cass Lake

Benjamin Lake off scenic Highway Co. 39


Gilstad Lake off scenic highway


Leech Lake off Highway 371/Shingobee Bay


Kego Lake


Leech Lake


Boy River Crossing at Co. 8

Federal Dam

Clubhouse Lake Campground


Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake off Hwy 46

Deer River

Bowstring River off Co. 35


Lake Ranier, Edge of Wilderness Discovery Center




Who needs a pool? The Chippewa National Forest has three of Minnesota’s largest lakes on the Forest. Go jump in the lake at the day use and camping areas at Cass Lake, Leech Lake or Lake Winnibigoshish.

Boat Access

Most area lakes have some type of boat access. A great resource is the public water access maps by county. Go to or pick up a map at a Forest Service or Minnesota DNR office. Look for Beltrami, Cass or Itasca County maps.


Travel the routes of the Anishinabe and the early explorers. The Chippewa National Forest has more than 900 miles of rivers and offers several canoe routes, ranging from the mighty Mississippi to the slow-moving Boy River and other small creeks.

These canoe routes offer excellent opportunities to view bald eagles, loons and a variety of northern Minnesota wildlife. Walleye, northern and pan fish are good along most of the routes. Primitive campsites are located along most of the rivers.


Canoe Route



Access Points

Big Fork River
(DNR Map)



Three access points on the Forest including Dora Lake and Harrison boat landings and Highway 14 carry-in access. River flows north to the Rainy River.

Boy River



Three carry in access points on the Forest, including two off Co. 129 and one near the town of Boy River. Boat landing access on Boy Lake.

Mississippi River
(DNR Map)

Cass Lake Deer River


Multiple boat accesses and carry-in access from Cass Lake to White Oak Lake near Deer River.

Pike Bay Connection

Cass Lake


Access on Cass Lake, Pike Bay and Steamboat Lake.

Turtle River

Blackduck Cass Lake


Access from Gull Lake off Co. 22, off FR 2392 and on Big Rice Lake