By Brian Fischer   |   November 1, 2022  
cleanest clearest lakes in minnesota trout lake itasca

​In the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s difficult to discern which is the clearest. Making the determination becomes even more challenging when the number of lakes that straddle the Minnesota/Canada border are included, because that increases the total number of lakes in the state to 14,380.

Thankfully, the University of Minnesota monitors the clarity of these lakes by satellite imagery, updating the data daily when weather permits, and monthly, on its Minnesota LakeBrowser web page.


Minnesota’s Five Clearest Lakes


1. TROUT LAKE, Itasca County

Featuring 13 miles of pristine shoreline, Trout Lake has a maximum depth of 157 feet and an average water clarity of 32 feet, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Anglers regularly reel in rock bass, tullibee, bluegill, green sunfish, yellow perch, and more than two dozen other fish species.

The town of Coleraine, with a population of just 2,000 residents is located on the north shore of this 1,856-acre lake, with the area’s commercial center of Grand Rapids (pop. 11,000) being just nine miles to the west.

Grand Rapids is a friendly community with numerous local restaurants, a couple of B&Bs, as well as a selection of affordable hotels. 

Popular activities in the area during the summer include fishing, boating, hiking, and biking, and in the winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Driving time to Trout Lake: 

  • From Duluth, MN – 90 minutes 
  • From Minneapolis, MN – 3 hours 
  • From Fargo, ND – 3 hours 15 minutes.


2. BIG BASS LAKE, Hubbard County

Located three miles northeast of the small village of Akeley, Big Bass Lake’s 133 acres of surface reaches a maximum depth of 60 feet. The lake is well known for its incredible clarity, estimated at 23 feet by the DNR. If you’re here for fishing, you’ll find an abundance of walleye, northern pike, large-mouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish.

Akeley is home to fewer than 500 people, so when it comes time to grab a bite, the town of Walker, about 15 minutes away, is your best bet. You’ll find several locally owned restaurants in this cute town, which is also the gateway to Leech Lake, the third-largest lake in Minnesota.

Driving time to Big Bass Lake: 

  • From Fargo, ND – 2 hours 
  • From Duluth, MN – 2 hours 30 minutes 
  • From Minneapolis, MN – 3 hours


3. DEER LAKE, Itasca County

Another beautiful body of water in northeast Minnesota, Deer Lake is 12 miles north of Grand Rapids. A large lake of 4,097 acres, it is five miles long and one and one-half miles wide.

Nicknamed “Lake of the Changing Colors”, the crisp, clear waters allow for an average clarity distance of 21 feet according to the Minnesota DNR. The lake’s depth bottoms out at 121 feet, and there’s more than 20 miles of beautiful shoreline. With no river or stream inlets, all the lake’s water comes from rainfall, snowmelt, and many underground springs.

Fish here for small-mouth and large-mouth bass, walleye, and northern pike. Of course, with such clear waters, you’re bound to have better success during nighttime hours.

Grand Rapids is the childhood home of Judy Garland, best known for her performance in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The Gumm family home, Judy’s real last name, dates to the 1920’s, and has been turned into a museum that includes memorabilia from the famed movie.

Driving time to Deer Lake: 

  • From Fargo, ND – 1 hour 50 minutes 
  • From Duluth, MN – 2 hours 30 minutes 

From Minneapolis, MN – 3 hours 


A popular fishing and boating lake, 691-acre Ossawinnamakee is located in the heart of summer vacation country. There’s certainly no shortage of fish here, with anglers reeling in black bullhead, bluegill, green sunfish, large-mouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch.

Ossawinnamakee Lake reaches a depth of 63 feet, with DNR-estimated clarity of 20 feet. The 13 miles of shoreline is home to several resorts and private seasonal and year-round homes.

There’s no shortage of resort and small hotel accommodations within 15 minutes, with the small cities of Breezy Point and Pequot Lakes being prime spots to find several great local dining options, as well as plenty of shopping opportunities.

Driving time to Ossawinnamakee Lake: 

  • From Duluth, MN – 2 hours 
  • From Minneapolis, MN – 2 hours 45 minutes
  • From Fargo, ND – 2 hours 45 minutes



Two lakes to the southwest of Big Bass Lake is sparkling Eleventh Crow Wing Lake, one of eleven lakes that flow into the Crow Wing River, which was the first National Scenic Canoe Waterway. Fed by ground-level and underground springs, this nearly 800-acre lake, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, offers a clarity distance of almost 19 feet.

While the small town of Akeley lies just south of the lake, the resort community of Walker, just 15 minutes up the road, is where you’ll find several local restaurants, gift shops, and stores for stocking your vacation cabin with food and other necessities.

Fish frequently caught in Eleventh Crow Wing Lake include walleye, northern pike, large-mouth bass, bluegill, and perch.

Driving time to Eleventh Crow Wing Lake: 

  • From Fargo, ND – 2 hours 
  • From Duluth, MN – 2 hours 30 minutes 
  • From Minneapolis, MN – 3 hours


You may be wondering why these, and so many other lakes in Minnesota, are exceptionally clear and clean. Much of this has to do with there being a limited population north of the Twin Cities, other than in the Duluth area, with little industry to pollute the waters. 

Lakes that are spring fed are naturally clean to begin with, and some smaller lakes are only visited for canoeing and kayaking. The larger the acreage, the greater the number of anglers, resorts, private homes, and powerboats that make use of the lake.  

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