Manitoba used to have a motto, “100,000 lakes” and Minnesota had a motto “10,000 lakes. North Dakota doesn’t have that many lakes, but the ones we do have are incredible.
Driving by Lake Tschida on the way home from Rapid City Monday made me think of the wonderful lakes we have across the state. After more thought I decided to present what i think are the top 10 lakes in North Dakota.
1 -- I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that Lake Sakakawea tops this list. With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline and deep water which is excellent for fishing and recreation that can’t be duplicated anywhere, Lake Sakawea is the crown jewel of North Dakota’s lakes.
Lake Sakakawea is well known outside of North Dakota too. Anglers come here from all over the nation to fish the “big lake” and Garrison Dam sandwiched between Riverdale and Pick City. Lake Sakakawea has
so many entry points they can’t all be named here. I’ll just say you can get into the water from about anywhere.
2 -- Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Devils Lake has its own rich history and is one of the best walleye fishing spots in the United States. An ice-fishing tournament every winter brings thousands of people to Devils Lake to fish this pristine lake. It’s just a great, year-round destination.
The other history is the rise and fall of the lake, but that doesn’t stop anglers from getting their limit. If you haven’t been there, you need to see it and marvel at the power of nature.
3 -- Lake Metigoshe is sometimes called North Dakota’s best-kept secret. The surrounding countryside in the Turtle Mountains north of Bottineau is more like Manitoba than North Dakota. Lake Metigoshe State Park is there, and you can take your boat across the international boundary and still be on Lake Metigoshe. Talk about gorgeous, there’s lots of flora and fauna to see around this lake.
4 -- Lake Tschida has been a fixture near Elgin for many years and I’ve driven past it in years past, but it has never looked as good as it does right now. It’s so green and there are lots of trees along the shoreline, as well as recreation areas to get your boat on the lake. I rate Lake Tschida No. 4 because I’ve known about it for 30 years, but never realized the incredible scenery around this lake. You have to see it to believe it.
5 -- I give the No. 5 spot to Lake Oahe, which is huge in its own right, taking in area that borders Burleigh, Morton, Sioux, and Emmons Counties, as well as Campbell County in South Dakota. I grew up in Hazelton, just 10 miles east of the lake in Emmons County, so I’ve been on that lake too many times to remember. But after being away from it for many years now, I think it remains one of the best waterways North Dakota has to offer.
6 -- Lake Ashtabula in Griggs and Barnes County is a little different in that it is long and narrow and has become a popular destination in east-central North Dakota. It is a multipurpose project, providing flood protection, augmenting water supplies during dry years, and offering wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities year-round. One of the unique seasonal wildlife visitors to the project is the white pelican, which can be seen in many areas around the lake.
7 -- Lake Darling is part of the flood control project for the Souris River Basin and is the only one of four dams, three of which are on the Souris River drainage in Saskatchewan, Canada, that is designed to protect Minot from flooding. It’s a great fishing spot and offers some outstanding ice fishing, just six miles east of Carpio and 18 miles west of the Minot Air Force Base. There’s also a walking trail that offers some great photography.
8 -- Although right next to the big lake, Lake Audobon just doesn’t have the appeal that its neighbor gets. It does, however, offer great fishing, gorgeous views, and if you drive by during the winter, you’ll see a
multitude of fish houses on the ice. It reminds us of the importance of fishing and recreation on North Dakota’s lakes.
9 -- Red Willow Lake is a naturally formed lake located in Griggs County. The nearest town is Binford. The lake covers 149.4 acres, has 2.8 miles of shoreline, and has an average depth of 11.1 feet, with a maximum depth of 25.2 feet. Red Willow Lake Resort has had a lot of weddings and other parties and there is also a nearby Bible camp.
10 -- Stump Lake never used to get attention until Devils Lake spilled into Nelson County. Nowadays, it’s becoming as impressive as Devils Lake. Not only has Stump Lake grown by leaps and bounds, but numerous improvements have been made to make it a destination.
There are countless other lakes across the state that deserve an honorable mention. Again, this list is the author’s opinion and nothing more. My hope is that you get to see all these lakes.