Sunset in the Land of 10,000 Lakes in Minnesota.

Why is Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes? [Why the State Has This Nickname]

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Chances are, you’ve heard of Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but you may not know exactly why the state has been given this nickname.

I mean, for some, it may be quite obvious. But for others, it may not be at all!

But once you’ve visited this beautiful northern state, you’ll understand exactly why, because you’ll see lakes everywhere you look!

In this post, I’m going to tell you a little more about Minnesota and why we’ve been given this nickname, how many lakes we actually have, and what you can do on our beautiful waterways.

Let’s jump right in!

Why Do they Call Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

Minnesota has been given a few nicknames over the years including “the North Star State,” “the Gopher State,” and maybe even “frozen tundra,” if you aren’t from around here.

But one of the most notable is “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” which has taken its place on Minnesota’s license plates since 1950.

Although the nickname has been around since before then, since probably about the 1920s, according to the StarTribune.

A view of Lake Superior in Minnesota.

The reason that this magical state has been given this nickname is, well, because we have more than 10,000 lakes.

Although this is our nickname, there are actually closer to 15,000 lakes in the state, but I think we can all agree that saying ‘ten thousand’ is just easier and sounds nicer.

According to the Minnesota DNR, over 13 million acres of land in Minnesota are made up or water and wetlands.

All of this information makes it pretty easy to understand why Minnesota has been given this unique nickname.

Is it True That Minnesota Has 10,000 Lakes?

Yes, it is in fact true that Minnesota has 10,000 Lakes, but it isn’t true that we have only 10,000.

We actually have closer to 15,000, including the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior, which borders the North Shore.

Most of the lakes are in the northern half of the state, but you can find them pretty much anywhere you look!

A view over trees of a lake in Voyageurs National Park.

This nickname isn’t for nothing, so believe it when people say it!

And when we look at some of the other bodies of water that we have in the state, you may know that we’re also home to one of the world’s most mighty rivers, the Mississippi River.

The headwaters of the Mississippi are found right here in Park Rapids, Minnesota, in Itasca State Park.

How Many Lakes Are Actually in Minnesota?

While our nickname suggests that there are just 10,000, it’s true that Minnesota actually has many, many more!

When we count lakes that have an area of 10 acres or more, the MN DNR has stated that there are 11,842.

But it’s nearly impossible to count every single body of water in the state because there are many that are just too small to spot.

Although it’s suggested that there are likely closer to 15,000 lakes spread out around the grand old state of Minnesota.

These lakes make up more shoreline than Hawaii, Florida, and California has combined, including Lake Vermillion, which has the longest shoreline.

Why Does Minnesota Have So Many Lakes?

It can definitely be tough to understand why some areas of the world have so many waterways and why others have none.

In Minnesota, the reason that we have so many lakes and waterways is because thousands of years ago, glaciers were on the land, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A shoreline of a Minnesota lake with fall foliage hanging over it.

And as the glaciers went away, they left large holes or depressions in the land, where our lakes are now at.

Over the years, these holes filled with rain and snowmelt, therefore creating the lakes that we know and love today.

Today, you can find lakes all over the state, from the northern half of the state in state parks to down in the Twin Cities metro.

Fun Facts About Minnesota’s Lakes

Since there are so many great bodies of water in Minnesota state, I wanted to give you a few fun facts to help you get to know them better.

Here are some of my favorites, and some of them are really hard to believe!

✔️ Minnesota has over 30,000 miles of shoreline, which is more than California, Hawaii, and Florida combined.

✔️ The most common names for lakes in the state are Long Lake, Mud Lake, and Rice Lake, with 478 total lakes having these names.

✔️ There are over 1,000 lakes in the Twin Cities metro near Saint Paul and Minneapolis, although many of them are located in the northern half of the state.

✔️ Minnesota is home to the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior, with 962,700 acres located within the state.

✔️ Every county in Minnesota except 4 have lakes; Mower, Olmsted, Pipestone, and Rock are the only counties with no lakes.

✔️ The state is home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of the country’s most remote areas, with nearly 2,000 lakes and over 1,200 canoe routes.

Things to Do on Minnesota’s Lakes

Minnesotans sure know how to put our natural resources to use, and you’ll find us out on lakes pretty much any time of the year.

From the dead of winter to the middle of summer, there are many things to do on Minnesota’s lakes.

Below you’ll find a list of just a few of the best activities to keep you busy.

  • Go kayaking or canoeing
  • Try your hand at ice fishing in the winter
  • Go snowmobiling across the frozen water
  • Take a pontoon out and float around
  • Spend time at one of the many lake resorts in northern Minnesota
  • Go fishing off of a dock
A dock over one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes.
  • Try waterskiing or kneeboarding in the summer
  • Go camping near the lakeshore in Superior National Forest
  • Watch the sunset over the water
  • Visit Voyageurs National Park, which is made mostly of water
  • Go canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Aside from these few activities, there are so many more that can be done on or near the lake that will keep you busy year-round.


Which Has More Lakes, Minnesota or Michigan?

There are a whole lot of lakes in the midwest, and Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin have the most.
Between Minnesota and Michigan, Minnesota has the most with nearly 15,000 documented and undocumented bodies or water. Michigan has about 11,000.

How Long Does it Take to Visit All 10,000 Lakes in Minnesota?

Quite honestly, I have no idea how long it would take to visit every single lake in Minnesota, but it would be a very long time.
Not even the DNR has been able to label and find every body of water in the state, so it would be tough for the average person to do it.
But you can find a database of many lakes here, that might help with your quest.

What State is Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, although we do have many more lakes than that!

What is Minnesota Known For?

Minnesota is known for many things, including our thousands of waterways. But we’re also known for our tater-tot hotdish, our giant Minnesota State Fair, being the State of Hockey, and for Paul Bunyan.
There are so many fun facts about our state that many people don’t know!

What is the Deepest Lake in Minnesota?

Portsmouth Mine Pit is the deepest inland lake in the state at 450 feet deep.
Lake Saganaga in Cook Country is the state’s deepest natural lake, measuring 240 feet deep.

What is the Biggest Lake in Minnesota?

The largest lake that is located entirely within Minnesota’s borders is Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake, which are located near Bemidji. These two lakes have a combined total of 451 square miles.

Which State Actually Has the Most Lakes?

While it’s true that Minnesota has a lot of lakes, Alaska actually takes the cake for being the state with the most lakes.

Wrap-Up: Minnesota Land of 10,000 Lakes

The beautiful northern state has long been known for many things, but Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is what we are most known for.

With thousands of bodies of water, it’s easy to understand why we’ve been given this nickname.

Minnesotans and visitors alike enjoy spending both summer and winter days out on the water and it’s no wonder that we’ve been called this.