Lake Calhoun

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For the lake in Kandiyohi County, see Lake Calhoun (Kandiyohi County, Minnesota).
Lake Calhoun
Bde Maka Ska
Lake Calhoun MN.jpg
Two fishermen cast off the dock of the lake at dusk, with the Minneapolis skyline in the background
Location Minneapolis, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°56′31″N 93°18′44″W / 44.94194°N 93.31222°W / 44.94194; -93.31222Coordinates: 44°56′31″N 93°18′44″W / 44.94194°N 93.31222°W / 44.94194; -93.31222
Basin countries United States
Surface area 401 acres (1.62 km2)
Average depth 82 ft (25 m)
Max. depth 87 ft (27 m)

Lake Calhoun (also called Bde Maka Ska)[1] is the largest lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and part of the city's Chain of Lakes. Surrounded by city park land and circled by bike and walking trails, it is popular for many outdoor activities. The lake has an area of 401 acres (1.62 km2) and a maximum depth of 87 feet (27 m).

Lake and surrounding area[edit]

Lake Calhoun's eastern shore, in mid-July.

The lake is part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, connecting with Lake of the Isles on the northeast, Cedar Lake on the northwest, and Lake Harriet on the south. The trail system has a 3.4-mile (5.5 km) trail around Lake Calhoun for bicyclists and skaters and a 3.2-mile (5.1 km) trail around Lake Calhoun for pedestrians. Both of these trails connect to the larger trail system via connections to Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet. In addition, the Midtown Greenway Trail is located just north of the lake and just north of Lake Street. The lake itself is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing, and it has three swimming beaches. The three beaches are

Lake Calhoun bathers ~ 1917

Calhoun North Beach on the north side of the lake, Calhoun 32nd Beach on the east side and Calhoun Thomas Beach on the south side. Surrounding park land offers parking, picnicking, volleyball, and athletic fields. It is also home of sailing, hosting the Calhoun Yacht Club, the Lake Calhoun Sailing School, as well as local high school teams and the University of St Thomas Sailing Team.

A plaque on the east side of the lake commemorates the first home built in Minneapolis by Gideon Pond, a missionary, in the 1830s. On the west side is located the Bakken Museum, which is devoted to the study of electricity in life.


Lake Calhoun during the winter with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.

The Dakota originally called the lake Mde Maka Ska (modern spelling Bde Maka Ska) meaning White Earth Lake.[2] Settlers later named it with the Sioux language word "Medoza" or Loon Lake. The United States Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, sent the Army to survey the area that would surround Fort Snelling in 1817. Calhoun had also authorized the construction of Fort Snelling, one of the earliest settlements in the state. The surveyors renamed the water body "Lake Calhoun" in his honor. The Fort Snelling Military Reservation survey map created by Lt. James L. Thompson in 1839 clearly shows the lake as bearing the name "Calhoun."[3]

Calhoun's legacy as a pro-slavery politician has led critics to question whether he is the best person to be honored. In 2011 the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board visited the issue. Their legal counsel concluded that the board could not legally change the name, as state law gives that power to the Commissioner of Natural Resources, and then only in the first 40 years after the name was designated. Following the Charleston church shooting in June 2015, a fresh drive to change the name started via an online petition. The Park Board indicated it would look into the process to determine whether they are able to change the lake's name through state action.[4][5]


The lake contains black crappie, bluegill, bowfin, common carp, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, tiger muskellunge, walleye, white sucker, and yellow perch. Some fish consumption guideline restrictions have been placed on the lake's bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, and white sucker due to mercury and/or PFOS contamination.[6]

In 1991, the then-Minnesota state record tiger muskellunge at 33 pounds 8 ounces was caught in the lake.[7]


  1. ^ Greene, Britta (December 4, 2015). "How to say Lake Calhoun's Dakota name: 'Bde Maka Ska'". MPR News. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved December 4, 2015. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board added "Bde Maka Ska" to signs around Lake Calhoun 
  2. ^ Cairn, Rich and Susan (2003). "History of Minnehaha Creek Watershed" (PDF). p. 19. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Frederick L. Richfield: Minnesota's Oldest Suburb. Richfield Historical Society Press. 2009. p.2
  4. ^ Brandt, Steve (June 23, 2015). "Lake Calhoun name change gets another look in Minneapolis". Star Tribune. 
  5. ^ Brandt, Steve (June 24, 2015). "Minneapolis Park Board gives fresh look at renaming Lake Calhoun after South Carolina shootings". Star Tribune. 
  6. ^ "Lake information report: Minnesota DNR". MN DNR. MN DNR. 2005-07-25. 
  7. ^

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