Discover the Deepest Lake in the Twin Cities

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde
Updated: August 3, 2023
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Key Points

  • With a maximum depth of 91 feet, Lake Phalen is the deepest lake in the Twin Cities.
  • Lake Phalen is a popular fishing destination. In fact, it is arguably the most popular fishing destination in the Twin Cities.
  • This lake is about an hour and a half drive north of Rochester, Minnesota, and around a 10-minute drive from downtown Saint Paul.

In the US State of Minnesota, the term “Twin Cities” describes the metropolitan area around the confluence of Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix Rivers. With an estimated population of 2.9 million people, this area is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the country. The name Twin Cities is a reference to the two biggest cities in the area: Minneapolis and St. Paul. Both cities are hotbeds for arts and culture, offering everything from world-class museums to cutting-edge theaters and concerts. Outdoor enthusiasts will also love exploring the area’s numerous scenic trails, forests, and lakes. One of the many beauties of this region is Lake Phalen, the deepest lake in the Twin Cities. Read on to learn more about this lake, including its size, history, and other interesting facts. 

What Is the Deepest Lake in the Twin Cities?

With a maximum depth of 91 feet, Lake Phalen is the deepest lake in the Twin Cities. The urban lake is located within the borders of St. Paul in Ramsey County, close to Maplewood, one of the city’s suburbs. 

Lake Phalen has a total surface area of 198 acres, making it one of the largest lakes in the twin cities. The shore length of this lake is about 3 miles. Lake Phalen is located within the Phalen Regional Park System. The lake and the surrounding park have a total area of 494 acres. 

Lake Phalen is named after Phalen Creek, which flows out from the lake’s southern end and drains into the Mississippi River.

Deepest Lake in the Twin Cities — Lake With the Highest Average Depth

Although Lake Phalen has the highest maximum depth of any lake in the Twin Cities, the lake with the highest average depth is Bde Maka Ska, located in Minneapolis. It is the largest lake in the Twin Cities, with a surface area of 401 acres. In terms of depth, the average depth of this lake is 82 feet, while the maximum depth is 87 feet.

Bde Maka Ska is a part of the Twin Cities chain of Lakes, which includes other lakes like Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of Isles, and Lake Harriet. Like Lake Phalen, the Bde Maka Ska Lake is surrounded by a park with hiking trails and an open area for various outdoor activities. The lake itself is open for kayaking, canoeing, and windsurfing. The Bde Maka Ska is so big that it has three swimming beaches.

Although Lake Phalen has the highest maximum depth of any lake in the Twin Cities, Bde Maka Ska has the highest average depth.

©LIKE HE/Shutterstock.com

History of the Deepest Lake in the Twin Cities

Lake Phalen is named after Phalen Creek, which flows out from the lake’s southern end and drains into the Mississippi River. The creek itself is named after Edward Phelan, one of the early Irish settlers in Saint Paul. 

Phalen, a former military officer, had settled along the creek after being discharged from Fort Snelling in 1838. He lived in a cabin along the creek in Swede Hollow. His cabin was isolated from other settlers in the area. Over time, the lake from where the creek flowed became known as Phalen’s Lake, even though Phalen’s cabin was far from the shores of the lake. 

In September 1839, Edward Phalen was accused of killing John Hays, his business partner. Although he was later freed for lack of evidence, there have been controversies about affixing his name to the largest lake in Saint Paul. 

In 1869, the Saint Paul Water Company installed a supply plant at Phalen Lake. The goal was to supply water to Saint Paul and its municipalities. Lake Phalen was Saint Paul’s primary water source until 1913. 

Park Transformation

The Saint Paul Board of Park Commissioners acquired the land around the lake to establish Phalen Park in 1899. The city of Saint Paul paid $22,000 to purchase the lake and the surrounding area. The goal of establishing the park was to support recreation while also preserving the native woodlands and forest habitats around it. 

For most of the 1900s, the park authorities tried different methods to improve the lands around the lake. These include dredging the lake, using the recovered materials to fill the wetlands, and placing rocks along the shoreline (riprapping). By the start of the 21st century, the Park Commission began a shoreline restoration program to convert ripraps to natural vegetation. 

Lake Phalen

For most of the 1900s, the park authorities tried different methods to improve the lands around the lake.

©595 × 480 pixels, file size: 137 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg – License

Fishing and Wildlife at the Largest Lake in the Twin Cities 

Lake Phalen is a popular fishing destination. In fact, it is arguably the most popular fishing destination in the Twin Cities. Every year, the park authorities stock the lake with walleyes. Similarly, tiger muskies are introduced every three years. Lake Phalen’s 23 square miles watershed also supports a healthy northern pike, crappie, sunfish, and largemouth bass population. These fish species can maintain their population levels on their own, so they do not need to be restored.  

Fishing Walleye fish in the angler's hands.

Every year, the park authorities stock the lake with walleyes.

©ElvK/Shutterstock.com

In addition to the regular fish species found in the lake, a number of unusual species also live there. One of the most remarkable ones is the rainbow darter. Workers from the Department of Natural Resources found the fish for the first time in 1996. What makes it so strange is the fact that this fish does not naturally live in lakes. It is usually found in fast-moving streams. Only six to eight streams in Minnesota have this unusual fish living in them. The presence of the rainbow darter in Lake Phalen is an anomaly. 

The Eurasian watermilfoil is an invasive plant species found in the lake. This aquatic plant is not native to Minnesota. Workers found it in the lake for the first time in 1997, and it has remained ever since. 

The restoration areas around the lake are great places to find birds and other wildlife species. Birds like the great blue heron are common around the lake. You may also find different species of sunbirds nesting and feeding along the lake’s shores and wet meadow areas. 

Great Blue Heron and 2 baby chicks in the nest.

Birds like the great blue heron are common around the lake.

©Wolf Mountain Images/Shutterstock.com

Recreation at the Deepest Lake in the Twin Cities

The largest lake in the Twin Cities is the centerpiece of the Phalen Regional Park in St. Paul. The 494 acres of land surrounding the lake is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the Twin Cities. The lake and regional park are popular destinations for a wide range of outdoor activities, including boating, biking, and fishing. The park has the only public swimming lake in all of Saint Paul. There’s an 18-hole golf course located within the park. People also visit the park during the winter months for cross-country skiing and skating. There are numerous outdoor areas for picnics and camping. Phalen Beach is a guarded public beach that is free and open to the public. 

Where Is Lake Phalen Located on a Map?

Lake Phalen is around a 10-minute drive from downtown Saint Paul. This lake is about an hour and a half drive north of Rochester, Minnesota. Boat access is at the lake’s northwest corner, south of the channel to Round Lake.

Conclusion 

Lake Phalen is the deepest lake in the Twin Cities in terms of maximum depth. On the other hand, Bde Maka Ska is also deep, and it is the deepest lake in the area when you consider average depth. Both lakes offer plenty of recreational opportunities for anyone who’s in the area for some outdoor fun with plenty of things to do, see and explore while you’re there.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © 1,024 × 660 pixels, file size: 76 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg – License / Original


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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where is the deepest lake in the Twin Cities?

With a maximum depth of 91 feet, Lake Phalen is the deepest lake in the Twin Cities. The urban lake is located within the borders of Saint Paul, close to Maplewood, one of the city’s suburbs. 

What lake in the Twin Cities has the highest average depth?

Although Lake Phalen has the highest maximum depth of any lake in the Twin Cities, the lake with the highest average depth is Bde Maka Ska, located in Minneapolis. It is the largest lake in the Twin Cities, with a surface area of 401 acres. In terms of depth, the average depth of this lake is 82 feet, while the maximum depth is 87 feet.

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