How Deep Is Lake Minnetonka?

A bright blue lake surrounded by trees and hills.
© Twynam

Written by Rachael Griggs

Updated: September 14, 2023

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Lying roughly 20 miles west of Minneapolis, Lake Minnetonka is a focal point for people living in the 13 towns or municipalities that hug its shores. Minnesota, known as the land of 10,000 lakes, actually contains many more lakes, with 11,842! Let’s see how Lake Minnetonka compares with other lakes in this land of sky-blue waters.

How Deep Is Lake Minnetonka

With a surface area of nearly 15,000 acres, Lake Minnetonka is not small.

Lake Minnetonka is an integral part of life for the people who inhabit nearby communities. At 14,528 acres, there is plenty of lake to enjoy. The deepest part of Lake Minnetonka is 113 feet and lies in Crystal Bay on the upper lake. Lake Minnetonka’s average depth of 30 feet puts it within Minnesota’s top ten deepest lakes. Surprisingly, some of Minnesota’s big lakes like Mille Lacs are only a few feet deeper on average at 42 feet. The grand dame of all of them is Lake Superior. That lake, at nearly 1,300 feet deep, is one of the deepest lakes on Earth.

What Kind of Lake Is Lake Minnetonka?

Kittery Marina sunrise with sailboats - Kittery, Maine.

About 20 miles west of Minneapolis, you can find Lake Minnetonka.

©Gregory Szymbor/

If you’ve ever looked at Lake Minnetonka on a map, you’ve noticed that it doesn’t exactly look like one lake. Lake Minnetonka comprises 37 bays and kettle lakes. Further, numerous channels and marshes on the lake allow boaters and wildlife, such as waterfowl and 20 species of fish, to travel throughout the big lake.

Glaciers that retreated 10,000 years ago left the kettle lakes that make up Lake Minnetonka today.

History of Lake Minnetonka

The native people of Minnesota lived near Lake Minnetonka for thousands of years before European settlers came to North America. They fished, harvested wild rice, and hunted around the lake.

The earliest recorded non-native people to visit the lake were two teenage boys. Will Snelling and Joe Brown paddled up Minnehaha Creek from Fort Saint Anthony in 1822. Few people visited or even knew of the lake until several decades later, however. In 1852, Minnesota’s governor Andrew Ramsey gave the lake its name after the Dakota name for it, Mní iá Tháŋka. That name roughly translates to large lake.

Settlers from New York founded the town of Excelsior — the first along Minnetonka’s shore — in 1853. The National Register of Historic Places now lists parts of the town.

For many years, Lake Minnetonka was difficult to reach from Minneapolis. Then, it remained an exclusive enclave of the wealthy who were lucky to enjoy the cool clear water as a respite from cities. During this resort era on the lake, vacationers stayed at grand hotels and enjoyed sailing, swimming, and taking in the view.

What Water Sources Feed Lake Minnetonka?

Lake Minnetonka is fed by several creeks, the largest of which is Six Mile Creek. The only outflow is Minnehaha Creek which flows from the lake, through the western suburbs, and into Minneapolis eventually meeting the Mississippi River. Gray’s Bay Dam controls the flow into nearby Minnehaha Creek. The dam also regulates levels of Minnetonka, keeping them at an average of 929 feet above sea level, with seasonal fluctuations. Lake Minnetonka, like all lakes in Minnesota, freezes in the winter. The average ice-out day, when the lake’s surface is free of ice, is in April.

Is Lake Minnetonka Famous?

Lake Minnetonka, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Outdoor recreation is one of the great draws of Lake Minnetonka.

©Nikolay Donev/

If you live around Lake Minnetonka, the lake is definitely a focal point for outdoor recreation and desirable real estate. Locals love to take to the water to cruise the bays and stop for a bite at one of several well-known dockside restaurants. But Lake Minnetonka’s reputation goes beyond that of its local fans.

The most famous reference to Lake Minnetonka was undoubtedly in Prince’s 1984 movie Purple Rain, in which his character jokingly urges his love interest in the movie to purify herself in the lake’s waters. Prince lived on the lake for several years early in his career and recorded his third album there.

What Animals Live in and Around Lake Minnetonka?

Lake Minnetonka is popular with area fishermen who drop a line from the boat or from shore in one of the many parks and municipal beaches. You can find sport fish like northern pike and walleye, along with many others, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, a variety of sunfish, and maybe, according to urban legend, an enormous lake sturgeon.

Both the woods on shore and the lake itself support a variety of bird life. You might see an osprey, mallard, or wood duck while visiting Lake Minnetonka or even a bald eagle or hear the haunting call of Minnesota’s state bird the common loon.

Birds that look like ducks: Common Loon

Common loons reside near Lake Minnetonka.


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