Big Rice Lake

Making Connections

  • Paddle North, down the Portage River, to Lapond
  • Portage South & East, 520 rods, to Hook
  • Bushwhack Southwest, 180 rods, up Medley Creek, to Medley Lake


  • Fisher F-9, Cummings, Big Moose, Fourtown Lakes
  • McKenzie No. 16, Burntside Lake


  • DNR Lake No. 690178
  • Lake Map No. C0832
  • Lake Table No. 1
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Big Rice Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Big Rice is a moderate size, very shallow lake at the head of the Portage River, 26¾ miles southeast of Crane Lake and 12½ miles northwest of Ely. Over a mile long and up to ¾ mile wide, its 420 acres have a maximum depth of but 5'. Along the southwestern shore is the mouth of Medley Creek, down from Medley Lake, ½ mile upstream and 20' above Big Rice. Opposite, on the northeastern shore, is the mouth of Hook Creek, meandering for some 2¼ miles through low and soggy terrain on its course down from Hook Lake. The unreliable navigability of Hook Creek makes necessary the 520 rod (over 1½ mile) portage between Big Rice and Hook. That portage originates along the southeastern shore of Big Rice, gaining some 110' of elevation in the first 400 rods, then dropping 50' into the western arm of Hook.

The area around Big Rice burned in the Civil War era fires of 1863-64, and most of this forest burned again in the fire of 1894, the exception being stands along the northeastern and southeastern shores, which somehow evaded the later blaze. The Independence Day windstorms of 1999 had no significant impact here.


Big Rice supports just one established campsite, on the point of the eastern shore. Plan on filtering your water on Big Rice. It's likely to be teeming with all sorts of fascinating little critters.

Planning Considerations

Big Rice sits on the Big Lake/Burntside route, which crosses this portion of the BWCAW north/south and border-to-border, running through Big, Lapond, Big Rice, Hook, Rice, and Slim, to Burntside. It also has connection, by way of the Portage River, Lapond, and Big Moose, with Cummings and the many route options which radiate from that big lake. Big Rice also provides an excellent opportunity for exploring Medley Creek up to Medley Lake. The more adventuresome might like to investigate just how navigable Hook Creek might be. (If you do so, let us know how it goes - even if it doesn't).

Big Rice is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 21.


Big Rice supports populations of Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). The shallow waters and boggy margins should also make for good moose habitat.

Notes and Comments

The broad shallows of Big Rice make it an ideal habitat for Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica), hence the name.


Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004