Shell Lake

Making Connections


  • Fisher F-16, Loon, Lac La Croix, Nina Moose Lakes
  • McKenzie 12, Moose River; 14, Loon, Wilkins Bay


Shell Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Shell is a relatively large, shallow lake, in the Loon River drainage, 13 miles ESE of Crane Lake and 26¾ miles northwest of Ely. Its 784 acres stretch 1½ miles east/west and 1¼ miles north/south but with a maximum depth of only 15'. The lake bottom is primarily bedrock, boulders, and muck. Aquatic plant growth is abundant to a depth of 5', with water clarity measured at only 4'. Shell is marked by two large islands, the larger and northernmost known as Con Island.

Surface waters enter Shell from many directions, including Little Shell to the east and Wokasapiwi Creek, with its nearly 3 miles of soggy meandering, down from Woksapiwi Lake to the south. The short little stream out of Little Shell is bypassed by a 15 rod portage on its eastern bank. Out of a small inlet on the western shore of Shell, a 216 rod, up-and-over carry heads west to Lower Pauness, gaining 38' in a gradual climb before dropping some 60' to the lakeshore. Not a particularly difficult portage for its length, though the landings at either end are really quite mucky. Finally, out of the north end of Shell, a small outlet stream runs down to Heritage, bypassed on the eastern bank by a 60 rod carry.

The forests surrounding Shell are of various age classes. Most of the area off the southern shore dates back to the big fires of 1864, while most of that to the north has grown up since the 1894 burn. The islands and the northwestern half of the large southern peninsula have not burned for over 240 years. Portions at the north end and along the southern shore, as well as the peninsula shared with Little Shell, were logged during the First World War by the Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company, presumably for Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) and White Pine (Pinus strobus). This region of the BWCA escaped damage in the 4th of July windstorms of 1999, which caused such extensive tree loss to the south and east.


Shell supports thirteen established campsites, five on Con Island and two on the other large island.

Planning Considerations

Shell is a link in the east/west Pauness/Boulder Bay route, which heads north and east out of Upper and Lower Pauness on the Little Indian Sioux River through Shell, Little Shell, Lynx, Ruby, Hustler, Oyster, and Lake Agnes, to Boulder Bay on Lac La Croix. Shell also offers a connection north to Heritage and Loon lakes and a tantalizing bushwhacking opportunity south up Woksapiwi Creek, through the wetlands to Woksapiwi Lake.

Shell is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 3, 13, 15, 16, and 17.


Shell supports populations of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens).

Notes and Comments

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004