Turtle Lake

Making Connections


  • Fisher F-4, One, Two, Three, Four, Bald Eagle, Insula Lakes
  • McKenzie 18, Lake One


  • DNR Lake No. 380704
  • Lake Map No. C1355
  • Lake Table No. 6B
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Turtle Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Turtle is a shallow, mid-size lake on the western leg of the Clearwater route, 11½ miles WNW of Forest Center, and 13 miles ESE of Ely. Over 1¼ miles long, its 337 acres are never more than 10' deep. Turtle has no apparent inlet or outlet but seems, rather, to be part of a broad and boggy seapage that runs south from Clearwater and the upper reaches of Pagami Creek, through Turtle and down into Bald Eagle.

The forests which ring Turtle are of many age classes. Those to the north had their origin in a major, stand replacing fire in 1875. The trees along the eastern shore are some 50 years older. Fire in 1894 and 1903 burned down to the southern shore. The western shore sustains stands from 1846 and one of the few remaining 300 year old stands in the BWCA, dating back to a 1681 burn. The Independence Day windstorms of 1999 had an impact in the Turtle area, with standing tree losses estimated at 10% to 33% for the area north and west of the lake, from Gabbro to Clearwater, and off the eastern shore towards Pietro.

At its south end, a 185 rod portage gains 50' in elevation before descending 85' into Bald Eagle. At the north end, a 200 rod carry climbs 60' before dropping 50' down to Clearwater.


Turtle supports four established campsites, one on an island in the north end, two along the northeastern shore, and one on the south shore near the Bald Eagle portage.

Planning Considerations

Because Turtle is not connected to any navigable streams, the two portages in and out of the lake are rather long and require climbing up and over a height of land whether coming from the north or the south. So while the total portage distance is about the same as the eastern Clearwater leg up through Gull and Pietro, there is more climbing required on the two Turtle portages. (The really nasty portages between Bald Eagle and Two, however, lie farther to the north, between Clearwater and Rock Island.)


Turtle supports populations of Northern Pike (Esox lucius), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). -- all consistent with its broad, but quite shallow waters.

Notes and Comments

Turtle Lake and its surroundings are a good example of how the Boundary Waters region is such a very young landscape, where regular water flow and drainage networks have yet to fully develop.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004