Loon Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage North, 50 rods, to Lac La Croix
  • Paddle North and East, to Little Loon
  • Portage East, 220 rods, to Heritage Creek
  • Paddle South, up the Little Indian Sioux, to Lower Pauness
  • Portage West, 80 rods, to the Loon River


  • Fisher F-15, Crane, Echo Lakes, Loon River, West Echo Trail; F-16, Loon, Lac La Croix, Nina Moose Lakes
  • McKenzie 14, Loon, Wilkins Bay


Loon Lake
Scale 1:42840
Full image approximately 4 miles square


Loon is a large, multi-armed lake which straddles the international border some 8 miles ESE of Crane Lake and 30½ miles northwest of Ely. Over 4 miles across in almost any direction, Loon's 2616 acres have a maximum depth of 70' and touch a whopping 31 miles of shoreline.

At the end of its northwestern arm, the 50 rod Beatty Portage leads up to the even larger Lac La Croix while, in its northeastern corner, a short channel connects East Loon Bay to Little Loon Lake. In the southeastern end is the mouth of the Little Indian Sioux River, dropping down from the Devil's Cascade and the Pauness Lakes, while in the western end the lake narrows progressively to become the Loon River. Along the eastern shore just south of the mouth of Heritage Creek, a rough 220 rod portage heads off eastward, bypassing the lower reaches of the creek and providing access to Heritage Lake. The trail climbs 46' above Loon in the first 50 rods, drops back 12', then climbs some 58' in only 22 rods, adding another 24' of elevation in the next 100 rods, before descending 24' in the final 50 rods to the banks of Heritage Creek. It's a tough carry, somewhat easier if taken from the opposite end.


Loon supports a baker's dozen established campsites, six in East Loon Bay and three near the mouth of the Little Indian Sioux.

Planning Considerations

Loon serves as a junction for two parallel, but very different routes, with very different travelers. Its west side is a link in a motorized stretch of the Border Route, linking the Loon River and Little Vermilion to Lac La Croix and some of the largest lakes in the BWCA, while the eastern end provides a north/south connection between the smaller, interior lakes of the Pauness/Boulder Bay route in the south, (which heads north and east out of Upper and Lower Pauness through Shell, Little Shell, Lynx, Ruby, Hustler, Oyster, and Lake Agnes, to Boulder Bay on Lac La Croix) and the many lakes situated just south of Lac La Croix.

Loon is also part of one of the surviving BWCAW motor routes, that running from the Little Vermilion Narrows up to Snow Bay on Lac La Croix, with extensions, in Loon, to East Loon Bay and the mouth of the Little Indian Sioux. Perhaps the best way to reduce exposure to motorized craft is to pass through Loon on its east side, by way of the Little Indian Sioux and East Loon Bay, avoiding the passage of the Border Route along the lake's western edge.

Loon is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 5, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 27.


Loon supports populations of Burbot (Lota lota), Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Sauger (Stizostedion canadense), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). Walleye and Northerns are the primary game species with smaller numbers of Rock Bass, Sauger, and Smallmouth Bass. Burbot, Lake Whitefish, Tullibee, and White Sucker provide the forage.

A new DNR lake survey is planned for 2001.

Notes and Comments

Loon is named, of course, after that haunting symbol of the wild north, the Common Loon (Gavia immer), also designated as Minnesota's State Bird.

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004