Sterling Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage East, 8 rods, then 160 rods, down Sterling Creek
  • Portage Northwest, 148 rods, to Bibon


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


  • DNR Lake No. 690206
  • Lake Map No. N/A
  • Lake Table No. 2A
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Sterling Lake
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Sterling is a modest sized lake on Sterling Creek, in the Beartrap River drainage of the Iron Lake basin, 25 miles ESE of Crane Lake and 20 miles north of Ely. Sterling has two distinct parts joined by a channel; a northern bay curving north and east, and a long, narrow east/west arm. The long, narrow arm is very much a wide stretch of Sterling Creek, which originates in the boggy hinterlands 5 miles to the south, turning eastward at Sterling toward its confluence with the Beartrap River.

Out of Sterling's far west end, a 148 rod portage heads northwest, to Bibon, climbing 65' in the first 48 rods before dropping more gradually into the smaller lake. At Sterling's southeastern end, as the lake narrows back to become Sterling Creek, a quick 8 rod carry is followed, after a short paddle, by a 160 rod portage to regain navigable waters downstream, heading for the Beartrap River.

The forests which ring Sterling Lake have largely grown up after the fires of 1875, though forest at the far north end burned again in 1894.


Sterling Lake supports no established campsites.

Planning Considerations

Sterling sits on the Sterling route, running east/west from Stuart, through Nibin, Bibon, and Sterling, down Sterling Creek to join the Beartrap River below Sunday Lake. To the south of Sterling Lake, and Sterling Creek downstream, is the trackless wilderness of the Sundial Lake Primitive Management Area (PMA).

Sterling is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 9, 15, 17, 21, and 22.


Notes and Comments

Sterling Lake is largely a pass through lake without campsites. However, its close proximity to the Sundial Lake PMA opens up a number options for serious bushwhacking and primitive camping. Up Sterling Creek perhaps?

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004