Stuart Lake

Making Connections

  • Portage East, 320 rods, to Fox
  • Portage Southeast, 180 rods, to Nibin
  • Portage South, 74 rods, to the Stuart River
  • Portage West, 118 rods, to the Dahlgren River


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


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


Stuart is a large lake on the Stuart and Dahlgren Rivers, in the Lac La Croix basin, 22 miles ESE of Crane Lake and 21 miles NNW of Ely. Five lobed in form and over 1½ miles across, its 752 acres have a maximum depth of 40' in the eastern bay, but generally only 20' to 25' in the rest of the lake. The bottom is largely bedrock, boulders, and sand with aquatic plant growth to a depth of 7'.

Out of Stuart's eastern bay, a mile long portage (320 rods) heads west to Fox. Holding to the high ground to the south of the bogs, it climbs 45' in the first 45 rods, then takes an undulating course before dropping 30' into Fox. Actually, the portage length is in dispute, with Fisher setting it at 320, McKenzie printing the bold red line without length designation, and the USGS maps scaling out at 280. The latter is probably the more accurate.

From the eastern shore of the southeastern bay, a 180 rod portage heads east to Nibin, gaining 85' of elevation in a steady climb over the first 65 rods, dropping 35', gaining 40' to crest a second rise, and then dropping 45' to the north shore of Nibin. Whew! Both Fisher and McKenzie identify the portage length at 180 rods, though scaling from the USGS topographic map comes up with something closer to 210 rods. Out of the south end of the same southeastern bay, at the mouth of the Stuart River, a 74 rod carry climbs along the river's eastern bank, bypassing rapids to reach navigable waters upstream.

At the west end of Stuart, its outflow stream, the Dahlgren River, begins its 5 mile course northward to the Boulder River and Lac la Croix. Along the northwestern shore of Stuart, a 118 rod portage heads west, bypassing the rapids of the upper Dahlgren River in a 68' up-and-over carry, to reach calmer waters downstream.

Most of the forest around Stuart is relatively young, dating back to the stand replacing fires of 1894. Along the northwestern shores of the lake, however, are older stands, tracing their origins back to burns of 1864 and 1755. The 18th Century stands are on the large peninsula separating the northwestern and northern bays. This region of the BWCA largely escaped damage in the 4th of July windstorms of 1999, which caused such extensive tree loss to the south and east.


Stuart supports seven established campsites, four in the deeper eastern bay, two on islands, and one on the eastern shore of the northwestern bay.

Planning Considerations

Stuart sits at the southern end of the Dark/Stuart route, which drops south out of Iron Lake, through Dark, Rush, and Fox, to Stuart. From here, further connections can be made on the Dahlgren and Stuart rivers as well as to the Sterling route, running east/west from Stuart, through Nibin, Bibon, and Sterling, down Sterling Creek to the Beartrap River below Sunday Lake.

Stuart is included in Beymer, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, vol. 1, The Western Region, routes 7, 9, 15, 17, 18, 20, and 22.


Stuart supports populations of Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). Walleye fry were introduced in 1982 and have been stocked several times since, most recently in 1993 and 1996. Both the inlet and outlet have barriers to fish movement in the form of rapids and waterfalls.

Notes and Comments

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004