Lake Three

Making Connections


  • Fisher F-4, One, Two, Three, Four, Bald Eagle, Insula Lakes, F-5, Perent, Kawishiwi, Sawbill
  • McKenzie 18, Lake One


  • DNR Lake No. 380600
  • Lake Map No. C0422
  • Lake Table No. 6C
  • MDH Fish Consumption Advisory - N/A
  • MPCA Water Quality - N/A
Lake Three
Scale 1:21420
Full image approximately 2 miles square


Three is a large and popular lake on the Kawishiwi River, 17 miles east of Ely, and 8½ miles northwest of Forest Center. At 881 acres, it is the largest of the Number Lakes (though only slightly larger than One) and while not so deep as One, it does reach a depth of 37', and unlike the others, most of the lake bottom in the deepwater zone below 15'. The south end of the lake is marked by several large islands. It also contains, at the end of a narrow little arm in the southeast corner, the mouths of Holiday and Spinnan Creeks, down from Holiday and Spinnan Lakes, two small lakes without maintained portage access. A simple 20 rod portage off the southeastern shore of Three connects with Horseshoe. This portage trail is crossed midway through by the Pow Wow Hiking Trail. At the north end of Three, the Kawishiwi River enters through a narrow channel in the northeast corner from Lake Four, and exits at the northwestern corner, through a broader channel, into Lake Two.

Most of the area around Lake Three is second growth forest, having grown up in the aftermath of the early logging of the St. Croix Lumber Company of Winton (1896 - 1920). Prior to logging, the area probably supported numerous stands of big Red and White Pines, dating back to 1796 and earlier. Only an area to the west was not logged, probably because it burned in 1894 and was not sufficiently mature to be of much interest to the lumber company, and a small bit of the eastern shore north of Horseshoe, which dates back nearly 175 years, to the big stand replacing fires of 1824. The big Independence Day windstorms of 1999 largely missed Lake Three, the broad swath of greatest destruction lying well to the north. However, standing tree losses estimated at 10% to 33% did occur off the south shore of the lake.


Lake Three supports over a dozen established campsites, four on islands in the south end. Popular with campers, these sites are also popular with bruins. Hang 'em high.

Planning Considerations

Lake Three is one of the four Number Lakes, a series of large lakes on the Kawishiwi River, southeast of the Fernberg Road, extending from the Lake One entry point upriver through Hudson to Insula. It also provides a link to the North Wilder Loop which runs from the Number Lakes Three and Four on the Kawishiwi, east and north, through Horseshoe, Brewis, Harbor, and North Wilder, to return to the Kawishiwi just above Lake Four. Three also provides bushwhacking opportunities to little Holiday and Spinnan Lakes.


Lake Three supports populations of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Burbot (Lota lota), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Tullibee (Cisco) (Coregonus artedi), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens).

Notes and Comments

The Number Lakes are a very popular area of the BWCA. If you would prefer not to share your wilderness experience with so many others, plan on going elsewhere or visit during the off-offseason (just before the snow flies in the fall, or just after the ice goes out in the spring).

Line of Spruce Trees

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004