Kabetogama is one of four vast, interconnected lakes in Voyageurs National Park. Kabetogama, Rainy, Namakan, and Sand Point lakes are part of the 14,900-square-mile Rainy Lake basin. These waters flow west through the Rainy River to Lake of the Woods and eventually north, as part of the arctic watershed of Hudson's Bay.
The lake is roughly parallel to Rainy Lake. The Ojibwe name Ga-bi'-to gum-ag' za'-gai-i-gun translates to "the lake that lies parallel or double with another lake." French fur trappers similarly referred to Kabetogama as Travere or Travers, meaning "alongside."
Appearance The 26,000-acre lake has myriad bays and more than 200 islands. It reaches a maximum depth of 80 feet and has an average water clarity of 9 feet. The largely undeveloped landscape is a transition zone between boreal and hardwood forests.
Kabetogama Lake has long been a popular destination for walleye anglers, and this year it will host the Governor's Fishing Opener on May 15. Walleye, sauger, northern pike, smallmouth bass, crappie, and perch grow faster here than they do in nearby lakes that are colder, deeper, and less fertile. As in Minnesota's other large lakes, Kabetogama's walleye population fluctuates. With the support of local residents, the DNR tightened fishing regulations to maintain strong spawning populations in 1998 and again in 2006.
Many islands and bays are named for commercial fishermen who once plied these waters and netted walleye, northern pike, and burbot. Commercial fishing ended around 1925—a decision likely driven by tourism's increasing importance.
When French explorers visited in the 1600s, Assiniboine, Cree, and later Ojibwe people were living in the region. During the 18th and 19th centuries, lakes inside Voyageurs were strategic relay and supply points along the 3,000-mile fur-trade route between Montreal and the Canadian Northwest.
Logging of the region's old-growth pine forests began in the late 1800s. In 1909 conservationist Ernest Oberholtzer visited the region. He later settled on an island in Rainy Lake and worked to preserve the watershed. His advocacy helped establish Voyageurs National Park in 1975.
This water-based park has an average of 250,000 visitors each year. Like the park's namesake voyageurs, today's visitors find the best way to explore is by boat. To learn more see the National Park Service Web page and visit the Kabetogama Lake Tourism Bureau.
Michael A. Kallok, associate editor