Elephant Lake is a medium-sized, moderate depth lake located ten miles northeast of Orr, Minnesota in the Superior National Forest. It forms the headwaters of Elephant Creek, a tributary to the Vermillion River. Water residence time is estimated at 3.5 years. It has a small watershed relative to its surface area (5:1 ratio) that is almost entirely forest and wetland. The lake has some lakeshore development with one resort and about 30 homes or cabins, though most of the surrounding land is public. The invasive Rusty Crayfish is present in the lake.
The lake has abundant and diverse aquatic vegetation with no invasive plant species.
This lake has a relatively low fish species diversity compared with similar lakes with undisturbed forested watersheds. The fish community of Elephant Lake contains warm- and cool-water species including Walleye, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, Bluegill, and Smallmouth Bass. Elephant maintains a self-sustaining Walleye population, but recruitment has been variable over the years. Similar to other lakes in the border lakes ecoregion, warm-water Centrarchids are becoming increasingly abundant, with large populations of Black Crappie and Smallmouth Bass. Climate change should continue to favor warm-water fish species perhaps to the detriment of cool-water species. If Yellow Perch (primary forage of Walleye and Northern Pike) remain abundant, Elephant Lake may be able to support modest populations of cool-water and warm-water species over the long-term.
Elephant Lake was selected as an example of a lake in the Canadian Shield ecoregion.