White Iron Lake is a large, moderately-deep lake located within the Superior National Forest and is five miles east of Ely, Minnesota. It has a very large watershed, draining the majority of the Kawishiwi River watershed (173:1 watershed ratio). The river enters on the south shore of White Iron Lake and its large watershed gives the lake a short water residence time - estimated at 45 days. Hydroelectric dams between Garden Lake and Fall Lake and between Birch Lake and White Iron Lake control flow and water levels in the reservoir system.
The water in White Iron Lake is heavily tannin stained from the many bogs and wetlands in the watershed, which naturally limits vegetation growth to areas shallower than <1 meter. The non-native Rusty Crayfish was discovered in the White Iron chain in 2003 and confirmed in White Iron in 2007. Rusty Crayfish can destroy large beds of aquatic plants by clipping plants with their cheliped pincers.
The fish community in White Iron Lake is dominated by Percids (Walleye and Yellow Perch), Coregonids (Cisco and Lake Whitefish), and Northern Pike. The populations of Walleye and Northern Pike are naturally reproducing and of high quality. Northern Pike over 40 inches are routinely sampled by area fisheries staff. No stocking is currently performed in the lake. Like many lakes in Northeastern Minnesota, Centrachid species (Bluegill, Black Crappie, and Smallmouth Bass) are becoming more abundant and may influence composition of the fish community.
White Iron Lake was added to the Sentinel Lakes Program because it represents lakes of the Canadian Shield ecoregion in northeastern Minnesota.