Lake Minnetonka, about 20 miles west of Minneapolis is a large collection of numerous bays surrounded by suburbs and lake homes. As (sub)urban as this location is, it still retains much natural setting and beauty often found in many, if not most Minnesota lakes. This trip focuses on a typical afternoon picnic paddle to Big Island.
First thing you should know about this lake if you haven't been here is that it is a major center for recreational boating and it can get very busy especially on weekends and holidays. We picked a day in late season to try to avoid traffic. We also looked for a relatively quiet bay and route. As it turns out it was a beautiful day, many people were making the best of potential last outings before the Minnesota fall, and winter sets in. We were the only kayak on the lake but there were a large number of all types of watercraft on this trip - large motorboats, sailboats, tour boats, jets skis, and the Streetcar Minnetonka (a renovated early 20th century ferry).
Our route started on Echo bay where you can put in on a sandy beach. Parking and outhouse nearby helped make it an easy start to the trip. In order to avoid traffic and wakes we stuck with a course along the shore and found short channels to cross to get to the island. Most boaters respected the no wake rules on the lake during this trip so the shore offered easy paddling while house gawking. And even though there was consistent boat traffic in the general area, the lake is big enough that as we neared the island, the feeling definitely shifted to a more natural setting. We encountered a fair amount of wildlife on this part of the ride – eagles, loons, shore birds, and etc. The water on the north side of the island was crystal clear. There is a channel about midway in the island that we did not take on this trip. The southside of the lake offers a calmer cove.
The island has some sand shore landing space on the south east side called Point Charming Beach. In busier months, this area is likely to be very busy but on our trip, one or two families had pulled up. On the island, which has been restored over the last few years to a natural environment for the most part, there are hiking trails throughout the park. Note that there is no drinking water or toilets on the island.
This trip took about three to three and a half hours on the lake with additional time to enjoy the island. It was a generally easy paddle for this new kayaker with some trepidation regarding the boat traffic Paddlers should be on the lookout for varying degrees of motorized and sailboat traffic on this lake. We encountered general lake waves and frequent wakes from the traffic but you can be confident, stay close to shore and keep an eye out for low speed no wake zones, found throughout the lake.
This is only a small part of this lake. We look forward to exploring more of it in the future.
Potential for lots of boat traffic
General large lake conditions on a nice day
12 foot recreational kayak
8-10 mph winds
Some minor lake chop