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City of Orono, Minnesota
The Lakeshore City

Lake Minnetonka History

In the early 18th century Lake Minnetonka was a secret to almost everyone except the Indians, although they were never permanent settlers around the lake.  The Big Woods around the lake provided lots of game, the shores provided lots of edible plants, and the lake provided an abundance of fish.

In 1822 the first recorded people of European descent discovered Lake Minnetonka, via the Minnehaha Creek, the only outlet known at that time into Lake Minnetonka.

In 1851 the Treaty of Mendota transferred 2 million acres of Indian land, including Lake Minnetonka, to the U.S. Government.

The 1880's to 1890's were considered the Lake's heyday years.  With the railroads and trolley cars getting to the lakes was easier than ever.  Several grand hotels & resorts were built and steamships were offered to cruise the lake.  This era abruptly ended as economic depression set in.

In 1906 an amusement park was built on Big Island, where people would come from miles around to spend a day at the park.

Later a period of rapid settlement began as both a community in which to live and a place to have lakeshore cabins.

Today, Lake Minnetonka is the 10th largest lake in Minnesota; it has over 14,000 acres of water (approximately 22 square miles) with more than 100 miles of shoreline.   Lake Minnetonka is also the most heavily-used lake in Minnesota.

 ¡ Lake Access Website, "Lake Access," A Brief History of Lake Minnetonka.
 ¡ Mound Website, "History Minnetonka," History.

Historical Society

Additional Resources

City of Orono, 2750 Kelley Parkway, Orono, MN 55356 - Main (952) 249-4600 - Fax (952) 249-4616