Lake Minnetonka History

Early History

In the early 18th century Lake Minnetonka was a secret to almost everyone except the Native Americans, 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.

First Europeans & TreatY of Mendota

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 Native American land, including Lake Minnetonka, to the U.S. Government.

The Heyday Years

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 and resorts were built and steamships were offered to cruise the lake. This era abruptly ended as economic depression set in.

Rapid Settlement

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.

Present Day

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.


The preceding information is from the following references: 

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

Additional Resources

The book Picturing Lake Minnetonka is an excellent resource for more information about Lake Minnetonka and the surrounding area.