Lake Winnibigoshish

The Lake Winnibigoshish Recreation Area is situated at the outlet of Lake Winnibigoshish, located about 14 miles northwest of Deer River, Minn. The lake is 67,000 acres in size and has 141 miles of shoreline. It was formed by a huge ice block left behind by a receding glacier.

Area forests contain towering red pine, which are home to an abundant assortment of animals including bald eagles, porcupines, black bears, chipmunks and many others. Seasonal berries that decorate the forest floor include blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Spectacular sunsets can be viewed from the dam structure as you look west out over the reservoir.

The well maintained, clean recreation area offers camping, boating, picnicking, fishing and playground areas. The camp sites are located east of the Mississippi River and Winnibigoshish Dam. All of the camp sites are available for reservation and have 30 and 50 Amp electrical services. The site also offers ADA accessible showers, flush toilets, water, fish cleaning station, and a dump station. 

Lake Winnibigoshish is one of the premier walleye, perch and musky lakes in the state. Fishing is allowed from the shoreline, as well as from boats. There is one boat ramp that leads into the Mississippi River for a cool and relaxing day.



The Winnibigoshish Lake Dam is located on the Mississippi River at the outlet of Lake Winnibigoshish. It controls the runoff from a 1,442-square-mile drainage area containing 28 lakes.

The Corps of Engineers began construction of the original timber dam at “Winni” in 1881. It was put into operation in 1884. Nearly 2 million feet of white and Norway pine were cut from the lakeshore and used in constructing pilings, dams and other structures. Logging operations, labor and material shortages, weather problems and the difficulties of constructing roads and installing machinery in near-wilderness conditions caused construction delays. The project employed 300 skilled and unskilled laborers, including local members of the Chippewa Tribe. In 1882, the Corps of Engineers announced that “The Winnibigoshish Dam is the inauguration of the reservoir system for the entire country.”

The present concrete structure was constructed between 1899 and 1900. In 2006, the stop logs and gates were replaced with two concrete bulkheads and one leaf gate in each of the five main spillway gate bays. A leaf gate was installed in the 12-foot log sluice bay. A 5-foot fishway constructed in 1912 is no longer in use.

Prior to 1899, during the first phase of dam construction, workmen built 17 buildings across the channel to the west, opposite the present site. All of the buildings were of log construction. At the time of dam reconstruction between 1899 and 1900, the complex of buildings was also reconstructed at the opposite side of the dam. The Lake Winnibigoshish Dam was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1982.

Mississippi River Headwaters History brochure

Campground reservations

Click here to make a reservation for Lake Winnibigoshish campground




Click here to make a reservation for Lake Winnibigoshish campground

Lake Winnibigoshish dam
Lake Winnibigoshish Dam


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Resource Manager
Pokegama Recreation Area
34385 U.S. Highway 2
Grand Rapids, MN 55744-9663
(218) 326-6128

Map & Directions

Lake Winnibigoshish map

Make Reservations

You can reserve camp sites and day use facilities at many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas nationwide, as well as many other agencies, online by visiting RECREATION.GOV. Reservations may also be made by calling RECREATION.GOV toll free at 1-877-444-6777.