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Rainy Lake: A 'pristine, hidden paradise' on the Canadian border

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Rainy Lake
Rainy Lake
William Lager | MPR News

Rainy Lake has made the top eight in our most-loved lake contest. See all the finalists and cast your vote here.

This lake might seem endless as you navigate through its 2,500-plus islands. 

A man named J. Bigsby reportedly tried counting them all back in 1850 by paddling a canoe through Rainy's 360 square miles. He lost count at island No. 516. Thankfully, modern mapping technology filled the knowledge void Bigsby and others left, and now we can just enjoy it. 

Rainy Lake postcard, circa 1940.
Rainy Lake postcard, circa 1940.
Minnesota Historical Society

Modern visitors to the lake are more likely to explore this Canadian border lake by houseboat, or by staying on one of its many campsites that are part of Voyageurs National Park. 

On the lake's west side, the Rainy River is harnessed to make hydroelectric power for the U.S. and Canada.

Rick Oswald grew up on Rainy Lake. He remembers the endless activities on the massive lake, he told us via the Public Insight Network.

"You never ran out of places to fish, waterski, picnic on a island beach, take a nice peaceful boat ride and enjoy Mother Nature. One could also go for lunch or dinner to various venues on either the American or Canadian sides of the lake. It's a pristine hidden paradise on our shared border with Canada!"

Tell MPR News and the Water Main: What makes your lake special?