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Mille Lacs Lake Area
We spent a week in this area in June last year when we stayed at Izaty's Resort on the edge of Mille Lacs Lake. The resort was surrounded by a golf course but sadly they didn't rent out clubs so my husband had to spend time sightseeing with me instead. The resort was also on the lake and you could hire boats to take out and fish for the famous wall Eye and other lake fish but as neither of us are in to fishing we didn't bother.
The area became known as Mille Lacs because the Brainerd Lakes area was known as the "Region of Thousand Lakes" (pays des mille lacs) in French. The name sounds odd now to say Mille Lacs Lake to me but that is what the lake we stayed on the shores of was called. The Mille Lacs lake area is 132,516 acres of lake and is Minnesota's second largest lake and is supposedly the best fishing area found anywhere.
This area is real rural country side America and the area has thousands of lakes hence the name as well as forests and trials. This is an area where people go to enjoy hunting, shooting and fishing as well as camping, walking, snow skiing and sledging as well as snowmobiles. In winter the lakes freeze and hundreds if not thousands of small sheds are taken onto the lakes and stay there all winter. They are for ice fishing and these hundreds and thousands of wooden sheds are known as 'Frost bite City '. We saw many of these sheds around the place awaiting their return to the frozen lake in winter. I would love to see this but my dislike of cold weather does somewhat put me off and we rarely go back to the same place as we have so many new places to see on our lists.
WALLEYE IS DELICIOUS
Just down the road from Onamia was a small town called Isle which was about ten minutes from where we were staying. This was in fact our nearest supermarket too so we did visit Isle a couple of times. This giant walleye statue is proudly displayed in front of a Bait and Tackle store just about a mile outside Isle on Hwy 47. Isle itself is a small town on Mille Lacs Lake, famous as many others are in the area for fishing both in summer and winter. Isle once claimed the title of "Walleye Capital of the World" and this huge statue walleye once had a sign boasting just that but I believe several towns in the area boast that same claim so maybe it is the entire area that is the 'Walleye capital of the World.'
The giant walleye has a partner here in the form of a giant 'Muskie' another fairly fearsome looking fish also caught in the lakes in the area. It costs nothong to visit these fish and there are platforms provided for you to pose in front of these rather ugly looking beats and have your photo taken.
If you were impressed with these two giants then you can see another giant walleye statue in Garrison which was quite some twenty miles away following the lake side around. This walleye was slightly larger than the one at Isle and was positioned in a park area near a small tourist information booth. You could take photos in front of this walleye with Mille Lacs lake behind it. The fifteen foot walleye is said to have been caught by the giant Paul Bunyan after a three day struggle he eventually wrapped the line around the horns of his blue Ox Babe and landed the fish on Garrison beach. When we were there we popped into the little tourist info booth and the lady in there was a delight and kept us there chatting for about fifteen minutes.
Garrison is also famous for being the world's smallest city to have a McDonald's restaurant. A dubious claim to fame but interesting however despite that we didn't call in to this famous restaurant!
I have to say apart from these giants the closest we came to the famous walleye was to eat it in the local restaurants and very tasty it was too. It was a white fish, moist and not too strongly fishy and very few bones when filleted. We did discover that they are protected by limited the number that can be caught by each fisherman who pays for a license. They are also limited as to the size they can catch too.
KATHIO STATE PARK
This was one of two state parks close by to Mille Lacs lake and we did pay a visit and climb the 100foot fire tower as well as drive through the park and take a walk through one of the trails. The park has plenty of camp sites and also has rental boats and in winter snow mobiles and more can be rented. The park has several lakes and plenty of walking, horse riding and various snow trials in winter.
FATHER HENNEPIN STATE PARK
Father Hennepin State Park is just outside the town of Isle on the southeast shore of Mille Lacs Lake. This is a park right on Mille Lacs lake shore and there is a lovely sandy beach for swimming, two boat accesses, fishing piers and picnic sites with a stunning views of the lake. The park is 320 acres in size so not huge as parks go but there are two campgrounds . There are a number of hiking trails through the hardwood forest and along the shoreline of Mille Lacs. We visited this park early one morning and watched a beautiful sunrise over the lake and watched some people fishing however we still didn't see a real walleye coming out of the lake!
MILLE LACS INDIAN MUSEUM AND TRADING POST
This was not too far from where we were staying in Onamia and on the Indian reservation. I have written a review on this place already but suffice to say it was a fascinating place and the guides were knowledgeable and so interesting to listen too. We had a really good few hours here and were very impressed with the Four season exhibit on life for the Ojibwe people through the year.
This was on the Indian reservation and looked huge and pretty impressive but we were not interested in losing our money through gambling so didn't visit.
MILLE LACS LAKE HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM
This tiny little museum was in Isle but sadly each time we went to try and visit it was closed. It looked like a small wood cabin from the outside but may well have been bigger once you entered as it may have gone through to buildings behind. It is only open a few hours each week and we seemed to miss it Friday 10-7p, Saturday 10a-4p, Sunday 1-3p, May - September and then in the off season by appointment only. It is supposed to enlighten the visitor about activities in the area over the years including fur trading, logging industry, railroads, pioneer settlements and farming. Sadly I can't tell you much more but other visitors may be luckier.
There was a flea market and farmers market in Isle which we went to and bought some lovely fresh bread and fruit. The farmers market was quite good but the lea market made me very sad as people were selling junk just to try and get a few pennies as the area has been hit with the latest recession quite badly.
PAUL BUNYAN LAND
This amusement park was 7 miles east of Brainerd and has a talking statue of Paul with a statue of Babe. We called in to see this but the tickets were stupidly expensive and from what we could see the park was aimed at young families with children and so we declined spending about £10 each to see the statue. They cleverly placed this where you couldn't see it until you went in the park. We were even more fed up when we found the restaurant was closed and we couldn't even have a cup of coffee as this was about 35 miles from where we were staying! We were NOT impressed.
Paul Bunyan is a mythical giant lumberjack who travels with his giant blue Ox Babe and is said to have achieved a variety of amazing feats depending on where you hear the story. We visited a few of his statues while in the USA this time.
RESTAURANTS AND CAFES
I have to say we found these very limited and ate in our lovely self catering accommodation most of the time and twice ate at the restaurant at Izatys which served great walleye. We did however find a bar called Buzzie's on the Bay which we called in to have a coffee because it was right on the lake shore and had a great view. The lady specially made us some coffee and we sat enjoying the view of the lake. We were hoping to see loons but although the lady said they often come up to the shore the day we were there they were hiding elsewhere. In fact the entire time we were in the lakes area we saw not one loon, which was disappointing.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO THERE?
The area is really a great outdoor pursuits heaven and you can go snow mobiling along trails in winter, cross country skiing, ice fishing on the lake and in summer fishing, hunting, ATVing, boating and sailing as well as bird watching and looking at, rather than killing the wildlife while hiking along the many trials . you can also camp in cabins or tents at a huge number of campsites with facilities.
This was a very relaxing area to stay in but after five days we had explored all it had on offer for us and so we left our accommodation a day early and went on our way.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.