Siseebakwet Lake Information & History


View from Otis Lodge 1900s

View from Otis Lodge 1900s

OUR LAKE AND SUGAR HILLS - The Story of How They Were Formed - by Don Osell

We live in a beautiful part of the world with a fascinating history. Ten thousand years ago – short in geologic time – a massive glacial ice sheet covered this area.  Hard to believe, but the ice sheet was over a mile thick. As the glacier advanced it operated like an incredible earth-mover drastically rearranging all the landscape under and before it. It gouged out deep and wide holes and created hills (moraines geologists call them).  Lake Siseebakwet and Sugar Hills came about this way. As the glacier approached from the north it dug deep into the earth forming the catch-basin that eventually formed our lake, and pushed the scooped-out sand, rock and gravel south and deposited it in the form of a high, wide moraine we now refer to as Sugar Hills.

Skiers and hikers are familiar with the Thunders, the hills’ highest point at 1,745-feet above sea level; and, also, the highest piece of real estate in Itasca County. By comparison, the lake is at 1,329 feet, or 269 feet below the Thunders. If you haven’t been up there the view is magnificent. You can see the whole of Siseebakwet and beyond Loon Lake to the north. Those who have studied it place the glacial sediment on the hills at well over 200-feet deep. The Sugar Hills moraine stretches over 30 miles in an east-to-west direction.

Another reminder of the glacial activity are the huge boulders lying randomly around the area that beg the question: How did they get there? There’s one of these a short distance off County 449 on South Sugar Lane. It measures over 5-feet high and 6-feet wide. My Google rock estimator puts that at about 30,000-pounds. Yes, there’s mining equipment that could move that much but the glaciers moved them around like so many marbles.

Down at the lake, the deepest spot measures 105-feet. Hike around the Forever Wild area, however, (thank you Mary Boltock and Jean Rice) and you will notice evidence of past shorelines when the lake was much higher than it is now. How high the lake was in the past is beyond my knowledge. Scientist describe Siseebakwet as a marl lake – high in calcium carbonate. The deep blue-green, aquamarine color is a beautifying characteristic cause by calcium carbonate dissolved in the water. If the lake were ever threatened with acidification through acid rain the calcium carbonate would provide superior protection.

Aren’t we fortunate to be living in a place where people spend money to come on vacation? And it’s important to preserve this jewel for future generations. That’s an important part of the mission of our lake association.

If you aren’t already a member won’t you please join? It’s an investment in tomorrow.

Here, Fishy...

Fisheries Lake Surveys and Fish Stocking Reports

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website provides data on fish stocking and fisheries surveys. The DNR surveys Siseebakwet every 6 years, the next survey will be in 2018. South Sugar is surveyed every 12 years, the next survey in 2018. The survey provides information on the type of species trap, the type of trap used, number of fish, length, average weight and a status of the fishery. The DNR website also provides information of the fish stocking report. Fingerling walleyes are stocked in Siseebakwet on odd years, 2017 will be the next stocking. South Sugar is not on a stocking program, with the DNR. The information below was extracted from the DNR website at the sites listed below. The DNR website is a great source of information and explains the various terms used in these reports.

Siseebakwet Lake

Click here to download the Siseebakwet Fish Survey

Fishery Report:

Click here to download the Siseebakwet Stock Report

Stock Report:

South Sugar Fish Survey


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Water Quality Monitoring Program

Lakes are classified according to their trophic state. "Trophic" means nutrition or growth and describes the lakes in terms of productivity (weeds) with nitrogen and phosphorous levels.  The higher the levels the larger the number is on the Trophic State Index (TSI).  An oligotrophic lake (Siseebakwet TSI 36.5) has low nutrient concentrations and low plant growth.  A eutrophic ("well-nourished") lake has high nutrients and high plant growth normally found is the southern part of Minnesota with agricultural regions enriched with fertilizers.  Mesotrophic lake (South Sugar TSI 41) fall somewhere in between eutrophic and oligotrophic lakes.

Click HERE to read more about Siseebakwet Lake's Water Quality Monitoring Program. 

ice, ice, baby

WINTER is coming, whether we like it or not! Here is the data for Sugar Lake's past In/Out Ice Dates:


Ice Out Date Ice In Date Days of
Open Water
April 29, 1995 Nov. 17, 1995 212
May 13, 1996 Nov. 25, 1996 192
April 26, 1997 Dec. 8, 1997 226
April 12, 1998 Dec. 20, 1998 252
April 17, 1999 Dec. 17, 1999 244
April 5, 2000 Dec. 7, 2000 246
April 29, 2001 Dec. 20, 2001 235
April 19, 2002 Dec. 2, 2002 227
April 24, 2003 Dec. 2, 2003 222
April 22, 2004 Dec. 15, 2004 238
April 15, 2005 Dec. 3, 2005 232
April 14, 2006 Dec. 1, 2006 230
April 24, 2007 Dec. 2, 2007 222
May 7, 2008 Dec. 7, 2008 215
April 28, 2009 Dec. 15, 2009 231
April 4, 2010 Dec. 3, 2010 243
April 27, 2011 Dec. 6, 2011 223
March 24, 2012 Dec. 11, 2012 262
May 16, 2013 Nov. 30, 2013 198
May 9, 2014 Nov. 27, 2014 202
April 15, 2015 Dec. 26, 2015 254
April 16, 2016 Dec. 16, 2016