If you love the northern summers, winters, and four distinct seasons on the most lush prairie lands in the U.S., then head out to Lake Benton, Minnesota, in Lincoln County. Lake Benton rests as a shallow lake with an average depth of seven feet. We called this prairie a gracious land because of all the delectable produce the southwestern Minnesota prairie gives up.
Housing developments began popping up in Lincoln County in the 1990s, which resulted in lost farmland and dairy farms to larger populations. Farmers there felt pressure to save their livelihoods and ways of life. The farmers, big and small, around Lake Benton began growing bountiful crops of muscadine grapes and blackberries.
Newer farmers joined the Lincoln farming community and began promoting specialized crops and niche livestock production like blueberries, beef, free-range chickens, mushrooms, and pork. The region remains largely agricultural due to the collaboration of its farmers and promotions. The city of Lake Benton is the only town on the shores of Lake Benton.
The emergence of biofuel and ethanol increased corn production. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designates nearly half the county (90,955) acres as prime farmland soils, with an additional 7% or 12,835 acres, considered prime farmland. Between the prairie and the farmland, these factors make the remote Lake Benton region spectacular for raising crops, recreation, and fishing.
Five Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) surround Lake Benton, without too many communities on its waterfront. It is a fantastic fishery year-round and a snowmobiling/cross country skiing adventure in winter. It provides for sunny summer beaches and water sports in summer.
Lake Benton shines as a natural southwestern Minnesota gem nine miles east of the South Dakota border in the northeastern quadrant at the intersection of U.S. Route 75 and U.S. Route 14.
How Big Is Lake Benton, MN?
Lake Benton is the sixth largest lake in southern Minnesota and teeming with fish. The City of Lake Benton proper is 2,300 acres and had a population of 687 as of 2020 and 681 in 2023. The Lake Benton region supports a wide variety of flowers, grasses, and trees, which provides habitat for an abundance of wildlife and fish.
Lake Benton covers a surface area of 2,875 acres and is a glacial lake. At one time, it was the largest lake in southwestern Minnesota. It sits in the Bemis Moraine, locally known as Buffalo Ridge. Buffalo Ridge is a pile of silt, sand, gravel, and boulders, which is sediment left behind by the edge of a glacier.
Can You Swim in Lake Benton?
There are four parks at Lake Benton, and all of them offer camping. Lakeside Park offers rustic cabins that sleep four, and one that sleeps six. Besides swimming, there are ATV trails, backpacking, camping, fishing, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and water and winter sports.
Yes, Lake Benton is refreshing for swimming in the warm months. Lake Benton is highly popular for ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. From fall’s Labor Day to spring’s Memorial Day, Lake Benton’s water is freezing. There are truly four distinct seasons at Lake Benton.
How Deep Is Lake Benton MN?
The glacier that carved out Lake Benton left it quite shallow. The Minnesota DNR classifies its lakes from 1 to 44 and designates the classes by soft water, iron-ore mine pits, and hard water lakes. Classes 20 to 44 are hard water lakes. Lake Benton is class 41.
Lake Benton’s maximum depth is nine feet. The four major pools at Lake Benton measure an average of 7.3-feet deep. Around its shoreline, Lake Benton averages from 0.50-feet deep to 6 to 7-feet deep.
Directions to Lake Benton, Minnesota
Lake Benton is a breeze to find. It lies in the northeastern quadrant of the crossroads of U.S. Route 14 and U.S. Route 75. There are few roads, little traffic, and barely any development around Lake Benton.
What Fish Are in Lake Benton, MN?
Trophy walleyes grow up to eight to 12 pounds, and they commonly weigh two to four pounds in Lake Benton. There are plenty of other fish in Lake Benton that anglers find abundant. Anglers fish Lake Benton year-round, and Lake Benton turns into a small city of ice fishing houses in the winter.
Lake Benton, MN, provides a habitat for largemouth bass, black bluegill, bullhead, carp, black and white crappie, channel catfish, northern pike, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, and walleye. The DNR stocks Lake Benton with over two million walleye fry every two years, in addition to those the lake produces.
Lake Benton, MN, fishing is most popular with anglers for largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. Anglers from all over the Midwestern U.S. fish Lake Benton. Perch typically grow to one-to-two pounds. The Lake Benton Lake Association is responsible for maintaining and improving Lake Benton’s water quality.
Anglers can find Lake Benton, MN, fishing reports by using the search term “lake benton mn fishing reports”. Along with fishing reports, anglers can also research the best fishing hot spots, baits, and lures to use with that search term.
Lake Benton, MN, Things to Do
Because Lake Benton is the main attraction to its region for visitors, in a remote region, and the property surrounding this lake serves primarily as farmland, there is not a whole lot to see. However, there are some worthwhile interesting and historical places to visit if you want to take a break from Lake Benton and do some sightseeing.
Buffalo Ridge is a vast ridge of rolling hills in what is officially named the larger Coteau des Prairies. Coteau is the French word for hill. Buffalo Ridge is the highest point of the Coteau des Prairies that stretches 200-miles long and 100-miles wide for 20,000-square miles. The ridge rises out of the prairie flatlands in eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and northwestern Iowa.
Hike Buffalo Ridge, which offers panoramic views of the Lake Benton region, at 1,995 feet above sea level. Painter George Catlin, who traveled to the region in the 1830s, described the view of Buffalo Ridges’ surrounding plains that visitors continue to see today as, “For many miles we had the Coteau in view in the distance before us, which looked like a blue cloud settling down in the horizon.”
Lake Benton, the city, is home to the historic Lake Benton Opera House, established in 1896, which hosts various live performances throughout the year. Lake Benton is also where you will find the restaurants in the region, but not too many.
There is the Country House Restaurant & Catering, Hot Stuff Pizza, Knotty Pine Supper Club, Lake Benton Resort, Legacy Bistro, Smash Hit Subs, plus a few more and fast-food eateries. Visitors can find wineries and breweries in Lake Benton and nearby locations.
Join the Lake Benton Sportsman’s Club for their annual walleye Ice Fishing Tournament or annual Summer Tournament. To register, use the search term, Lake Benton Sportsman’s Club, MN. This club also hosts other events and fundraisers. Their fishing tournaments launch from the Norwegian Creek County Park on the northern shore of Lake Benton.
If you do not mind traveling for almost an hour, one of the famous Laura Ingalls Wilder Museums calls Walnut Grove, Minnesota, home. It is 54 miles east of Lake Benton on U.S. Route 14. There are several of her museums in several states honoring the movement of her family because of her father’s wanderlust. Walnut Grove is the location of the Ingalls’ well known dugout home on the banks of Plum Creek.
Visit the Heritage Museum and Wind Power Learning Center in Lake Benton to learn about wind power. This museum features an interactive wind power display, a wind garden, and a museum with objects relating to the area and pictures and graphics which are displayed throughout the building.
If you visit or camp at Hole-in-the-Mountain park, you can explore the Snyder family cabin from the first settlement in Lake Benton in 1860.
The Earnest Osbeck House, built by prominent grocery merchant and commercial developer of the same name, is close to the Lake Benton’s central business district. The Lake Benton Historical Society refurbished and restored Osbeck’s Queen Anne house to promote the history of Lake Benton.
Lake Benton, MN, History
Plains Village culture dominated the southwestern area of Minnesota and refers to peoples of the Late Prehistoric, Protohistoric, and Historic periods on the Great Plains of the United States. A burial mound, built sometime in 7000 B.C (10,000 years ago), is a feature of the Memorial Hill Cemetery in Lake Benton.
Before and during the early years of exploration and settlement of today’s southwestern Minnesota, Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Sioux Indians roamed the Coteau des Prairies. Historians do not know how long they had been there. Joseph H. Nicollet and John C. Fremont, who were part of a U.S. government exploration, were the first to leave an official record of the region in 1838.
This expedition of the region lying between the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers would lead to the 1851 treaties of Traverse De Sioux and Mendota. This treaty ceded land from the Native peoples to the U.S. Then the U.S. government ceded some of this land in today’s Lincoln County to Thomas Robinson and John Moore.
Robinson and Moore served as scouts for the U.S. Army, were half Dakota Indian and French Canadian, and were married to full-blooded Dakota wives. A few settlers moved near Lake Benton in 1862 and discovered six partly burned houses in the area with land partially tilled and a significant amount of hewn logs and posts. No one knows anything about the fate of these settlers.
Permanent settlement commenced in the late 1860s. The Minnesota legislature created Lincoln County in 1873. By 1875, there were 413 settlers. But bitterly cold winters and blizzards, summer hail and drought, insects, crop failures, and poverty led to discouragement of settling in today’s Lincoln County back then.
A battle for the county seat ensued at the turn of the century. In 1903, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the city of Lake Benton would be the county seat of Lincoln County. A 1904 election finally determined that Ivanhoe would be the county seat of Lincoln County, and it remains the Lincoln County seat today.
Lake Benton, MN, Housing
The Lake Benton region is largely undeveloped as far as housing developments go and highly agriculturally developed. There are six to nine homes and lots on the market at any given time, plus more listings in the surrounding areas nearby.