"Sweeties" on the Beach of Detroit Lake
Photograph by Cally Nundahl
A description of the route of the
A little before reaching the
Detroit Lakes, including Big and Little Detroit and Curfman or Deadshot Bay, are located in Becker County, Minnesota, mostly within the City of Detroit Lakes, but with a small part in Lakeview Township. The Detroit Lakes were formed by glacial action more than 10,000 years ago. Called “ice-block lakes”, they were formed by large chunks of ice being buried in gravel and sand, then subsequently melting to form basins filled with water. In geological time, such lakes have a "short" lifespan; their life cycle is characterized by sedimentation and eutrophication (increased fertility) as they age.
The three main basins which define Detroit Lakes vary considerably in size and other important attributes.
The lakes' water volume is controlled primarily by runoff, with water levels fluctuating in the range of plus or minus 2.5 vertical feet over the long-term, and by 6 to 8 inches during a normal year.
Unfortunately, the official Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL), set by the State, and used to determne setbacks, jurisdiction and ownership, has little meaning relative to actual water levels on Detroit Lakes. This is because the official high wter level was set at a time when the outlet dam at Dunton Locks was operated at a lower level than is now the case.