I am often asked where the most affordable lakeshore properties are in Minnesota - and which are the best lakes. That really depends on what you are looking for in a lake, and the answer would be very subjective. But this article from Minnesota Monthly uses an array of criteria - along with affordability - when they talk about Rainy Lake being the best place to build a cabin.
Minnesota has one of the largest variations of lakes in the United States. With nearly 15,000 of them, you can find waterfront real estate on everything from large puddles to vast water bodies that feel like small oceans. Lake of the Woods, Red Lake and Mille Lacs Lake all share these expansive panoramas, and they can also become quite unfriendly in fast approaching storms.
Rainy Lake - also one of the state's giants - has a bit of a different feel that provides unique rock formations and quiet little enclaves around most every bend. You often feel as if you were the first human to discover a hidden channel cut through the stone, or a concealed beach miles from civilization. It is an interesting mixture of open waters and winding inside channels that can give new perspectives to your journey each time you travel them. Here is a little tour of that waterway:
There is no doubt that Rainy Lake is one of the most beautiful water areas anywhere. With nearly 225,000 acres, 1,600 islands, and about 1,000 miles of shoreline, you can literally boat for days on various branches of this scenery-filled expanse. Just remember to get your Remote Area Border Crossing Permit, or clear in at Canadian Customs, before you venture into foreign waters.
If you are more comfortable staying on the American side of the lake, you will still have plenty of water to run on as you pass through Voyageurs National Park. Whether you are looking for a private fishing hole, a sand beach for an afternoon picnic, or a hike into a remote interior lake, it is all there to be had...without the crowds. In fact, wherever you decide to land your boat - mainland or island - it will be all yours!
But if Rainy is too limiting for you, just pull into Kettle Falls Hotel - a water-access only historic respite at the east end of Rainy Lake - and they will trailer your boat a few blocks into Namakan Lake for just $20. From there you can visit the many resorts on Lake Kabetogama or venture further east through mesmerizing Sandpoint Lake and into the remote water-based community of Crane Lake.
From Woody's Rainy Lake Resort and Pub on the west end of Rainy Lake in Ranier, you would have traveled about 70 miles or so by boat. If you haven't run out of gas money yet, you can keep going further into Lac La Croix where you can enter the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Park to do some paddling - which will give you a few more miles to the gallon. Otherwise, just enjoy the evening at one of the lodging facilities in Crane Lake.
I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Rainy Lake and the other Boundary Lakes, which will hopefully give you some insight into why it is such a great place to have a cabin. If you are only thinking about price, it might not be the absolute cheapest lake to buy property on; there are many other smaller lakes in Northern Minnesota that offer lower priced lots in the $100,000-$150,000 range.
But, for Rainy Lake's relatively low prices and it's unending beauty, it might just give you a whole lot more recreational satisfaction for your money than almost anywhere else. You'll never know until you check it out...and once you do you just might not leave!