Lake Characteristics



Big Pine Lake is fed by springs and the Big Pine River. Water levels fluctuate every year, sometimes a few inches, and sometimes over two feet. These water level changes are primarily due to area weather conditions like rainfall, snowmelt and drought. Inflow from the Pine River is directly controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers’ operation of their dam on Cross Lake just 2 miles upstream. On rare occasions, inflow can be large enough to damage our rock dam and/or present flooding exposure on a few lakefront properties. There have been several such incidents since the dam was originally built in 1970 (see the History tab on this website). During periods of drought, inflow is minimal and lake levels drop substantially.

Important considerations for lakefront property owners/buyers:

The level of any lake can fluctuate due to weather events, but on Big Pine Lake, it can easily fluctuate two feet or more so lakefront property owners and buyers should understand how they can best accommodate this important lake characteristic. Following are a few important things to consider:

  1. Boat lift type and placement – although cantilever style lifts can be operated in fairly shallow water, their range of lift is usually only around 30 inches. Depending on where that type of lift is positioned in the lake, it may be possible for the lake level to drop such that a boat cannot be removed from the lift. Conversely, the water level may rise so much that a boat will float even with the lift raised. Vertical-style boat lifts almost always offer a much larger lifting range and can better accommodate wider lake level fluctuations. To avoid having your boat stuck on the lift during low water periods, placing your lift further out from shore may be required.
  2. Dock type and placement – many types and styles of docks are currently used on Big Pine Lake. Floating docks automatically adjust to lake level fluctuations but are also subject to wakes from passing boat, which can be large at times. Stationary docks need to be high enough to accommodate high water events, especially if they are wooden. Height-adjustable aluminum docks also work well on this lake. As noted above, if the lift is placed further out from shore, the dock will need to be longer to reach it and may also need to have a taller support structure under it.
  3. Flood insurance – during high water periods as recently as the summer of 2012, some lots on Big Pine Lake experienced flooding. Depending on the lot location, flood insurance may be an important consideration. Lots of information regarding the National Flood Insurance Program is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website at:
  4. Shoreline configuration – The shoreline around Big Pine Lake varies considerably from gradual to steep and clear to marshy or even brushy. The more gradual slopes of the south side can support sandy beaches, especially during low water periods while some steeper slopes and ice ridges on the north side usually cannot.
  5. Erosion protection – Widely fluctuating water levels, coupled with wakes from boat traffic can erode all natural shorelines. Erosion is harmful because sand carries phosphorus which promotes lake-clogging plant growth, and sand covers fish spawning beds which decreases fish population in the lake. Shoreline protection is also an important consideration any place more permanent structures like concrete landings or staircases are placed at or near the high water line. Although some lakeshore owners have placed a band of river/glacier rock on their shoreline to reduce or mitigate erosion, many other natural materials and shoreline plantings can be used and may actually be preferred.The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides extensive advice, guidelines and restrictions regarding shoreland management, including erosion protection. It is strongly recommended that all lakeshore property owners and prospective buyers visit and read the Shoreland Management section of the DNR website (just click on these links). In particular, please read the subsections on Lakescaping and Shoreland Restoration and Shoreline Alteration. Following DNR’s advice and guidelines will result in legal protection of both the owner’s property and our beautiful lake.

Links to Big Pine Lake articles:
The following links will provide additional information about various events and activities that have affected Big Pine Lake water levels and property owners in the past several years:

Brainerd Dispatch:

Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners Meeting Agenda and Minutes:

Lakeland News:

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