A Brief History Of The "Big
Visualize, if you will, this recreated
scene from 130 years ago... Riding low in the water, the little
lake steamer, blew one long shrill blast from its whistle--sort
of a hurry-up call for the sleepy residents awakening in their
homes along the shore.
No, not a scene from along the Amazon River, nor along the shores
of Lake Superior--we're talking about Lindstrom, and the shores of
The miniature steamboat seemed hardly a match
for the strong northwest winds as it pulled its barge loaded with
wooden barrel staves from Chisago City down the lake towards Daniel
Lindstrom's farm (the city of Lindstrom). The stalwart vessel continued
its way steadily into the narrow channel heading eastward. Once
beyond Lindstrom's farm it was suddenly into the north arm of Chisago
Lake. Next, carefully maneuvering through the shallow channel the
boat with the barge steamed through the passage that would connect
to the larger bay just above Center City.
An hour or so and the
entourage midway between Erickson's Island (Calendar Isle) and
Mobrecks farm (Center City), swinging starboard at Church Island
before rounding Porter's Point (Hazelden), and carefully working
its way up Loren's Creek before finally steaming into Ogren's Lake
- the final destination. If all went as planned, wagons would be
waiting at Ogren Lake to transfer the barrel staves to the final
short journey to the St. Croix River.
It just wasn't industry that
used this all water route from Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center
City -- and beyond. At least one steamboat in the "heyday" of
the tourist trade was used as transportation to and from the summer
resorts. There were docks at the Peninsula Hotel (Dinnerbel), Kline's
Resort, Russel Beach, the Dahl House and Slimmers Island. Also
the owner of the Center City Hotel, launched two fine sailboats
carrying 25 to 30 passengers in 1879.
At this time the five lakes
(Chisago Lake, South Lindstrom lake, North Lindstrom Lake, North
Center Lake and South Center Lake) were all one big lake. In fact
it was called "Big Lake" and
them "Swede lake" and finally, "Chisago Lake".
The coming of the railroad changed the life of the community. It
also split the "Chisago Lake" forever into pieces.
three bridges or trestles were built to carry the railroad over various
bays or fingers of the lake. Once the railroad bridges were removed
they were then replaced by dirt fill. Portions of the lake narrows
that were still open were later filled to accommodate highway construction.
Slowly the bay or finger of the lake were severed by progress. (Note:
Environmental regulations would never permit this today!) Channels
were neglected and gradually filled up with vegetation. From This
day on "Big Lake" would be the five
lakes named as they are today. The names were chosen, but the problems
continued. In 1939 the first Lake Restoration Program was proposed.
Six years later the channel between South and North Lindstrom Lakes
was dredged reuniting these two lakes.
In 1997 a group of residents
began studying the possibility of restoring the connection channels
between the lakes. Called the Chisago Lakes Restoration Association
(CLRA), it is a non-profit corporation dedicated to restoring the
historic navigable channels once again. While CLRA realizes it will
never see barge traffic again, they do dream of restoring these historic
channels to accommodate smaller pleasure and fishing craft and to
once again enjoy access to miles and miles of shoreline on the beautiful "Big