The Forgotten Side of Lake Minnetonka’s Big Island

by | Apr 2020

The sunset as seen from Big Island on Lake Minnetonka.

Photo: Nelson Hill

Read the lesser known history of one of Lake Minnetonka’s most prominent landmarks.

Boaters on Lake Minnetonka today might be confused by the fact that Big Island is actually two separate islands. The two parts were conjoined in their natural state, but were separated circa 1900 when Olaf O. Searle dredged a channel through the island. Furthermore, a low-lying peninsula that extends into the channel’s “lagoon” is known as Mahpiyata Island. Some modern maps have made the mistake of placing the Mahpiyata name over western Big Island.

While the history of Big Island’s eastern side might be better known, the western side of the island has a significant history of its own. West Big Island is important for its connection to Dakota history and for the cottages that were subsequently erected along its shore. A number of these historic cottages from the late 1800s and early 1900s still stand today. Sometime in the early twentieth century, this community of summer cottages was given the name Oakwood.

Aaron Person is a volunteer for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society. His family has a home on Big Island.


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