Area Activities

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Area Activities

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Savanna Portage State Park

Time slips by when you visit this park of the north. Walk the Savanna Portage Trail, a historic trail traveled by fur traders, Dakota and Ojibwe Indians, and explorers more than 200 years ago. Savanna Portage State Park has 15,818 acres of rolling hills, lakes, and bogs. The Continental Divide marks the great division of water:to the west flows into the Mississippi River; water to the east runs into Lake Superior. Visitors can hike the Continental Divide Trail and see forested vistas. During the summer, visitors enjoy swimming at Loon Lake. Bike enthusiasts can pedal on roads, or on dirt trails designated for mountain bikes. With four fishing lakes and a river, its common for anglers to catch panfish, trout and bass. Come winter, this park offers snowmobilers approximately 32 miles of trails to explore. This park is a favorite among cross-country skiers too, with 14 miles of trails, and an additional 6.4 miles available at Remote Solitude, 1 mile south of the park.

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Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters is located in Aitkin County on Hwy 65, five miles South of McGregor, MN. A visitor center with displays is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 to preserve valuable habitat for waterfowl. The Refuge is 18,300 acres and Rice Lake itself is 3,600 acres. Rice Lake is a shallow, wild rice producing lake, which is a valuable food source for wildlife. Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the largest concentrations of migrating ring-necked ducks in the country. During fall migration, more than 150,000 ducks can be found on the Refuge. The refuge has been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy due to the importance of the lake and its wild rice as a food source to migrating waterfowl, especially ring-necked ducks. The refuge has also been designated as a State Important Bird Area, as part of the larger McGregor Important Bird Area, by the National Audubon Society.

The refuge continues its important wildlife management role today. Its human history and variety of wildlands and wildlife makes it a fine place to visit, study and enjoy the outdoors.

Rice Lake NWR, 36289 State Hwy 65, McGregor, MN 55760 (218) 768-2402

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Golfing at its best – MINNESOTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB & RESORT located minutes from the Lodge. This course offers both a relaxing game of golf with a “33” Course, a more challenging game with an 18 hole Championship Course and a more recent addition, an 18-hole FootGolf course. The Clubhouse has a full Pro-Shop, Restaurant, & Dun Loaghaire Irish Pub. MN National is accessible from Big Sandy Lodge by auto and boating on Big Sandy Lake.

For information & tee-time: 218-426-4444

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Imagine spending your Minnesota fishing vacation on Big Sandy Lake in Northern Minnesota. Many say it is one of the highlights of their Big Sandy Lodge and Resort vacation. This fabulous lake has three rivers that flow into Big Sandy Lake, which gives you the flexibility of fishing lake or river. The lake is best known for its walleye, northern pike and black crappies. Bullheads are found in the river beds. Fishing for walleye is most popular in the main basin.

Fishing Big Sandy Lake for walleye is fun, but finding a large one can be challenging. The MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocked the lake for walleye by various measures from 1917 until 1995 when they concluded that the changes seen in walleye abundance were marginal compared to natural growth. The walleye in Big Sandy grow slowly and tend to be smaller on average than other lakes with faster-growth rates. Northern pike, yellow perch, black crappies and tulibee are also primary game fish on Big Sandy.

When you’re walleye fishing Big Sandy Lake, keep the following in mind. Walleye feed off of small fish, worms, insects and crawfish. Naturally timid, they prefer to remain in deeper, darker water. In the spring they move into shallow to moderate depths to spawn. In the summer and fall, they can be found in shallows in the morning and evenings and in deeper waters during the day. Walleye prefer to avoid the heat of the summer and some of the best can be caught during sundown to midnight. In the winter, walleye move slower in cold water, and can be found in moderately shallows in the morning, moving deeper as the sun rises.

Good luck and happy fishing!

Big Sandy Lake

Big Sandy Lake is one of the few lakes that had the privilege of being noted by early Minnesota explorer Henry Schoolcraft in his diary in 1820. He noted upon ascending the pine ridge on the southern shore overlooking the lake, the “romantic little lake suddenly rose like a ‘burnished sheet of living gold.’” Twelve years later, Schoolcraft would again cross the Big Sandy Lake into the Mississippi River and journey all the way up to Lake Itasca, which would become known as the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Big Sandy Lake is rich in history and even richer in beauty. The 6,526 acre lake with 25 islands is located just 2 ½ hours north of the Twin Cities and sits in the historic Glacial Lakes basin. The lake is comprised of an open, windswept main basin (look for your walleyes here!), a deep cool eastern basin called Bill Horn Bay, a shallower and more isolated south basin called Webster Bay and numerous shallow bays containing rice beds in the south, east and northeast sides of the lake. You’ll notice the water’s dark brownish-red color which is caused by natural tanic acid from the wetlands surrounding the lake. The lake is famous (and named) for its sandy bottom and there are stretches of sand beach around the lake’s meandering shores.

Three rivers empty into Big Sandy Lake and the Mississippi River is navigable from the lake. At the north end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a dam. Numerous historic sites, including the location for the Big Sandy Tragedy of 1850 when over 100 Ojibwe died waiting for government supplies can be found at the lake. Big Sandy Lake is part of the Big Sandy area watershed, an area that covers 413 square miles in Aitkin, Carlton and St. Louis counties.


Winter vacations at Big Sandy Lodge are perfect for a snowmobile retreat, ice fishing, or skiing adventure! Our warm, rustic ambiance provides just the right atmosphere for spectacular winter vacations! Greet the day with a warm mug of coffee, a sunlit view across the ice on Big Sandy Lake and get ready to snowmobile, head out for a day of great ice fishing or bundle up for a refreshing day of skiing! When you’re ready to head back in, stop in for a delicious lunch at our restaurant or unwind and swap stories in our sports bar. Then head back out or to your cabin, townhome, or hotel room for a classic Minnesota Up North retreat.

Our villa and cabin rentals provide perfect lodging for winter vacations and our Lodge offers the warmth of roaring fireplaces to gather around, sit back and get lost in. Enjoy our indoor pool for a swim or take a muscle-soothing soak in the hot tub and sauna. Then enjoy an exquisite dinner and a decadent dessert before you head back to your room for a deep night’s sleep.

You’ll find winter vacations at Big Sandy Lodge live up to those family get-together memories that make spending the winter holidays with us an event. Gather the family here for a unique winter wonderland Christmas or New Year’s Eve party. Planning a winter wedding? Big Sandy Lodge has the amenities and the rustic Up North lodge ambiance to make your day all you’ve dreamed.

Snow enthusiasts love our easy access to area ski and snowmobile trails and our location on the lake is great for ice fishing. Make Big Sandy Lodge your winter vacation getaway and experience Minnesota as never before!

Snowmobile Trails

Snowmobile trails around the Big Sandy Lake area are known for their scenic beauty and for their meticulous grooming. A stay at Big Sandy Lodge is the perfect compliment to hours spent out exploring Aitkin County’s 600 plus miles of groomed snowmobile trails. With so much territory to explore, there’s no end to the adventure! The Aitkin County snowmobile trails connect to other trail systems as well and combined offer over 1,500 miles of snowmobile trails for you to ride in the region. Some of these trails also double as ATV trails (please pick up a snowmobile trails map in the Lodge for details on which trails are designated for non-winter ATV trails.)

You’ll enjoy rides through some of Minnesota’s most pristine forests as well as a chance to head in to small towns as you meander through the county. Back at Big Sandy Lodge, a delicious dinner and our well-appointed sports bar will await your return. Sooth tired muscles in the hot tub and sauna and grab a cup of hot chocolate for a chance to catch up with your fellow riders around our blazing fireplaces. Rest in the comfort of your rustic, Up North room or cabin and get ready for another hard-hitting day of heading out on the trails!

Traveling with a large snowmobile group? We can accommodate group lodging and cater to dining for large groups. Please inquire and learn how Big Sandy Lodge can become the base for your next snowmobile adventure!

When you decide to snowmobile Minnesota, Aitkin County has over 600 miles of groomed trails waiting for you. Not sure if you’ll like snowmobiling? It’s a great way to discover a new sport while on your winter vacation.

Our guests who return year after year to snowmobile Minnesota have found Big Sandy Lodge is a great place to set up base camp. Begin and end your journey with us or return nightly to enjoy our full resort amenities that include restaurant and sports bar, hot tubs, pool, sauna, and cozy fireplaces in the ambiance of a log Lodge setting on Big Sandy Lake’s south shores. We can accommodate large groups and cater dinners for your family or community snowmobile club.

Heading out for a weekend of snowmobile fun is one of the highlights of Minnesota winters. Snowmobile trail maps are available in the Lodge. For current snow depth conditions visit: Minnesota DNR

3 reasons to stay with us


We are pleased to offer you three dining experiences in our Bear’s Den Sports Bar & Grille, Pines Dining Room and 3-Tiered Outdoor Deck.


Big Sandy Lodge & Resort provides a private, yet fun, environment for your company’s team building and networking activities.


Our beautiful lakeside grounds offer a beach wedding atmosphere for an elegant outdoor ceremony.