Alexandria’s Chain of Lakes

The boaters’ paradise made for spending a weekend—or a week—on the water.

In Alexandria, a tidy and busy town just off Interstate 94 in west-central Minnesota, it’s all about “the Chain”: the interconnected natural waterways that squeeze the town like a lobster claw. What’s the attraction? “Just the number of nice, clean lakes up here,” says Lee Hodge, owner of Lake Carlos Marina. “The water quality is very good.”

Boaters can access 11 lakes in all—more than 20 miles of water—without having to trailer up and drive elsewhere. Underwater hazards are few, and channels are well marked. Popular lakes include 2,500-acre Lake Carlos, Le Homme Dieu, Darling, Geneva, and Victoria. All the major lakes in the chain draw anglers in pursuit of large-mouth bass, panfish, northern pike, and walleyes.

So much water makes for a great boating weekend. Overnight options include the swanky Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center on the northwest shore of Lake Darling, where you can tie up in a complimentary slip. Several smaller resorts scattered around the chain also cater to boaters. You can also set up camp at Lake Carlos State Park. After a day on the water, pull your boat up on the beach for the night, just a few feet from your campsite. Or, simply launch at one of the chain’s many public accesses and pull the boat out at the end of the day.

In the evening, motor to an outdoor dinner with a view of the lake. Two popular spots are Bug-a-Boo Bay Caribbean Club, overlooking Lake Le Homme Dieu, and Arrowwood’s Deck Bar and Grill. Arrowwood is also the site of spectacular Fourth of July fireworks. Boaters anchor on Lake Darling to watch.

Arrowwood hosts the Classic Boat Show July 10, when a variety of classic Chris-Craft, GarWood, Larson, and Alexandria Boat Works crafts will be shown on land and water.

If it’s rainy or cold, head to Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria. On display are a dozen vintage mahogany Chris-Craft and three GarWood boats, and exhibits on local boat manufacturers Larson and Alexandria Boat Works.


Where to Stay

Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center, where accommodations range from $249–$839 per night, and amenities include the Darling Reflections Spa, Big Splash Waterpark, and Atikwa Golf Club, 866-386-5263, Lake Carlos State Park, 14 miles of hiking trail, lakeside campground, and four camper cabins, 320-852-7200,

Where to Eat

Doolittles Woodfire Grill, for steaks, fish, seafood, $11–$22, 320-759-0885,; Bug-a-Boo Bay Caribbean Club, for lakeside sea food, steaks, burgers, pasta, $10–$26, 320-846-1122.

What to See

Carlos Creek Winery, to sip wine, stroll the grounds, or tour by two-person or four-person bikes, 320-846-5443,; Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, 320-759-1114,; Runestone Museum, to see the stone the Vikings purportedly left in Minnesota 130 years before Columbus, 320-763-3160,