Navigate from the Rainy River into Lake of the Woods

One of the very common navigation routes used by anglers up at Lake of the Woods is traveling from the mouth of the Rainy River through Four Mile Bay to Lake of the Woods.  It is important to be aware and use caution along this route.  That means knowing and understanding a few basic principles of boating and navigation to navigate safely along this route.

First off, to navigate safely, there are a number of tools used in navigation that if used in unison, can greatly increase safety.  Using just one tool is dangerous because if it fails or isn’t accurate, there is risk.  Common navigation tools are…

-GPS.  Using a GPS is very helpful to successfully navigate, especially with a chip in it that adds detail to the map.  Please know navigation using a GPS can be off due to lost signal, map chips being Lowrance GPS Map, navigate Lake of the Woods MNinaccurate and a myriad of other reasons.  Overall, a GPS with the proper map chip that matches the body of water you are on is very helpful.

Another tip, make sure to zoom in enough to be able to see details but not too close that you cannot see on your map where your vessel is headed.

Visual aids to navigation.  These can be visual markers on the water or adjacent to the water aiding in navigation.  Again, these are helpful but only one tool in navigation.  Imagine if you use red and green buoys on the water as your sole source of navigation and a storm blew them away from the correct spot of placement.  The results could result in an accident.Red navigational buoy, Lake of the Woods MN

As a rule, when boating through red and green buoys, remember the saying, red right return.  What this means is when you are navigating, you want the red buoy on your right side and the green buoy on your left side.

This is also helpful if there is only one color buoy in an area.  Remember red right return, meaning if you are returning to harbor, the red needs to be on your right.

The rule is then reversed when headed out to the lake or away from port.  When headed out, have the red buoys on your left, the green on your right.

When navigating, it is a good rule of thumb to use a number of tools.  Navigational buoys are one good tool, but it has happened that buoys have changed position due to excessive wind, the anchor line breaking, etc.  Other tools are your GPS, being aware of where other boats are and are not traveling and observing water conditions as they can change where there is shallow water or obstacles.

-Be aware and use common sense.  There are many clues that if you are paying attention while boating, can tip you off to avoiding danger to navigate safely.  In some cases, logs or other hazards can be floating in the water.  Watching the waves breaking or a bird that looks like it is standing on the water are clues of an obstruction.

Pay attention to where other boats are safely navigating.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the right area, but again, it can be a good clue to assist in the overall assessment while navigating.

-Reduce your speed.  Slower speeds allow boaters to have more time to assess situations and react if necessary.  Be aware of your surroundings and navigate safely.  It probably isn’t a good move to all of a sudden stop if you are on plane with a boat right behind you.  Plan your route, use your tools and make good decisions.

Paul Johnson of River Bend Resort does a nice job of illustrating how to navigate the route from the Rainy River through Four Mile Bay and the Lighthouse Gap to Lake of the Woods.


Navigation on any body of water is about safety first.  Knowing a few of the rules to navigation will help wherever you might be boating.  Be safe on the water!


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