New Lake of the Woods Digital Guide App… Brilliant!
Joe Laurin, like many, loves Lake of the Woods. His passion and curiosity for exploring the area has naturally turned him into what many would call a local expert in the northern section of the lake, specifically NW Angle and Ontario. The NW Angle is the northernmost point of the contiguous United States and where the Canadian shield and the island area of the lake begins. Throughout the years, he has explored the 14,552 islands the lake has, done research behind the scenes and has really gained strong insight on the many treasures, in addition to the fishing, Lake of the Woods has. After a while, people would ask him to show them where a gold mine on the lake was or maybe a waterfall. It was impossible to show all of the people inquiring about different interesting areas of the lake so he decided to share his knowledge through a newly released Lake of the Woods Digital Guide App.
“I used to take the old fisherman approach and not share anything. People kept asking me to take them exploring. Eventually people mentioned to me I should be documenting some of this info. I thought to myself why die with the info, let’s share this to encourage families to come to LOW,” explains Laurin who has had a cabin up at the NW Angle of Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods with his wife for 20 years.
The Lake of the Woods Digital Guide app is available initially to Apple users through the Apple Store, but don’t worry, the version for non Apple users through the Play Store is coming in the future. “This project has been a labor of love with literally thousands of hours invested not to mention thousands of dollars in gasoline. My intent with a price of $19.99 for the app is to simply recover some costs. I mainly put this app together to share the wonders of this area with others,” explains Laurin.
The app is absolutely loaded with information. Gold mines, pictographs, waterfalls, inland lakes, POW camps, key fishing spots, and so much more. If you have an interest in Lake of the Woods, exploring, history, this is the best $20 you could ever spend.
There were many instances that motivated Laurin to bring this app to fruition. On way to Kenora from the NW Angle, Laurin and a long time fishing guide, Dan Schmidt were fishing a bay. “Have you ever been to the gold mine in this bay?” asked Laurin. “There is a tree in front of the entrance so most people don’t even know it’s there.” After the two took a break from fishing and did a bit of exploring, Schmidt replied, “I have been fishing this bay for more than 20 years and never knew it was here.”
Did you know there are more than 130 abandoned gold mines throughout the islands of Lake of the Woods? There are so many details behind each one. This app shares information to find the mine and just a bit of history, providing a nice opportunity for folks to do some exploring about it on their own as well.
The plan is to continue to update the map each year as Laurin continues to research and explore. “It is so interesting how many old names of the mines provide info about them. In some cases the names reflect the investors or miners, in other cases something else, but the names help tell a story,” explains Laurin.
Many of the mines still have gold flakes in the rock, drill holes, and even old equipment such as carts, tools, buildings and cables. This history is waiting to be explored and is what is unique about this area. It is an absolute treasure trove of history.
Some fun examples of sites to see in the app…
Ophir mine. Laurin calls this mine the best one in current release. “They tried to keep it so secret, they created a fake island to hide it. When you pull up, you can feel the 60 degree air from the mine on a hot summer day. This mine is something out of Indiana Jones. A walkway with 100′ walls. The man made island is size of building with piled up rocks which are tailings from the mining. I actually found this mine by looking through old maps.”
People had to file claims back in the 40’s if there were going to attempt to mine. This is how he found some of mines.
Maikido Mine. This mine actually still has the equipment in it. Buildings, cables, carts, etc. Some of the shafts are flooded but you can still see carts. It is fascinating to see the equipment. It is almost like the people were just working here.”
Sultana Mine. Very popular and fairly well known throughout the lake. Lake of the Woods brewery named a beer after it. This mine was the most profitable of all of the mines throughout the lake. It was closed because two people died in it and the bodies are still there. Some say it is haunted, but Laurin said he never has seen or felt anything strange while there. Interesting retaining walls that are perfect to this day. This mine actually has snow in it during the summer!
In addition to the gold mines, the lake has numerous beautiful waterfalls that most people aren’t aware of. Some examples…
Garden of Eden. Water goes through the rock, zig zags and goes through it.
Inland lake waterfall. Located in the tug channel. Hundreds of boaters pass by each year and don’t realize it is there. Quite a drop of 14′ at the end.
Lake of the Woods has a number of inland lakes. “Lake of the Bays the most beautiful inland lake on Lake of the Woods. While exploring that area in the winter via snowmobile, I ran into three trappers that were shocked to see anyone in the middle of nowhere.
Another highlight to exploring the lake are pictographs. Each is very unique. In Laurin’s words, “Pictographs are an ancient way of telling a story or sending a message. Painted rock is most popular. It has the medicine men on it. There are 27 different pictographs throughout the lake. As a symbol of respect, various items have been tucked into the rocks in these locations such as coins, tobacco, clothing such as shirts.”
Maybe you want to bring the kids swimming to one of the many beaches on Lake of the Woods. One beach that sounds fun is the Cheerios beach. “It is pretty remarkable, this beach has stones the size of Cheerios over the entire area.”
Perhaps you would like to explore the old survey markers in Monument Bay that David Thompson produced. Doing work for the Canadian government, the stakes are actually a bit further north than the border really is so Canada fired him and hired someone else who more aligned with the Canadian views of where the border is.
Laurin explores Lake of the Woods all year long. “My wife likes the winter the best. Me, I like the summers the best. It works out well.” In the summer, a small group takes an annual trip on Jet Skis. “In August, we spend two or three day trip on Jet Skis exploring the lake. This is how the Saltana mine was actually found when someone had to hit shore to take a bathroom break.”
Did you know there are five POW Camps throughout Lake of the Woods? Some of these were found while exploring. “There are five on the lake I am aware of. During ww2, England asked Canada to house low risk POW’s. There were shipped over to camps. The POW’s had to cut wood each day. A lot of history still remains at these camps. Horse bones, shoes, saw blades, and even a diving board at one camp. After the POW’s would cut 3/4 cord of wood, as long as they would stay within eye sight of camp, they could enjoy the lake,” explains Laurin.
One interesting Laurin shared was a POW who needed a dentist. The two guards took the prisoner to town to get dental treatment and while this dental procedure what happening throughout the day, the guards got drunk at a local bar. The guards were too drunk to navigate the boat back to camp so the prisoner loaded the guards and their weapons into the boat and drove them boat back to camp.
Laurin mentions the Lake of the Woods Digital Guide app uses Google Maps. He suggests the Navionics app which people can get on their handheld is probably a better app for navigation on the lake. Some will have map chips in their boats GPS as well. Lake of the Woods has a lot of islands, rocks, etc so navigation is important.
The Ontario portion of the lake is made up of islands and wilderness. For the most part, the land is Queensland owned by the Canadian Government available for people to explore.
As mentioned, the Lake of the Woods Digital Guide App is in the Apple Store for Iphone and Ipad users and in the works in the future for Google Playstore.