Minnesota's Legacy

Minnesota Suburban Lakes Survey Project

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund
Maritime Heritage Minnesota
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
September 2016
End Date
September 2017
Activity Type
Counties Affected
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Available upon request. Contact grants@mnhs.org

Measurable Outcome(s)

MHM short term goal for this project were exceeded. MHM's primary goal for the MSLS Project, a set of 6 pre-disturbance Phase 1 underwater archaeological side and down imaging sonar surveys, was to record sonar footage of each of the lakes and analyze the data. The quality of the sonar images recorded during the MSLS Project have allowed MHM to make preliminary identifications of several nautical, maritime, and underwater sites in all 6 lakes. Before the start of the project, no nautical/underwater/maritime sites have been recognized on the bottom of the lakes by the Office of the State Archaeologist. There are still no recognized sites in the 6 lakes yet because MHM cannot apply for archaeological site numbers through the OSA until dive reconnaissance has been completed and the wrecks/sites analyzed. However, the potential is high that the wrecks discerned in the sonar data are archaeological sites or have the potential to be sites in the near future. During the project, MHM identified 13 wrecks through their distinctive sonar signatures, another 22 possible wrecks, 6 poke nets, 5 boat lifts/canopies, and many other maritime and underwater sites. This information was presented to the public in 6 separate reports: Minnesota Suburban Lakes Survey Project: Lake Elmo Survey Report, Lake Johanna Survey Report, Medicine Lake Survey Report, Lake Pulaski Survey Report, Lake Sylvia Survey Report, and the Prior Lake Survey Report. The sonar images of the 13 wrecks range from simple boat shapes to detailed hull attributes evident. Using MHM's knowledge from previous SCUBA reconnaissance projects, at least 5 anomalies are boat lifts, boat canopies, or boat life/canopy combinations. This type of dock infrastructure often ends up on the bottom of lakes in Minnesota due to high winds and they have distinctive sonar signatures. The poke nets in Prior Lake, Medicine Lake, Lake Sylvia, and Lake Johanna are significant to Minnesota maritime and underwater archaeology, maritime history, and fishing history. The poke nets or at least poke net frames are hundreds of feet long each. Poke nets hang on poles under water and snag fish, and are well known in Scotland where they are placed in tidal zones. It is unknown who erected the nets in each lake at this time, or when they were constructed. However, they are in somewhat deep water, so they may have put together during the severe 1930s drought. MHM's short term plan to educate the general public through social media, public exhibitions, and presentations has met with success - including 2 archaeology fairs encompassing 3 days, 2 public speaking engagements in December 2016 and January 2017, and engagements on FaceBook that have reached hundreds of people. MHM's followers have learned about the impressive maritime history of Minnesota particularly the 6 lakes studied during this project - that MHM is continually uncovering. The submerged cultural resources on the bottom of these 6 suburban lakes were complete unknowns prior to the commencement of the MSLS Project. Now, MHM has confirmed the existence of several dozen sites; future work is now necessary to confirm or disprove hypotheses about the sites, and answer archaeological questions MHM will formulate in in future projects. An online dialog about the significance and rarity of Minnesota's protected nautical, maritime, and underwater cultural resources is on-going and will continue. During the MSLS Project, MHM exceeded expectations and produced substantial and meaningful results from this project due to sound fieldwork planning, solid methodology employed during the fieldwork that provided good data, and the utilization of knowledge gained from MHM's other remote sensing surveys. MHM's Mission to locate, document, preserve, conserve, and analyze Minnesota's finite submerged cultural resources within a not-for-profit paradigm was served by the completion of the MSLS Project. Fundamentally, MHM conducted sound nautical archaeology surveys and strong maritime historical research that produced trustworthy data for analysis and future use in fulfillment of this project's goals.

Source of Additional Funds

Available upon request. Contact grants@mnhs.org

Recipient Board Members
Michael F. Kramer, Deb Handschin, Steven R. Hack
Project Overview

To conduct a marine archaeology survey of six suburban Minnesota lakes.

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Maritime Heritage Minnesota
Street Address
1214 Saint Paul Avenue
St. Paul
Zip Code