New Barbour Lake Aquatic Management Area Protected in Crow Wing County

Barbour Lake is a 56-acre lake connected to the 490-acre Smith Lake in the Mille Lacs Lake Watershed.  A 96-acre property on Barbour Lake was purchased by Northern Waters Land Trust (NWLT) in March 2024 using State of Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Funds and a match from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Loon Program. The property is expected to be transferred to the DNR for the new Barbour Lake Aquatic Management Area (AMA) in mid-2024.

The property acquired includes hardwood forest, wetland, and bog habitats as well as 1,400 shoreline feet (16% of the entire Barbour Lake shoreline).   Within a several mile radius of the future AMA are other protected lands including a Scientific Natural Area, State Forests, County Forests, a Wildlife Management Area and AMA.

Barbou Lake Map
Barbour Lake photo_Woods_water in background

Due to this complex of public protected lands, this landscape is classified by DNR as a “site of outstanding biodiversity significance” providing connected habitats for rare and high-quality plant and animal communities.  The Nature Conservancy also recognizes this area as important for enabling ecosystems to persist in the face of changing climate conditions and allowing corridors for species to move across the landscape.

Barbour Lake supports a cisco (or tullibee) population and an exceptional fish community that includes several intolerant species (e.g., pugnose shiner and mottled sculpin).  The shoreline also supports loon nesting and feeding habitat - an important consideration for the DNR Loon Program support and partnership.

Permanently protecting high quality undeveloped shoreline and forested land along Barbour Lake is a priority for this acquisition.  The new AMA will provide walk-in access to Barbour and Smith Lakes which currently have no public water access.  The property will be open for public hunting and fishing while also providing clean water, wildlife habitat and other recreational opportunities.

The property was sold to NWLT by Lori and Jim Bakke.  Lori and Jim desired to conserve the land and protect the waters of Barbour and Smith Lakes.  The Bakke’s Whitetail Properties real estate agent recognized the uniqueness of the property and contacted DNR about the possibility of protecting this property.   NWLT was able to purchase this property for permanent public management using Outdoor Heritage Funds to protect lakes of outstanding biological significance and their watersheds.

Barour Lake_Woods_Stream

The protection of 75% of a watershed, the land that drains rainfall and snowmelt into a lake, has been shown to protect water quality and aquatic habitat in that lake.  Mille Lacs Lake is a strategic priority for this grant.  Barbour Lake is classified as a lake of high biological significance.

Efforts to protect this watershed will continue through the future purchase of qualified lands for public ownership and conservation easements by private landowners.  More information on these options and what you can do to protect your land can be found at


NWLT partners with public agencies, such as Counties and the State of Minnesota, and private organizations such as lake associations to identify willing sellers and properties important to the agency land management goals, to secure funding through grants and to acquire and convey those properties to partner agencies.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created in 2008 when Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (Legacy Amendment) to the Minnesota Constitution.  These funds "may be spent only to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife."  State of Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Funds