WLA Features: Hawk Creek
By Bailey Hovland
In the land of 10,000 lakes (or 11,842 if you prefer accuracy over catchiness), nothing is better than a day out on the water. In the Willmar Lakes Area, there are more than enough opportunities to enjoy the freshwater fun that Minnesota has to offer. And Hawk Creek, a local tributary that flows into the Minnesota River, gives visitors the chance to experience everything Minnesotans love about the lakes. This creek connects a chain of lakes, beginning at the outlet of Foot Lake in Willmar and moving southwest, moving through Foot Lake, Willmar Lake, Eagle Lake, Long Lake, and more. From fishing on the creek banks to picnicking on the lakeshores to kayaking through the whole network, Hawk Creek provides limitless options to enjoy the aquatic side of Minnesota.
Foot Lake and Willmar Lake are always busy in the summer, with fishers dotting on the lakeshore and trolling the deeper waters by boat. The boat launches make it easy to take to the water for whatever fishing adventure you have in store. Foot Lake has two access points: one located along the south shore of the Foot Lake near the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds and the other at Robbins Island Regional Park. Willmar Lake’s access is on the south side of the lake near the Robbins Island Regional Park as well. These two bodies of water, located right next to one another, give fishers a shot at hooking crappies, northern pike, sunfish, and the famed Minnesota walleye.
The Hawk Creek lake line continues at Eagle Lake, a popular spot for water sports galore. Drive by on any sunny summer day and watch as boats pull skiers, tubers, and water surfers across the lake’s surface. Most of the homes on this lake are residential, aside from the northeast corner of the lake. And if you venture a few miles to the northwest you’ll find Long Lake, a shallow lake with beautiful grasslands, wetlands, and hardwoods. In the middle of the lake is an island, but several other small islands dot the water. This lake is all about the scenery, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon canoeing or kayaking. Pack a picnic and paddle to the main island, where you can enjoy the view while munching on cheese and crackers. You can also kayak the creek line itself following it from lake to lake and exploring the local terrain. Some spots can be a bit difficult, so the full Hawk Creek tour might not be recommended for novice paddlers.
Hawk Creek also runs past local parks and state wildlife management areas, where you can take in the stunning Minnesota landscape from water or shore. Bring a new book and blanket to Bergquist Park, a wildlife area on the edge of Foot Lake, to spend an afternoon relaxing at the water’s edge. Take a walk through Hedin’s Park, where a bridge connects to Robbins Island Park, and watch the reeds shift ever so slightly under the gentle breeze. Each view of the Hawk Creek watershed gives you a full look into the WLA’s landscape and wildlife.
You can end your water adventures at Goat Ridge Brewery, where Hawk Creek runs along their outside seating area for a lovely view. Sip a beer as the water flows past, taking in the fresh smell of running water and listening to the creek babble away. It’s always a beautiful day to be in the Willmar Lakes Area, but being at the water’s edge seems to add something more. Thankfully, Hawk Creek provides endless opportunities to experience the WLA via waterway.
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