Field Notes

May 13, 2021

Get to know your lake: Winona

Are you and Winona Lake on a first-name basis? Let us introduce you.

Winona Lake, Indiana is arguably the crowning jewel of the City of Warsaw and the Village at Winona, edging out nearby Center and Pike lakes by a small margin. It’s among the most popular lakes in the county because it encourages all water sports and is linked to a network of wooded trails, perfect for hiking and biking. 

In its younger years, Winona was changeable and lively. Now, the lake has adopted a laid-back atmosphere. It offers slow morning kayaking, long walks along Cherry Creek, and black coffee or baked goods from a local cafe.

Lilly Center Ecotours

Here are some quick facts about Winona Lake!

  • IS WINONA LAKE A PUBLIC LAKE? Yes! You can visit Limitless Park or the public boat ramp for easy access to the lake. Bring your own equipment or rent some from the Lake House — they have kayaks, canoes and paddleboards.
  • HOW BIG IS WINONA LAKE? 571 acres
  • HOW DEEP IS WINONA LAKE? 79 feet (Avg depth: 30 feet)
  • BEST FISHING? Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Longear Sunfish, White Bass, Yellow Perch

Winona Lake has always been a gathering place. It has seen an enormous variety of cultural shifts, due in part to landmarks like the Billy Sunday home, Grace College & Seminary, and nearby orthopedic industry. Lakeside attractions are laid-back now, but in its earlier years, the town was a well-known destination for families across the country.

Here are a couple highlights from Winona Lake’s history:

  • In the 1920s, Winona Lake was widely known and frequently visited. The Winona Chautauqua (an event typically sponsored by religious groups, featuring various forms of entertainment and instruction) drew large crowds. In its heyday, the park had a roller coaster, parade grounds, fish ponds and a racetrack, among other activities.
  • After the Chautauqua ended, Winona Lake became a prominent hub for Bible conferences. It was billed as the world’s greatest Bible conference center, and many respected speakers visited over the years, from Harry Ironside to Mel Trotter.

Winona Lake is among the few lakes in the county that has a significant amount of historical research data, dating as far back as 1875. From past and current research, we learn that Winona Lake’s water clarity increased significantly from 1991-2009 and then decreased significantly in the past 10 years. There could be many reasons for the change, but two common culprits are algae and zebra mussels.

Above is a side-by-side comparison of Center, Pike and Winona lakes’ clarity from 2018-20. Remember, clear water does not always correlate to clean water! Winona averaged about 4 feet in 2020, and it experienced moderately high levels of nutrients. On the other hand, no microcystin (the toxin produced by blue-green algae) was detected that summer.

  • Although close to the edge of town, Winona is surrounded by residential properties and businesses. 
  • The lake’s watershed extends 18,730 acres, meaning all land within that area drains into the lake.
  • It has two inflowing streams and one outflowing stream. 

Although its shores are no longer as wooded and quiet as they once were, Winona Lake offers culture, fine dining and recreation for those who live nearby and those who come to visit! You can chart your Winona adventure by visiting the Visitor Bureau’s website.

Winona Lake

Get to know your lake

Your Lake, Your Story is your key to discovering Winona’s past and present, and even some of its future.

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