Despite complaints, Lake Minnetonka's Cruiser's Cove still a warm-weather hot spot

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2013 - 10:30 PM

Cruiser’s Cove — on Lake Minnetonka – has long been known as a great place for a good time, even after a death there. But some complain that revelers still go overboard.

hide

A group of friends enjoyed the water on Friday. Cruiser’s Cove fills with boaters and partyers every weekend.

Photo: Photos by ANNA REED • anna.reed@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

In the shadow of Lake Minnetonka’s Big Island, Peter Kinn of Excelsior and his party of seven floated in the shallow cove Friday evening, holding their beers above the water.

They had the quintessential Minnesota summer view: a shimmering lake with water lapping at the shoreline and sunshine beating down from a bright blue sky smudged with clouds. For years, they’ve flocked to Cruiser’s Cove not just for the scenery, but for the people-watching and to be part of the floating parties of up to a couple of hundred boats jammed together like vehicles tailgating at a football game.

And while the illegal activities of the cove’s infamous past have died down some, it remains a weekend hot spot, Kinn said. “Lake Minnetonka is no doubt special,” he said. “It’s a big party scene.”

Every weekend, people congregate in a haven of heavy drinking and booming music as boats hook up — as do some of their occupants — in the bay.

But since boaters blocked emergency personnel from getting to a man who died on Cruiser’s Cove in 2003, Minnesota’s most heavily used lake has tried to shake its reputation as an uncontrolled party place, balancing keeping the public safe with maintaining the coveted carefree boating tradition that Minnesotans cherish.

“It’s a spring break finale,” said Denys Cerny of Chanhassen as she sipped a glass of white wine on a boat in the cove. “It’s fun. I call it controlled chaos.”

Added Bob Beutler of Minnetonka Beach: “I think the reputation is worse than reality.”

Over the past decade, patrols have been ramped up, buoy lanes have been installed, and arrests and citations have declined. Although the weekend party scene still is strong, “the severity of the problem isn’t as bad,” said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Lt. Adam Block, who patrols the lake and others in the metro.

In eight years on the job, he said, the parties have simmered down from those with smoke machines and disco balls. “I don’t think it’s thought of as the wild west and that it’s a free-for-all,” he said.

While some residents say the congested cove is an accepted part of life on the lake, other residents of the lake’s 14 cities are increasingly frustrated with it, especially after incidents like last month’s rash of E. coli infections from water near Big Island on the July 4th weekend — a reminder of the latrine-lacking partyers.

“Sometimes, it’s like having a rock concert in your back yard,” said Cheryl Uran, one of about 50 people with a seasonal cabin on Big Island. “We’ve kind of resigned to it.”

Once remote, now a suburb

Lake Minnetonka has long been a destination.

In the early 1900s, city dwellers flocked to the grand hotels lining the lake and a short-lived amusement park on Big Island. Over the years, the hotels and amusement parks closed. Big Island became a veterans campground. And homes sprouted up along the 125-mile shoreline.

Now, the 14,000-acre lake attracts crowds of anglers and jet skiers, as well as pontoon boats and cruises for fishing, swimming or just soaking up the sun and gawking at shoreline mansions. A third of Big Island, which still has some seasonal cabins, became a tranquil, densely wooded nature park in 2006.

“Lake Minnetonka used to be a remote site, and now it is a suburb,” said Gabriel Jabbour, 64, a longtime resident and marina owner.

Round the bend of the island and enter northern Cruiser’s Cove, where white and orange buoys bob in the bay, restricting anchoring and forming lanes like an airport runway. The lanes were first installed in 2000, a controversial move that the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District opted for instead of restricting rafting — the tying-together of dozens of boats so partyers can easily hop between them. Since then, more buoys have been added and lanes modified after an intoxicated 31-year-old man fell in the water and died in 2003, an incident in which some boaters refused to move for medics.

  • related content

  • Leah Kinn, of Excelsior, took in the sights — and a beverage — in the cove. Lake Minnetonka is the state’s most-heavily used lake.

  • Boats frequently jam closely together in the cove — not unlike tailgate parties at football games. The weekend party scene still is strong, said DNR Lt. Adam Block, but it isn’t as bad as it has been in years past. Said Bob Beutler of Minnetonka Beach: “I think the reputation is worse than the reality.”

  • Hennepin County water patrol deputy Adam Hernke stopped boaters Roberts Krebs, center, of Maple Grove, and George Mackereth, of Minneapolis, to check for infractions.

  • Peter Kinn, left, of Excelsior, enjoyed Cruiser’s Cove with friends. “Lake Minnetonka is no doubt special,” he said. “It’s a big party scene.”

  • Lake Minnetonka BY THE NUMBERS

    Boating While Intoxicated

    2008 2010 2012 2013*

    76 53 89 29

    Boating accidents

    7 14 8 14

    Boating citations

    597 479 394 107

    *2013 data through June

    Source: Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Pittsburgh 3
Texas - C. Lewis 2:40 PM
Seattle - E. Ramirez
Washington - D. Fister 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick
Tampa Bay - D. Smyly 6:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Boston - J. Kelly 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Stroman
NY Yankees - S. Greene 6:08 PM
Detroit - D. Price
Atlanta - J. Teheran 6:10 PM
NY Mets - Z. Wheeler
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - M. Latos
Cleveland - C. Kluber 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi
Minnesota - P. Hughes 7:10 PM
Kansas City - L. Hendriks
Oakland - D. Pomeranz 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 8:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw 8:40 PM
Arizona - W. Miley
Miami - H. Alvarez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
Colorado - F. Morales 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close