They don’t call it the Brainerd Lakes Area for nothing. As we get into the dog days of summer, there’s no better time to make use of the area’s namesake. But before you double-check your packing list and apply your sunscreen, take a moment to see which beach might fit your needs. I grabbed my kids and we spent a hot afternoon doing a little research of the area’s best beaches.
Gull Lake Recreation Area
Ever since the early 20th century, Gull Lake has been a destination for loggers and fishermen. Gull Lake has since become a premier destination for tourists from around the state. Featuring no fewer than three world class resorts, pristine waters, and shorelines for miles, Gull Lake is the jewel of the BLA. So, you can see why the modest little beach sitting just north of the Gull River outlet is no surprise.
One thing you should be aware of first is that since the entire Gull Lake Dam area is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, there is a $5 daily auto parking fee to make use of the facilities. But, it’s money well spent, in my opinion.
The first thing you’ll notice is the amount of green shaded area surrounding the beach. You’ll notice it even more when offset by the narrow beach area. This is, as they say, a feature of the beach. You’ll be shaded while staying out of the water, enjoying your picnic, or playing a game of volleyball.
Another nice feature of this beach is the care you can see that they have in maintaining the shoreline. The water is clear and the sand is (mostly) debris-free. In fact, along with the shoreline not used as a beach, there are long grasses to keep the runoff to a minimum.
If you are interested in staying for a longer period than a day, the Gull Lake Recreation Area has you covered. With modern camping sites (along with showers, electricity, and wooded locations), you’ll be able to stay for as little as $26 a day. You can make use of the playground equipment, fishing docks, canoe launching areas, hiking trails, and historical sites all within walking distance.
If you have only time to go to one beach in the area, this is the beach I would recommend for most. It’s got almost everything you’d like. The positives (shady area, tons of picnic tables, care of shoreline, and access to lots of recreational facilities) easily outweigh the negatives (which are the ridiculously small beach and a large horsefly presence).
Whipple Beach Recreation Area
Whipple Beach is snuggled just west of Hwy 371 behind Best Buy, about a mile. So, if you’re looking for a beach that is close to the cosmopolitan confines of Brainerd, look no further than the surprisingly sandy shores of Whipple.
A wide and deep section of the beach is dedicated to beautiful sand, and it’s probably the most defining part of the entire beach. As far back as I can remember, the beach has been large enough to make getting down to the lake at the bottom of the decline an ordeal, especially on hot days. Be sure to wear your flip-flops before taking on this sand, as it can get really hot, hot enough to burn feet.
It looks like the people in charge at the Baxter Parks Department took that into consideration, because there is now a nicely developed green area set off to the side of the desert. It’s large enough to host many groups, but could become a bit crowded during the hotter days of the summer. In addition to the shaded green area, there is also a picnic pavilion, complete with grills and tables large enough to host your largest groups.
If your kids are feeling that swimming isn’t their thing, there is a robust playground equipment at the top of the hill, which will tap their energy just as well as splashing around in the water.
Speaking of the lake, we’ve already mentioned the beach as pretty clean, and the same can essentially be said about the ground under the water. There are the occasional weeds floating around, but that’s part and parcel of swimming in a natural lake. You’ll want to be sure to note that the water is mostly weed-free until around two-thirds of the way towards the buoys. I would simply recommend to work on your backstroke at that point and avoid the muddy underground at that point.
The last thing I wanted to mention about Whipple is the absolute availability of it. There are many things that will draw you to this location and simply because it’s right in our backyard, it will be visited many times, eagerly. There are so many reasons to enjoy this beach. Bike trails run alongside the sand, playground equipment beckons the kids, a picnic pavilion can generously host groups of all sizes, and changing rooms are available. The only downside I can see to Whipple would be due to its location, it’s always going to be busy on hot days. Moreover, if it’s busy, you’ll be forced onto the Sahara Desert, away from the shady area. But, with clear fresh water only feet away, it shouldn’t be too bad.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we review three more area beaches. In the meantime, let us know what you plan on doing to enjoy the beautiful Brainerd area. See you then!