Detroit Lake was created about 10,000 years ago as the receding glaciers left thick deposits of gravel, sand and clay. Broken from the glacier, and imbedded in these deposits were large chunks of ice which, when melted, left depressions to become lakes, including Detroit, one of the larger ones? Forests grew up around the lakes. Wildlife entered the picture, and over thousands of years these lakes evolved to be the great treasures of Minnesota.
The lakes were impacted little by sporadic contacts with Native Americans. There were no significant changes caused by early contacts with European settlers, a few trappers and traders who mostly passed by.
After Minnesota statehood in 1858, and with arrival of the railroad a dozen years later, considerable economic and population growth came to the vicinity of Detroit Lake. The local population rose from a handful of settlers in the early 1870’s, to 1500 in 1880, 2500 in 1900 and over 7000 in 1940.
Before 1900, most settlement was in Detroit Village which had grown straddling the railroad about a mile north of the lake. Few of the village roads reached the lake. Of note the Woods route of the Red River Ox Cart Trail system passed along the southeast and northeast portions of Big Detroit.
…reaching Detroit Lake at the mouth of Sucker Creek, half a mile south of the club house. A little before reaching the present site of the club house the road took to the gravelly beach of the lake, which it followed for some distance, and again took to the water’s edge where it crossed the Pelican River…. Alvin H. Wilcox, Pioneer History of Becker County