The eastern tip of Lake Minnetonka is located approximately 12 miles west of Minneapolis. The lake is about 24 miles long as the crow flies. But with it's irregular shoreline and numerous bays it would measure close to 300 miles.
None of the early explorers ever saw Lake Minnetonka. Their courses lay up the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, one east and the other west of that beautiful body of water. The Dakota-Sioux Indian tribes, who had been driven from the shores of Lake Superior by the Chippewa's, occupied the shores of the lake until 1862. The first white visitors to the area were two young boys who ventured up the stream that flowed from Lake Minnetonka down to the Minnesota River where the government had established Fort Snelling. Stories abound that they became friends of the Indians and visited the area several times.
The lake continued to remain free of white settlers until the 1850's when another expedition returned back to the then settlements of St Anthony and Minneapolis with extremely favorable reports of entrancing beauty, fertile soil and abundant timber. Soon settlements grew in what is now the cities of Excelsior and Wayzata. Governor Alexander Ramsey gave the lake it's name, "Minnetonka", which translates from the Sioux's "Big Water".
In 1855 the lake saw the first steamboat, the Governor Ramsey, a small stern wheeler. In 1867 the first railroad was completed to Wayzata. The 1870's brought many smaller steamboats to Lake Minnetonka. They were needed if one wanted to get from place to place around the densely wooded lake.