A question often asked by newcomers to Prior Lake is: “Why is Upper Prior Lake the southern part of the lake? Shouldn’t that be Lower Prior Lake?” It does seems that the lower part of the lake would in fact be called Lower Prior Lake. Nope. It turns out there’s a valid reason for what appears to be an upside down naming convention.
Upper Prior Lake (the southern part) is fed by a stream from Spring Lake, which is several feet higher in elevation. The water then flows from Upper Prior Lake to Lower Prior Lake (the upper, northern part). I’m assuming that Upper Prior Lake is at a higher elevation than Lower Prior Lake (unless the laws of physics have somehow been reversed), thus the flow from upper to lower. Yet another reason for the “upper” name if the elevation is indeed higher.
The primary differences in Upper and Lower Prior Lake are the size and the water quality. Upper Prior is much smaller, at 386 acres as opposed to 956 acres for Lower Prior Lake. Lower Prior is a little deeper, having a max depth of 60 feet while the max depth of Upper Prior is only 50 feet. The water clarity in Lower Prior (9.2) is far better than that of Upper Prior (2.5). For that reason, Upper Prior has been designated as “impaired” by the Minnesota Polution Control Agency (MPCA). If you’d like more information on Prior Lake, refer to the DNR websites for Upper Prior and for Lower Prior. Also refer to the MPCA website for additional info on the water quality. Zebra mussels have been found in both parts of the lake.
While water quality, depth, fishing, etc are all important considerations for the lake, in my seventeen years of living in Prior Lake and boating on Prior Lake I have found that there is yet one more important difference in the two lake halves. Upper Prior Lake is the home of Captain Jack’s, the one and only waterfront restaurant on the lake. You gotta have priorities, now you know mine.
I’ll be telling you much more about the communities surrounding the lake in future articles. In the meantime, get your ice fishing equipment ready, it won’t be long now.