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Just Ask Us: Which state has more lakes -- Minnesota or Wisconsin?

While Wisconsin may have about 3,000 more lakes -- such as Lake Mendota -- than Minnesota's nearly 12,000, it has a much lower threshold for what counts as a lake. 

Q: Minnesota or Wisconsin — which state has more lakes?

A: Looking at a map, it’s clear that many lakes dot both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Minnesota even boasts 10,000 lakes on its license plates.

In total, Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, which is about 3,000 less than Wisconsin’s more than 15,000.

But the two states use different definitions to determine what counts as a lake.

While Minnesota defines a lake as a body of water that covers at least 10 acres, Wisconsin doesn’t have a size requirement. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources online database of state lakes contains thousands of lakes less than an acre in size or unnamed.

Still, counting named lakes of at least 10 acres, Wisconsin has 11,981 lakes, 139 more than Minnesota, according to data provided by the Wisconsin DNR.

It’s unclear how many lakes Minnesota would have under Wisconsin’s lower threshold.

Still, the lakes of Minnesota — a bigger state than Wisconsin — cover more area.

Minnesota’s lakes cover about 2.6 million acres, Minnesota TV station KARE 11 reported. That’s compared to Wisconsin’s approximately 1 million acres of lakes, according to the Wisconsin DNR.

That’s not counting the Great Lakes in either state.

Including the Great Lakes, Wisconsin has a higher percentage of its acreage covered by water, according to the U.S. Geological Society. About 17 percent of Wisconsin is covered by water, compared to Minnesota’s 8.4 percent.

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Send questions to: justaskus@madison.com; Just Ask Us, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI 53708.

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