Video: Sky-high look at Lake Minnetonka's July 4 party


[vimeo 100004846 w="480" h="270"]

The Fourth of July is known to be one of the busiest weekends of the year on Lake Minnetonka, with hundreds of people flocking to the lake's Big Island.

This year's no-wake rules, which have been in place for weeks because of heavy rains, didn't keep people from anchoring again on the north shore of the island to celebrate America's independence.

A floating party

On July Fourth weekend, hundreds of boats jam together in a floating party resembling vehicles tailgating at a football game. This year, Red Bull was among the attendees with what it called a party barge, and used a GoPro attached to a quadcopter to film the party (watch the video above).

Big Island has long been a go-to destination for many boaters on Saturdays during the summer, but it becomes even more popular on the Fourth of July, even drawing Kim Kardashian to its festivities in 2011.

Safety concerns

Big Island's Cruiser's Cove, which is one of the most popular lake destinations for partying in the summer, has been under scrutiny in recent years. The county has patrolled the lake since 1955 when 18 people died there. Since then, yearly drownings have stayed in the single digits and boating accidents have declined, the Star Tribune says.

There are also fewer boats on the lake on the weekends – fewer than 1,000 in 2009, down from about 1,400 in 1986, the Star Tribune says.

But there are still incidents on Big Island that make headlines. In 2003, boaters blocked emergency personnel from getting to a man who died there, the newspaper says.

Last year, three party goers suffered e-coli contamination after swimming near Big Island on the Fourth of July.

Big Island's history

The 273-acre island, located in the center of lower Lake Minnetonka, was discovered by settlers in 1852, and served as a Dakota Indian sugaring camp in the early 1880s, reports say.

The island has also been home to a pioneer homestead, a groggery, a legendary estate, an amusement park, a game farm, and a veteran’s rest camp, according to the Lake Minnetonka Patch.

In the early 1900s, part of the island became home to the Big Island Amusement Park, attracting thousands of visitors who were brought to the island by steam-powered ferryboats. The park was open from 1906 to 1911, but closed due to cost. It has been said that metal from the amusement park was used for the World War I effort, according to Lake Minnetonka Magazine.

Remnants of the dismantled amusement park can still be found on the island, including the grand entry portal stairway, the city of Orono says.

In 1923, part of the island became the Big Island Veterans Camp, which offered recreational opportunities to Minnesota's veterans. Veterans and their families used the camp until 2003, when the city of Orono and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District purchased the property to help preserve the land and opened the Big Island Nature Park.

In addition to the park, there are about 50 private residences on the island, which are only accessible by boat, the Patch says.

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