The separation of highways 35W and 35E (from Interstate 35), just south of Forest Lake in the city of Columbus, is commonly called the Forest Lake Split. The Forest Lake Split was the scene of the August 11, 2003 death of Herb Brooks, coach of the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team (Miracle on Ice).
Forest Lake began as a stop for the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. The first train reached Forest Lake on December 23, 1868. The lake was so named for the abundant timber that lines its shores. Forest Lake Township was organized on March 11, 1874; The first one-room school was built that same year, which stood at the present day location of city hall. The city of Forest Lake was incorporated on July 11, 1893 with 175 residents. In 2001, the city annexed the former Forest Lake Township.
Forest Lake was known as one of the major summer resort areas of the upper Midwest in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The village had numerous hotels, including the Marsh Hotel, on North Shore Drive, which was host to U.S. President Grover Cleveland and future U.S. President William McKinley, as well as many world dignitaries. The steamship Germania sailed the Forest Lake chain of lakes in the late 1800s, and was a major tourist draw.
Minnesota's first Boy Scout troop was formed in Forest Lake in July 1910. This was one of the first officially chartered Boy Scout troops in the United States.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Forest Lake was known as the turkey capital of the world. The official national Thanksgiving turkey for President Harry S. Truman at the White House came from Forest Lake in 1946 and 1948.
The world's first floating heliport was built in Forest Lake in 1956.
Forest Lake has been known as the 4th of July capital of Minnesota since the mid-1960s.
The Forest Lake Marching Band was rated in the top five high school bands in the United States twice in the 1960s.
Forest Lake was the site of the 1968 World Outboard Power Boat Racing Championship.
Forest Lake was the site of the 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972 U.S. International Snowmobile Championships.
The Forest Lake City Marching Band, formed in 1981 by Forest Lake High School alumni Steve Hursh and Brian Tolzmann, and directed by long-time Forest Lake High School director Rollin Nelson, was a seven-time state, six time Midwest region and 1985 national champion open class band. Willard Scott, popular NBC television personality, called the band, "The best band he'd ever seen" during a 1985 broadcast.