The overall goal of this study was to quantify the major and minor sources and losses of total phosphorus (TP) to the Lake of the Woods (LOW), summarized as a nutrient budget. This research was initiated in response to degradation in lake water quality, including elevated TP concentrations and increased cyanobacterial blooms, which has resulted in LOW's classification as an "Impaired Waterbody" in Minnesota. The whole-lake LOW TP budget shows that tributary inflow is largely dominated by a single source, the Rainy River, draining 79% of the LOW catchment by area. Currently, there is only a small TP contribution from shoreline residential developments (6. t; ~. 1%) at a whole-lake scale, relative to the large TP loads from atmospheric deposition (95. ±. 55. t; 13%) and the Rainy River (568. ±. 186. t; 75%). Overall, the annual TP load to LOW was ~. 754. t with ~. 54% TP retained within the lake. The nutrient budget for the Rainy River catchment revealed that contributions from point sources along the river constitute the largest anthropogenic TP source to the Rainy River and eventually to LOW. Historical load calculations along the Rainy River show that this load has been significantly reduced since the 1970s, and presently just over 100. t of P enters LOW from anthropogenic point sources. These TP budgets provide insights into the major sources of TP influencing the overall LOW water quality and with future refinement may provide a greater understanding of linkages between TP loading and spatial and temporal water quality changes in the LOW. © 2011 International Association for Great Lakes Research.