The relationship between lake sensitivity to atmospheric acidic inputs and the neutralization capacity of watersheds is examined for 267 lakes in northeastern Minnesota. Three water chemistry/sensitivity measures (color, sulfate, and alkalinity) are correlated with variables representative of precipitation and sulfate inputs, hydrology, and the acid neutralization capacity of various watershed components. An ordinal scale for ranking bedrock and surficial deposit neutralization capacity is presented. The watershed variables found to account for the largest percentages of the variability in measured color, sulfate, and alkalinity levels are determined. Color is strongly related to the presence of peat or marsh and hydrologic renewal time, whereas sulfate is primarily related to atmospheric deposition, evaporative concentration, bedrock type, and the presence of coniferous forest. Variation in alkalinity is the most difficult of the water chemistry measures to explain; for headwater lakes, atmospheric sulfate input, water renewal time, the presence of deciduous forest, and the weatherability of underlying bedrock determine much of its variability. The results illustrate important averaging properties of watersheds from small headwater systems to large drainages and the difficulty in obtaining correlations for some water quality measures (e.g., alkalinity) when some variables, such as soils and land cover, are available only as large-area averages.