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Minnesota Geography

Explore Minnesota geography and unique features of the regions of Minnesota that make all of them great vacations spots.

Minnesota Geography

The topography of Minnesota's regions is more diverse than you will find almost anywhere.

Each area has unique geographical features and characteristics and are sometimes referred to as the "seven states of Minnesota."

Minnesota geography places our state near the center of North America in the north central United States.

It is bordered on the north by the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, on the west by North Dakota and South Dakota, on the south by Iowa, and on the east by Wisconsin and Lake Superior.

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Geography of Minnesota Trivia and Fun Facts

  • Lake Vermillion has more shoreline than any other lake in Minnesota.
  • There are 14,000 islands in Lake of the Woods. Visit Zippel Bay State Park on the shores if this lake.
  • One of only two aerial lift bridges in the world is in Duluth.
  • Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis had two earlier names: Little Falls and Brown Falls.
  • The Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River are in Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park. The river travels 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. You can "walk across the river" here on stepping stones. Sugar Loaf bluff towers 500 feet above the river at New Ulm.
  • Minnesota's deepest lake is Saganaga Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
  • The Temperance River got its name because it "has no bar at its mouth."
  • The Saint Paul Water Carnival is one of the largest annual festivals in the U.S.
  • Minnesota has two national monuments: Grand Portage National Monument and Pipestone National Monument.
  • Voyageurs National Park is near International Falls. The park consists of 219,000 acres of land and water.
  • Minnesota has more than six thousand state and federal campsites.
  • Minnesota has more than twelve thousand miles of groomed snowmobile trails. (more than any other state). The snowmobile was first produced in Roseau.
  • The name of Wabasha, translated from the Souix language, is "Red Leaf." Minnesota's oldest operating hotel is in Wabasha.
  • The Native American Koo-poo-hoo-sha (meaning wing of a wild swan dyed scarlet) is translated Red Wing.
  • You can see the Minnesota Territorial Convention plaque in Stillwater.
  • Bemidji is translated from the Ojibwe language and means "Lake with river flowing through."
  • Two Harbors was originally named "Agate Bay."
  • Detroit Lakes takes its name from "the narrows created in a lake by a sand bar." 
  • Hinckley was once a major stagecoach relay station between St. Paul and Superior, WI.
  • The famous Mayo Clinic is located in Rochester.
  • Walker hosts the annual Eelpout festival.
  • Visit the Paul Bunyan Center in Brainerd and see famous statues of this pair in Bemidji.
  • Moorhead is separated from its "sister city," Fargo, by the Red River of the North.
  • Mahnomen takes its name from the Ojibwe word for "wild rice."

Variations in Minnesota geography from one Minnesota region to another makes a visit to Minnesota a unique experience.

As you drive from the Canadian border on the north to the Iowa border on the south, you may think you are visiting several states and going through at least two seasons on the way.

Some describe our Minnesota geography as divided into five different regions:

  • The Red River Valley
  • The Arrowhead
  • The Land of Lakes
  • The Twin Cities
  • The River Country

The Seven States of Minnesota: Driving Tours Through the History, Geology, Culture and Natural Glory of the North Star State describes seven unique regions of Minnesota:

  • Red River Valley
  • Arrowhead
  • St. Croix Valley
  • Central Lakes
  • Twin Cities
  • Bluff Country
  • Prairieland

Some wonderful descriptions of our unique state can also be found in Landscapes of Minnesota: A Geography

If you start in the north on a day in late April, you may see snow on the ground. Around noon you'll be in central Minnesota, where the snow is gone and ice on the lakes has melted. Farther south, later that afternoon, trees are full with leaves, farmers are finishing plowing, and it's spring. In a month, it will be spring in the north.

The state is also at the crossroads of three types of terrain. Grassland plains and prairies are to the west and south, coniferous (cone-bearing) forest is to the north, and to the east is the hardwood forest, once known as the "Big Woods."

The area of Minnesota is 225,181 sq km (86,943 sq mi), of which 12,380 sq km (4,780 sq mi) is inland water and 6,594 sq km (2,546 sq mi) is a portion of Lake Superior under the state's jurisdiction. Minnesota thus ranks 12th in area among the 50 states.

From north to south the state measures 653 km (406 mi), and from east to west it measures 576 km (358 mi) at its maximum extent and about 290 km (about 180 mi) at its narrowest point. The mean elevation is about 370 m (1,200 ft).

Our unique geography offers visitors a wide variety of Minnesota vacation experiences.

Minnesota Geography

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