The North Star State

Where is it?

State Flag




Geographic coordinates:
43°34'N to 49°23'50.26"N
89°34'W to 97°12'W
total: 86,943 sq mi
land: 79,617 sq mi
water: 7,326 sq mi
Great Lakes: 2,546 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: N/A
Bordering States:
Iowa, Michigan (water border), North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Superior 602 ft
highest point: Eagle Mountain 2,301 ft
The geology of Minnesota began 2.7 billion years ago, when the first pieces of volcanic rock that would later form the state began to rise up out of an ancient ocean. This rock still remains today as the Canadian Shield. For the last billion years Minnesota's landscape has been relatively quiet following a period of volcanic activity 1.1 billion years ago. During this quiet period there has been no volcanism, no new mountains have formed, and there has been little earthquake activity. In the intervening millennia Precambrian seas and recent periods of glaciation have taken once mountainous Minnesota and flattened it out. The roots of these mountains with the action of the seas formed the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. Massive glaciers at least 1,000 meters thick have ravaged the landscape beginning 600,000 years ago. The last of the four major glaciations, the Wisconsin glaciation left Minnesota 12,000 years ago. The extent of these glaciers reached all of Minnesota except the far southeast and southwest portions. The southeastern area is known as the Driftless Zone. It is characterized by low rolling hills and streams that cut into the bedrock. The glaciers left their remains across the whole state with most areas having 15 meters or more of glacial till. As the last glaciers retreated, gigantic Lake Agassiz formed in northwest Minnesota; its outflow carved the valley of the Minnesota River and its lake-bottom created the fertile lands of the Red River valley.

Cliffs on the North Shore of Lake SuperiorThe action of a billion years of glaciation and erosion have left Minnesota a relatively flat state. The state's high point is Eagle Mountain at 2,301 ft (701 m), only 13 miles from the low of 602 ft (183 m) at the shore of Lake Superior. Two continental divides meet in the northeastern part of Minnesota, creating three watersheds. Rain falling in the state can follow the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico, the St. Lawrence Seaway east to the Atlantic Ocean, or the Hudson Bay watershed to the Arctic Ocean.

The state's nickname, The Land of 10,000 Lakes, is no exaggeration, as there are 11,842 lakes over 10 acres in size. The Minnesota portion of Lake Superior is the largest (962,700 acres) and deepest (1,290 feet) body of water in the state. Minnesota has 6,564 natural rivers and streams that traverse a total of 69,000 miles. The Mississippi River begins a 680 mile journey through Minnesota from its headwaters at Lake Itasca. It is joined at Fort Snelling by the Minnesota River, and in the southeast by many trout streams. The Red River of the North, in the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz, drains the northwest part of the state northward toward Canada's Hudson Bay.




5,457,17 (2014)
Largest City:
Minneapolis: 382,578 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.5%
<18 years old: 24.3%
65 years and over: 12.1%
Male: 49.6% Female: 50.4%
Population growth rate:
4.3% (2000-2005)
Population density:
61.80 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 86.7%
Hispanic: 3.5%
Black: 4.1%
Asian: 3.4%
Native American: 1.2%
Multi-Race: 1.4%
Christian: 89%
Jewish: <1%
Muslim: <1%
Other: <1%
Non-Religious: 8%




Before European settlement, Minnesota was populated by the Anishinaabe, the Sioux, and other Native Americans. European presence began with the arrival of French fur traders in the 1600s. During this century, the Ojibwe Indians migrated westward to Minnesota, and this caused tensions with the Sioux. Explorers such as Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, Father Louis Hennepin, Jonathan Carver, Henry Schoolcraft, and Joseph Nicollet, among others, mapped out the state.

In 1805, Zebulon Pike acquired land at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. This was followed by the construction of Fort Snelling between 1819 and 1825. The soldiers built a grist mill and a sawmill at Saint Anthony Falls, and as industry later sprung up around the falls, the city of Minneapolis grew up around it. Meanwhile, squatters, government officials, and tourists had settled in the vicinity of the fort. In 1839, the Army forced them to move downriver, and they settled in an area that became St. Paul. Minnesota Territory was formed on March 3, 1849. By 1858, thousands of people had come to build farms and cut timber, and Minnesota became the 32nd US state on May 11, 1858.

A number of treaties with the Sioux and Ojibwe gradually forced them off their land and onto smaller reservations. As conditions became less favorable for the Sioux, tensions rose, and the Sioux Uprising of 1862 resulted. The result of the six-week war was the execution of 38 Indians, the largest mass execution in United States history, and the exile of most of the rest of the Sioux to the Crow Creek Reservation in Nebraska.

Fort Snelling played a pivotal role in Minnesota's history and in the development of the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.The early economy of Minnesota was based on logging and farming. The sawmills at Saint Anthony Falls, as well as logging centers like Marine on St. Croix, Stillwater, and Winona processed a large amount of lumber. These cities were well-situated on rivers that were ideal for transportation. Later, Saint Anthony Falls was tapped to provide power for flour mills. Innovations by Minneapolis millers led to the production of Minnesota "patent" flour, widely regarded as the finest bread flour of its time. By 1900, Minnesota mills, led by Pillsbury and the Washburn-Crosby Company (a forerunner of General Mills), were grinding 14.1% of the nation's grain.

Minnesota became established as an iron mining state with the discovery of iron in the Vermilion Range and the Mesabi Range in the 1880s, followed by the discovery of iron in the Cuyuna Range in the early 1900s. The iron was shipped by rail to Two Harbors and Duluth, then loaded onto ships and transported eastward through the Great Lakes. As a result of industrial development and the rise of manufacturing, the population gradually shifted from rural areas to cities during the early 1900s. Nevertheless, farming remained strong throughout the state. During the years of the Great Depression, the Minnesota economy was hit hard, resulting in lower prices paid to farmers, layoffs among iron miners, and various instances of labor unrest. On top of that, western Minnesota and the Dakotas were hit by drought from 1931 through 1935. New Deal programs provided some economic turnaround. The Civilian Conservation Corps and other programs around the state established jobs for Indians on their own reservations. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 provided a self-government mechanism for the Indian tribes. This had the effect of providing more of a voice within the state and promoting more respect for tribal customs, as religious ceremonies and native languages were no longer suppressed.

After World War II, the pace of industrial development quickened. Technological developments increased productivity on farms, such as automation of feedlots for hogs and cattle, machine milking at dairy farms, and raising chickens in large buildings. Planting became more specialized with hybridization of corn and wheat, and mechanical equipment such as tractors and combines became the norm. University of Minnesota professor Norman Borlaug contributed to this knowledge as part of the Green Revolution. During this time, suburban development accelerated as a result of postwar housing demand, convenient transportation, and increased mobility to more specialized jobs.

Minnesota became a center of technology after the war. Engineering Research Associates was formed in 1946 to develop computers for the United States Navy. It later merged with Remington Rand, and then became Sperry Rand. William Norris left Sperry in 1957 to form Control Data Corporation (CDC). Cray Research was formed when Seymour Cray left CDC to form his own company. Medical device maker Medtronic also got its start in the Twin Cities in 1949.




St. Paul
May 11, 1858 (32nd State)
State Tree:
Red Pine
State Bird:
Common Loon
State Flower:
Pinkand white lady's-slipper
As in the national government of the United States, power in Minnesota is divided into three main branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The executive branch is headed by the governor, currently Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, whose 1st term began 6 January 2003, and who was narrowly re-elected in 2006. The current lieutenant governor of Minnesota is Carol Molnau. Molnau also currently serves as the head of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Both the governor and lieutenant governor have four-year terms. The governor has a cabinet consisting of the leaders of various government agencies in the state, called commissioners. The other constitutional offices are secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor.

The Minnesota Legislature is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The state has 67 districts, each covering about 60,000 people. Each district has one senator and two representatives (each district being divided into A and B sections). Senators serve for four years and representatives for two years. In the November 2006 election, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party gained 19 house seats, giving them control of the Minnesota House of Representatives by 85-49. The Minnesota Senate is also controlled by the DFL, who in 2006 gained 6 seats to expand their majority to 44-23.

Minnesota's court system has three levels. Most cases start in the district courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction. There are 272 district court judges in ten judicial districts. Appeals from the trial courts and challenges to certain governmental decisions are heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, consisting sixteen judges who typically sit in three-judge panels. The seven-justice Minnesota Supreme Court hears all appeals from the Tax Court, the Worker's Compensation Court, first-degree murder convictions, and discretionary appeals from the Court of Appeals; it also has original jurisdiction over election disputes.

Minnesota is known for a politically active citizenry, with populism being a longstanding force among the state's political parties. Minnesota has consistently high voter turnout; in the 2004 U.S. presidential election 77.2% of eligible Minnesotans voted, the highest of any U.S. state (with a national average of 60.93%), due in part to its liberal voter registration laws. Previously unregistered voters can register on election day, at their polls, with evidence of residency.




The state's economy has transformed in the past 200 years from one based on raw materials to one based on finished products and services. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the economy is its diversity, which closely matches that of the nation as a whole. The economy of Minnesota produced 234 billion dollars of gross domestic product in 2005. Minnesota had 36 companies in the top 1000 U.S. publicly-traded companies by revenue in 2006. This includes such diverse companies as Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, Medtronic, General Mills, U.S. Bancorp, and Best Buy. The Per capita personal income in 2004 was $36,184, 8th in the nation. The median household income in 2005 was approximately $52,024, ranking eleventh in the nation.

The IDS Tower, designed by Philip Johnson and Minnesota's tallest building, reflecting the nearby Wells Fargo Center. Minnesota's earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture; the city of Minneapolis was built around the flour mills clumped around St. Anthony Falls. Agriculture is still a major part of the economy even though only a small percentage of the population, less than 1%, are employed in the farming industry. The state is still the U.S.'s largest producer of sugar beets, sweet corn, and green peas for processing, and farm-raised turkeys. Forestry, another early industry, remains strong with logging, pulpwood processing, forest products manufacturing, and paper production. Minnesota was famous for its soft-ore iron mines which produced a significant portion of the world's iron ore for over a century. Although the high-grade ore is now depleted, taconite mining remains strong using processes developed locally to save the industry. In 2004 the state produced 75% of the usable iron ore in the country. The port of Duluth was created by the mining boom and today continues to be an important shipping port for ore, coal, and agricultural products. The largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America, is located in Bloomington. The state also has strong technology and biomedical industries.