Minnesota River

The Minnesota River (Dakota: Mnisóta Wakpá) is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 332 miles (534 km) long, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It drains a watershed of nearly 17,000 square miles (44,000 km2), 14,751 square miles (38,200 km2) in Minnesota and about 2,000 sq mi (5,200 km2) in South Dakota and Iowa.

Minnesota River
The Mendota Bridge crossing the Minnesota River, just above its mouth
Map of the Minnesota River
Native nameWatpá Mnísota
CountryUnited States
CitiesBloomington, MN, Eden Prairie, MN, Mankato, MN, Shakopee, MN, Burnsville, MN, Eagan, MN, Le Sueur, MN
Physical characteristics
SourceBig Stone Lake
  locationBig Stone Lake, Big Stone County, MN
  elevation964 ft (294 m)
MouthMississippi River
Near Fort Snelling in Minnesota, Hennepin County, MN
690 ft (210 m)
Length370 mi (600 km)
Basin size17,000 sq mi (44,000 km2)
  average4,414 cu ft/s (125.0 m3/s)

It rises in southwestern Minnesota, in Big Stone Lake on the Minnesota–South Dakota border just south of the Laurentian Divide at the Traverse Gap portage. It flows southeast to Mankato, then turns northeast. It joins the Mississippi south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, near the historic Fort Snelling. The valley is one of several distinct regions of Minnesota. The name Minnesota comes from the Dakota language phrase, "Mnisota Makoce" which is translated to "land where the waters reflect the sky", as a reference to the many lakes in Minnesota rather than the cloudiness of the actual river.[1] For over a century prior to the organization of the Minnesota Territory in 1849, the name St. Pierre (St. Peter) had been generally applied to the river by French and English explorers and writers. Minnesota River is shown on the 1757 edition of Mitchell Map as "Ouadebameniſsouté [Watpá Mnísota] or R. St. Peter". On June 19, 1852, acting upon a request from the Minnesota territorial legislature, the United States Congress decreed the aboriginal name for the river, Minnesota, to be the river’s official name and ordered all agencies of the federal government to use that name when referencing it.[2][3]

The valley that the Minnesota River flows in is up to five miles (8 km) wide and 250 feet (80 m) deep.[4] It was carved into the landscape by the massive glacial River Warren between 11,700 and 9,400 years ago at the end of the last ice age in North America. Pierre-Charles Le Sueur was the first European known to have traveled along the river. The Minnesota Territory, and later the state, were named for the river.

Commercial significance

The river valley is notable as the origin and center of the canning industry in Minnesota. In 1903 Carson Nesbit Cosgrove, an entrepreneur in Le Sueur presided at the organizational meeting of the Minnesota Valley Canning Company (later renamed Green Giant).[5][6] By 1930, the Minnesota River valley had emerged as one of the country's largest producers of sweet corn. Green Giant had five canneries in Minnesota in addition to the original facility in Le Sueur. Cosgrove's son, Edward, and grandson, Robert also served as heads of the company over the ensuing decades before the company was acquired by General Mills.[7] Several docks for barges exist along the river. Farm grains, including corn, are transported to the ports of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and then shipped down the Mississippi River.


Principal tributaries of the Minnesota River
Order of entryRiverLocation of confluence
11Blue Earth RiverWest side of Mankato
6Chippewa RiverMontevideo
9Cottonwood RiverSoutheast of New Ulm
13Credit RiverScott County, just southeast of Minneapolis–Saint Paul
5Lac qui Parle RiverLac qui Parle State Park, 10 mi (15 km) northwest of Montevideo
10Little Cottonwood RiverCambria Township, 7 mi (11 km) southeast of New Ulm
1Little Minnesota RiverBig Stone Lake in Browns Valley
4Pomme de Terre RiverMarsh Lake in southwestern Swift County, 4 mi (6 km) southwest of Appleton
8Redwood RiverNear Redwood Falls
12Rush River2.9 mi north of Le Sueur
2Whetstone RiverOrtonville, near the South Dakota state line
3Yellow Bank RiverAgassiz Township, 3 mi (5 km) southeast of Odessa
7Yellow Medicine RiverUpper Sioux Agency State Park in Sioux Agency Township

Cities and towns

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Mnisota Makoce: A Dakota Place". Bdote Memory Map. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  2. ""Minnesota State"". Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on March 31, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  3. Mary Wheelhouse Berthel (June 1948). Horns of Thunder: The Life and Times of James M. Goodhue. Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 179–. ISBN 978-0-87351-518-4.
  4. Sansome, Minnesota Underfoot, pp. 118-19.
  5. "Peas, corn and beyond: Minnesota's Green Giant company was a canned food pioneer". MinnPost. August 1, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  6. Minnesota: A State Guide. US History Publishers. 1938. pp. 388–. ISBN 978-1-60354-022-3.
  7. "The Cosgrove Years". Mayohouse.org. Archived from the original on March 24, 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2007.


  • Sansome, Constance Jefferson (1983). "Minnesota Underfoot: A Field Guide to the State's Outstanding Geologic Features". Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press. ISBN 0-89658-036-9. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Waters, Thomas F. (1977). The Streams and Rivers of Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0960-8.
  • Place Names: the Minnesota River

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