July 27, 2012

Minnesota – “The North Star State”

Minnesota map


Just the Facts….

bird – Common Loon 
flower – Ladyslipper
tree – Red Pine
capital – St. Paul
union – 32nd state on May 11, 1858
population – almost 5 1/2 million





The Basics 

Minnesota is part of America’s border with Canada, where the Great Lakes region meets the Great Plains.  It is rocky and heavily forested in the north, especially by the north shore of Lake Superior.  Three habitats meet in Minnesota – the coniferous forests (i.e. pine trees) in the north, the deciduous forests (i.e. maples and oaks) in the southeast, and the Great Plains in the west and southwest.

The name “Minnesota” comes from a Native American word that means “sky tinted water.”  Its nickname is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”  Actually, has between 12,000 and 15,000 lakes (depending upon who is counting!).  Many of these lakes are in the northern part of the state, which is still primarily forest.  In addition to lakes, Minnesota has countless streams and rivers.  And, then there is Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes!  The northwestern coast of Lake Superior is part of Minnesota – we call it “The North Shore.”


Its Claim to Fame

The mighty Mississippi River has its humble beginnings in Minnesota.  The Mississippi starts from Lake Itasca in the north central part of Minnesota.  At first, the Mississippi is only a few feet wide and quite shallow – you can actually walk across it!  It grows quickly as streams and creeks flow into it.   In St. Paul, the Mississippi River joins with the Minnesota River.  A little farther south, it joins with the St. Croix River.  Once the Mississippi River becomes the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is the large river we think of when someone refers to the Mississippi.

Minnesota’s landscape was created by the movement of glaciers, which carved holes that were filled by water from the melting glaciers.  But, a long time ago there was a different explanation for how Minnesota’s lakes were created – Paul Bunyan and his pal, Babe and Blue Ox!  Paul Bunyan is an American folklore character – a giant lumberjack who was very strong.  The northern woods were his home (from Minnesota to Canada to Michigan to Maine).  As Paul Bunyan walked through the forest, his huge footprints made the thousands of lakes in northern Minnesota.  At times he would drag his huge axe behind him, which created the Mississippi River and many other rivers.  Three towns in northern Minnesota have statues of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox – there is even Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Mayo Clinic – Minnesota is home to one of the premier medical institutions in the country.  It was started by two brothers – William and Charles Mayo – in Rochester, Minnesota.  They were pioneers in how medical care was organized and provided to patients.  Mayo Clinic was the first to create a multi-specialty system, where doctors that specialized in different areas of medicine came together to treat patients.  Many people travel thousands of miles to be treated at Mayo – including royalty!


What Makes it Tick

Logging was one of Minnesota’s first industries – lumberjacks traveled from the eastern states because they heard about Minnesota’s forests – miles and miles of huge trees covered much of the northern and eastern part of the territory.  The first logging towns were located along the St. Croix River, which is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Lumberjacks cut down white pine trees and floated them down the river to sawmills.  They actually tied the logs together and made huge rafts out of the lumber.  Logging towns sprang up along Minnesota’s many rivers.   The logging companies kept moving north as forests were cut down until they reached Canada in some places.

Minnesota grows and processes a lot of America’s food.  It is a big agricultural state, with more than 80,000 farms that grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and other grains like oats.  In fact, Minneapolis was the “Flour Capital of the World” around 1900.  It’s mills produced most of the flour consumed by America for nearly 30 years.  As the food industry grew in the 1940-50s, a lot of the food grown in Minnesota was then processed in Minnesota – Betty Crocker cake mixes and Jolly Green Giant vegetables.  Many food companies are still based in Minnesota, General Mills being the biggest.  If you look in your pantry I bet you will find at least one thing made by General Mills (hint – look at the cereals first!).

Iron Ore – the discovery of iron ore in the northeastern part of Minnesota helped to fuel America’s industrial growth in the early 1900s.  It led to the development of Duluth as a major shipping port – the iron ore mined in Minnesota was put on ships in Duluth and carried through the Great Lakes to Pittsburgh, where it was made into steel.  It was also transported to other cities along the Great Lakes like Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland for many purposes.

Minnesota has been home to many inventions that make our life just a little bit easier:

For example, you can sleep through the night comfortably because of the thermostat, which was invented by the Honeywell company in Minnesota.  Before the thermostat, people would have to get up in the middle of the night to adjust their furnaces.  Or, they would just wake up to a cold house.  Finally, the thermostat was invented – you could set it at a specific temperature and it would adjust the furnace automatically.  As a result, we can all sleep a little easier!

3M invented scotch tape, masking tape, post-it notes, sandpaper and many more products you probably have in your house right now.  Could you imagine your life without scotch tape? Or masking tape? How would you make all those fun art projects?


If You Visited

You might go to camping in the BWCA.  The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country.  It is also the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi – it has over a million acres of land and more than 1,000 lakes!  Very few motor boats are allowed .  But, you can canoe or kayak all throughout the BWCA.  And, most of the campsites are only accessible by water.  While you are in the BWCA, you may have to cross a portage if you want to get from lake to lake.  Imagine – pulling your canoe out of the lake, carrying it on your shoulders down a path and over rocks, then putting it back into the water once you reach the next lake!

Or, you may go waterskiing on one of its many lakes.  Waterskiing was invented in Minnesota.  In 1922, an 18 year old boy wondered – if people could ski on snow maybe they can ski on water as well?  He and his brother experimented for a few days on Lake Pepin until they figured out the key to making it work – you lean back while you are skiing on water (as opposed to leaning forward while you are skiing on snow).  Water sports were born!  Have you tried water skiing? Or, maybe some of the newer inventions like inner tubing or wakeboarding?

If you are there in the winter, you might go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  The cold does not stop Minnesotans – there is ice carving, snow sculptures, and an ice castle!  But, you would not be cold for long.  Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have skyway systems – which are above-ground tunnels that connect the buildings to each other.  The skyways allow you go to most places in the city without getting cold or snowy!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Minnesota state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Minnesota?  Or, maybe you have visited Minnesota?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Minnesota?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Minnesota to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Minnesota.  Visit these websites to learn more: