History, Geography & Climate
Minnesota became a state in 1858; the 32nd state in the union. People first came to Minnesota during the last ice age. They probably followed herds of large game into this area.
Minnesota’s First Inhabitants
Some of those early Minnesota people carved pictures of humans, animals and weapons into rocks. Some of these carvings, called “petroglyphs,” may be 5,000 years old – and many are still visible today in Minnesota’s state parks, such as Jeffers Petroglyphs near Comfrey and Windom. Ancient burial mounds and unearthed objects like spear points are evidence that people lived here ages ago.
The Dakota and Ojibwe (also called Chippewa or Anishinabe) Indians lived in Minnesota when the first Europeans arrived. Many Dakota, Ojibwe and other American Indians live in Minnesota today.
In the late 1600s, French explorers led an expedition into Minnesota, and were soon followed by fur traders for French, and then British companies, who come for beaver pelts to make hats in Europe.
In 1825, Fort Snelling became the first permanent European-American settlement. This site is now a state historic site. The early settlers in the territory were primarily Americans from the East Coast. By the 1860s large numbers of immigrants, especially Germans and Scandinavians, came to Minnesota.
More information about Minnesota history can be found at the Minnesota Historical Society website.
Length: Slightly over 400 miles
Width: 200-350 miles
Land area: 83,574 square miles
Water area: 7,326 square miles
Mean Elevation: 1,200 feet above sea level
Highest point: 2,301 feet at Eagle Mountain
Lowest point: 602 feet at Lake Superior shore
Location: upper Midwest, north central United States. Minnesota is bordered by Canada on the north; Iowa on the south; Lake Superior and Wisconsin on the east; and North and South Dakota on the west.
Longitude: 89° 34'W to 97° 12'W
Latitude: 43° 34'N to 49° 23'N
- 11,842 lakes (more than 10 acres)
- 69,200 miles of rivers and streams
- 680 miles of the Mississippi River’s 2,552 total miles flow through Minnesota.
- Minnesota borders Lake Superior, which is the world’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Superior is at the end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which brings boats from around the world to the port of Duluth, Minnesota.
- Minnesota’s rivers and streams flow in three directions: north to Hudson Bay in Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Big Falls, Pigeon River
- Caribou Falls, Caribou River
- High Falls, Baptism River
- Manitou Falls, Manitou River
- Minneopa Falls, Minneopa River
- Minnehaha Falls, Minnehaha Creek
- Gooseberry Falls, Gooseberry River
Capital: St. Paul
Total population: 5 million
11.8% of Minnesotans are African American, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian or another non-white ethnicity.
Five largest cities
Minneapolis: (Largest city in Minnesota) 387,711
St. Paul: (Capital of Minnesota) 287,385
Minneapolis and St. Paul together are known as the “Twin Cities”
Rochester: (Home of Mayo Clinic) 90,515
Duluth: (Major shipping port on Lake Superior) 85,889
Bloomington: (Home of Mall of America) 84,347
(Minnesota State Demographic Center, 2005 estimates)
Four Seasons of Fun
The weather changes often in Minnesota! Each season comes with its own pleasures. Spring brings warming temperatures and a major "green-up" as trees grow leaves and flowers and vegetation spring to life.
Summer is sunny and pleasant. It is common to have several days as warm as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (and a few warmer).
In the fall, the trees turn brilliant colors as the days cool down. "Fall colors" are a major attraction to Minnesota late August – October. You can see fall color reports (link) during this time period on this site.
Minnesota is known for its cold winters... but we just bundle up and go out and play in the snow.
Temperatures are usually slightly warmer south of the Twin Cities, and cooler in northern parts of the state. There is also typically less snow in southern Minnesota and more in northern Minnesota, especially in the northeast inland from Lake Superior.
Twin Cities average temperatures
Jan. 31 - 21 F/1 F (High/Low)
Apr. 30 - 62 F/41F (High/Low)
July 31 - 83 F/60 F (High/Low)
Sept. 30 - 65 F/42 F (High/Low)
Average annual snowfall:
53 -70 inches
Normal annual precipitation:
19-34 inches (rainfall and water equivalent of snow)
It takes 10-12 inches of snow to equal one inch of rain (depending on how dry the snow is)!
Classroom project help
Download a .PDF brochure “All About Minnesota [Link to document 07allaboutminnesota.pdf]”
Or request mailed copies through our travel counselors
The following Web sites also have more information about Minnesota: