Minnesota, United States of America (State) 1911 Profile, #02: Physical Features


The north-east part of the state is included in the Great Lakes Province, and the southern and western parts are in the Prairie Plains Province. The whole area of the state was formerly a complexly folded mountainous region of strong relief, which was 2 In addition the state contains approximately 2514 sq. m. of Lake Superior.

Afterwards worn down to a more nearly level surface, except in the extreme north-east corner, where ridges of harder rock resisted erosion. Marine deposits were laid down over the south of the state after a submergence of the region; an uplift afterwards made of these deposits a coastal plain. The rather level surface of the " worn down mountains " of the north of the state and the coastal plain beds of the southern and western parts are now dissected by rivers, which make most of the state a rolling or hilly country, without strong relief. The average elevation is about 1275 ft. above sea-level or 600 ft. above the surface of Lake Superior. An extensive water-parting in the north central part of the state, an elevation whose inclination is almost imperceptible, determines the course of three great continental river systems. From this central elevation the land slopes off in all directions, rising again in the extreme north-east corner, where the rugged granite uplift in Cook county, known as the Misquah Hills, reaches an altitude of 2230 ft., the highest point in the state; and in the south-west corner, where an altitude of 1800 ft. is reached in the Coteau des Prairies. Only in the valleys of the Red, Minnesota and Mississippi rivers does the elevation fall below 800 ft. In the southern and central portions of the state open rolling prairies interspersed with groves and belts of oak and other deciduous hard-wood timber predominate. A little north of the centre the state is traversed from northwest to south-east by the extensive forest known as the " Big Woods," in which also oak occurs most frequently. In the northern part of the state the great pine belt stretches from the head of Lake Superior westward to the confines of the Red River Valley, while along the north border and in the north-east the forest growth is almost exclusively tamarack and dwarf pine. More than three-fourths of the area of the state is arable, the small percentage of non-arable land lying principally in the north-eastern regions, which afford compensation in the form of rich mineral deposits. Of the three great continental river systems above mentioned, the Red River and its tributaries drain the western and west central slope northward through Lake Winnipeg into Hudson Bay; the other two being the St Lawrence system, to which the St Louis River and its branches and several smaller streams flowing into Lake Superior contribute their waters by way of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, which with its tributaries drains about two-thirds of the state into the Gulf of Mexico. A few rivers in the south drain into the Mississippi through Iowa, while a smaller area in the extreme north is drained through the Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake into Hudson Bay. These river systems serve the threefold purpose of drainage, providing water communications (there being about 3000 m. of navigable waters in the state), and, by falls and rapids caused by glacial displacement of rivers, furnishing a magnificent volume of water-power. The Mississippi river, which flows for about 800 m. within or along the borders of the state, has its principal sources in and near Lake Itasca. It affords facilities for the transport of logs by means of booms above Minneapolis, and is navigable below St Paul; being half a mile broad where it reaches the border of the state at Hastings. At the Falls of St Anthony, St Cloud, Little Falls and other places, it provides ample water-power for manufacturing purposes. Its two principal tributaries are the St Croix and the Minnesota. The first, after having for about 135 m. (about 50 being navigable) formed the boundary between Wisconsin and Minnesota, enters the Mississippi at Hastings; the second, rising in Big Stone Lake on the western border, but 1 m. from Lake Traverse, the source of the Red River, enters the Mississippi from the south-west between St Paul and Minneapolis after a course of about 450 m., about 2 4 0 of which are navigable at high water. Both furnish valuable water-power, which is true also of the Cannon and Zumbro rivers flowing into the Mississippi below Hastings. The Red River, which forms the western boundary of the state for more than half its distance, has its source in Lake Traverse. Its most important branch is the Red Lake River, and both are navigable for vessels of light draught at high water. In the south the western fork of the Des Moines River, flowing for 125 m. through the state, is navigable for 20 m. Glacial action determined the direction and character of the rivers, made numerous swamps, and, by scouring out rock basins, damming rivers and leaving morainal hollows, determined the character and formation of the lakes, of which Minnesota has upwards of io,000, a number probably exceeding that of any other state in the Union. The general characteristics of the lakes in the north differ from those of the south, the former being generally deep, with ragged rocky shores formed by glacial scouring which caused rock basins, the latter being mostly shallow. The most interesting feature of the glacial epoch is the extinct Lake Agassiz, which the receding ice of the later glacial period left in the Red River Valley of Minnesota,. North Dakota and Manitoba. This lake drained southward into the Gulf of Mexico via the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, until the ice sheet which had prevented its natural drainage to the north had melted sufficiently to allow it to be drained off into Hudson Bay by way of the Nelson River. The remarkably level character of the Red River district is due to horizontal deposits in the bottom of this lake, which have been little dissected by river erosion. The largest of the present lakes, Red Lake, in Beltrami county, has an area of 342 sq. m. Other large: lakes are Mille Lacs (198 sq. m.) in Mille Lacs and Aitkin counties;: Leech Lake (184 sq. m.) in Cass county; Lake Winnibigashish (82 sq. m.) in Itasca county; and Vermilion Lake (66 sq. m.) in St Louis county. On the northern boundary are the Lake of the Woods (612 sq. m.) and Rainy Lake (148 sq. m.), draining northwards into Hudson Bay. The beautiful " Park Region," centring in Ottertail county, contains several thousand lakes. Several large lakes such as Pepin, Traverse and Big Stone are river expansions. The state supports three parks-Itasca state park (22,000 acres, established in 1891), about the sources of the Mississippi, in Clearwater, Becker and Hubbard counties; the St Croix (established in 1895), in Chicago county, across the St Croix from the Wisconsin state park of the same name, and including the beautiful Dalles of the St Croix; and the Minneopa state park (established in 1905), containing Minneopa Falls, near Mankato.

NOTE: This article is an historical reference based on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, now in the Public Domain. The text is provided through scanning and OCR conversion. There may be transcription errors in the article. Encyclopedia style: 1) For reasons of cost and academic writing style, the paragraphs are long in length. 2) Contributors to articles are sometimes identified by their initials in parentheses at the end of the article. 3) Some articles include a section called "Authorities," a record of all the sources used when writing the article. 4) Information is based on knowledge available in 1911 and may be inaccurate, especially in the areas of science, law, and ethnography. 5) Images and diagrams from the original are not included with article. 6) Do not use this information for medical or legal guidance or any research requiring current information.

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      "Minnesota, United States of America," Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 18, Medal to Mumps (11th ed.), (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911); digital edition, ( : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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