Nickname: The North Star State

Statehood: 1858; 32nd state

Population (as of July 2016): 5,519,952

Capital: St. Paul

Biggest City: Minneapolis

Abbreviation: MN

State bird: common loon

State flower: pink and white lady slipper


Minnesota state flag


The first people probably came to the area now called Minnesota about 12,000 years ago. Native American tribes including the Dakota Sioux, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Iowa, Omaha, Winnebago, and Ojibwe, among others, lived on the land many centuries later.


After winning the American Revolution, the United States took control of land previously owned by Britain that’s now part of the Midwest. Then in 1803 the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. Portions of land from both of these areas, and land gained by making treaties with Native Americans, were combined to form the Minnesota Territory.


Minnesota was later expanded through treaties with the Dakota Indians, and in 1858 it became the 32nd state. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, Minnesota—a Union state—was the first state to volunteer troops to fight.



The name Minnesota comes from the Dakota tribe’s word for the Minnesota River, mnisota, meaning “cloudy, muddy water” or “sky-tinted water.”


Minnesota’s official nickname comes from its French state motto, adopted in 1861: l’étoile du nord meaning, “the star of the north.” Another unofficial nickname is the Land of 10,000 Lakes because, well, Minnesota has thousands of lakes—11,842 to be exact!


Minnesota is bordered by Canada in the north, Lake Superior and Wisconsin in the east, Iowa in the south, and North and South Dakota in the west. Most of the state’s topography (or the shape of the terrain) was created thousands of years ago by glaciers. These slow-moving masses of ice carved out the Minnesota’s plains and low hills. They also created the state’s many lakes.


Northern Minnesota boasts deep lakes and streams, rocky ridges, thick forests, and the state’s highest point, Eagle Mountain. This area borders Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area.


Running west from the Canadian border to the edge of South Dakota is the Red River Valley, a mostly flat area with fertile soil.


Southwestern Minnesota is characterized by thick glacial deposits of clay and gravel.


The far southeastern part of the state is the only area that wasn’t affected by glaciers during the last ice age. It has stream-cut valleys, caverns, and high bluffs.


American martens, bobcats, muskrats, raccoons, and white-tailed deer are a few of Minnesota’s mammals. Gyrfalcons, great horned owls, and snipes are among the birds that fly through the state. Minnesota’s amphibians include western chorus frogs, eastern red-backed salamanders, and northern map turtles. The state is also home to reptiles such as prairie skinks, garter snakes, and venomous timber rattlesnakes.


Among Minnesota’s 52 native tree species are quaking aspen, American elm, mountain maple, white spruce, and red pine (the state tree). Doll’s eyes (known for their eyeball-like berries), black-eyed Susans, sunflowers, white meadowsweet, and sweet pea are a few of the state’s wildflowers.

State Flower: pink and white lady's slipper; State Bird: common loon; State Tree: Red pine; State Quarter


Minnesota’s Mesabi mountain range has been a huge producer of iron ore. The state is also known for mining manganese, which is used to make aluminum and steel, and can also be found in batteries.



  • Downtown Minneapolis has a nine-mile-long system of aboveground walkways that stretches between city buildings. Connecting more than 73 blocks, it’s considered the world’s biggest skyway.
  • Famous Minnesotans include “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland, and musicians Prince and Bob Dylan.
  • Minnesota’s Mall of America is the biggest mall in the United States. It has more than 500 stores, a seven-acre amusement park, and full-size roller coasters inside!
  • Waterskiing was invented in Minnesota in 1922.
  • Legend has it giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox created Minnesota's lakes with their footprints. But the lakes were actually created by melting glaciers!


Map of U.S. showing location of Minnesota

Text by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh

Photo credits: loon: purejoyimagery, iStockphoto (loon); gkuchera, iStockphoto (lady slipper); joelbli, iStockphoto (pine); Gaussian_Blur, iStockphoto (quarter); Americanspirit, Dreamstime (flag)

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