Minnesota is often referred to as "The North Star State" or the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (dnr.state.mn.us), the state actually has almost 12,000 lakes, more than 6,500 rivers and streams, and over 90,000 miles of shoreline -- more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. Most of Minnesota's landscape was sculpted by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, and their retreat carved the state's landscape. Minnesota is made up of four geographical regions: the Superior Upland, the Young Drift Plains, the Dissected Till Plains and the Driftless Area.
The Superior Upland
The Superior Upland covers much of the northern half of the state from the north-central region to the shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. This region is a popular vacation destination and includes the Brainerd Lakes area at the southern end, up to Duluth and the Canadian border. The region is mostly composed of hard rock, and Minnesota's highest point, Eagle Mountain (2,301 feet above sea level), is located in this region. The Superior Upland region is the most rugged area of the state and includes thick forests and thousands of lakes and rivers. Home to Minnesota's iron ore deposits, this region is also rich in natural resources.
The Young Drift Plains
Minnesota's Young Drift Plains, covering much of the southern and central parts of the state, were formed when slow-moving glaciers scraped the land and made lake basins. Minnesota's lakes were formed when water from the melting glaciers filled the basins. The glaciers left behind rich soil called drift, giving this region of rolling plains some of the richest farmland in the U.S., according to The Center for the Study Of the Environment (naturestudy.org). This is the most populous region of the state and includes St. Paul, the state capitol, and the neighboring city of Minneapolis -- which together are often referred to as "The Twin Cities."
The Dissected Till Plains
In the southwestern corner of Minnesota, streams cut through the rich soil, forming the Dissected Till Plains. The till, or surface material, was deposited mainly by glacial movement and has become dissected over time by a number of deep valleys. This area is criss-crossed by many streams. The few flat areas in the region make good farmland due to the rich soil, which is a mix of sand, gravel and clay. The region is dotted with farms and small towns such as Pipestone, Worthington and Luverne.
The Driftless Area
The southeastern region, called the Driftless Area, is carved by deep river valleys. This area was not leveled by glaciers in the last glacial period and is probably what much of the rest of the state looked like prior to the glaciers. Along the Mississippi River in this region of the state, the land is cut by deep valleys that were created by fast flowing rivers and streams. This region is home to river bluff towns such as Red Wing, Winona and La Crescent, all of which attract tourists for their charm, antique shops and historic architecture. The region is also home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
- Netstate.com: The Geography of Minnesota
- Minnesota River Basin Data Center: Glaciation
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Minnesota Water Facts
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Lakes, rivers, and wetlands facts
- "Minnesota", Rebecca Stromstad Glaser, 2003
- Center for the Study of the Environment: Minnesota Land Use
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images