Frances Andrews worked as an advocate for social justice, education, and conservation in the early twentieth century. She called for preservation of the forests and lakes that became the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and experimented with land restoration in northwestern Wisconsin. Her legacy includes an endowment that continues to support social and environmental causes in the 2010s.
Roughly ten thousand years ago, raging glacial meltwaters created the broad valley of the Upper Mississippi River that we know today. They also helped form one of the river’s most famous and significant landmarks: Barn Bluff.
The Beltrami Island Project was a pioneering land program of the New Deal enacted across hundreds of thousands of acres in northern Minnesota. Federal and state governments worked side by side to move residents off of poor farmland as well as to restore forest across areas of the cutover region.
Since 1952, the Citizens League has had a major impact on public policies in Minnesota. A group of civic leaders had the idea of inviting leaders from different parts of the community to the table to solve big policy issues. This meant bringing together lawmakers, union leaders, heads of Minnesota companies, and experts from universities and industries. As a group, these experts and leaders would study an issue and then write a research paper they could all agree on. Then they would do the political work required to make their conclusions a reality.
The U.S. Congress paved the way for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) when it passed the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act in March 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. This New Deal program offered meaningful work to young men with few employment prospects. It resulted in a lasting legacy of forestry, soil, and water conservation, as well as enhancements to Minnesota's state and national parks.
The worst natural disaster in Minnesota history—over 450 dead, fifteen hundred square miles consumed, towns and villages burned flat—unfolded at a frightening pace, lasting less than fifteen hours from beginning to end. The fire began around midday on Saturday, October 12, 1918. By 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, all was over but the smoldering, the suffering, and the recovery.
Between 1913 and 1914 the Coon Rapids hydroelectric dam was constructed with the intent to provide power to Anoka County. The dam was shut down in 1966 after becoming too expensive to operate. It later became part of Minnesota’s environmental control program.
The Itasca forest during the late nineteenth century contained towering pines and numerous lakes. Individuals like surveyor Jacob Brower became captivated by the region and the wildlife that inhabited it. They recognized that the economic potential of northern Minnesota would change its landscape. Their effort to preserve Lake Itasca led them to contend with the lumber industry, public interests, and the politics that weaved between them.
In April 1965, the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers crested at record levels, flooding cities and towns across the Upper Midwest. The disaster was especially evident in Chaska and Carver, where the Minnesota River reached its highest-recorded local level on April 12. While much of the two communities was severely damaged, residents pulled together to save the new Carver County courthouse.
Expert Essay: Associate professor of history Michael J. Lansing, published in Environmental History as well as Ethics, Place, and Environment, highlights the many ways people have made use of Minnesota's flora and fauna over time and reviews the state's more recent efforts at conservation.
On June 12, 1873, farmers in southwestern Minnesota saw what looked like a snowstorm coming towards their fields from the west. What seemed to be snowflakes were in fact grasshoppers. In a matter of hours, knee-high fields of grass and wheat were eaten to the ground by hungry hoppers.
On October 30, 1991, no one in Minnesota foresaw a blizzard. Local meteorologists predicted a few inches of snow. The snow began to fall in the early to mid-afternoon of October 31—Halloween Day— and fell steadily for almost three days. When it stopped, snow measured over thirty inches in the eastern part of Minnesota, from Duluth to Dodge Center, breaking a record set in 1882.
The Lake Vermilion–Soudan Underground Mine State Park occupies over four thousand acres in the far northeast corner of Minnesota. The site contains a historic underground iron mine as well as the fifth largest lake in Minnesota and its surrounding habitat.
Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, and Pokegama Falls Dams were built in the Mississippi Headwaters during the late 19th century. These structures preceded the construction of the Headwaters reservoir system and played key roles in flood prevention and river control during the 20th century.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1934 and 1935, the Marcell Ranger Station exemplifies the core principles of the National Park Service's architectural philosophy: minimalist construction and use of native materials.
The conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul, which opened on November 7, 1915, is a well-maintained example of a Victorian greenhouse. While many similar “crystal palaces” have been torn down, St. Paul’s conservatory has remained a center for horticulture, recreation, and education for over a century.
In 1962 and 1963, industrial accidents spilled 3.5 million gallons of oil into the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. The oil covered the Mississippi River from St. Paul to Lake Pepin, creating an ecological disaster and a demand to control water pollution.
The Headwaters Dams were built between 1881 and 1912 in the Mississippi headwaters. The dams served to regulate river flow and assist navigation until 1938, when they were relegated to a flood control role.
Platteville limestone is a distinctive building stone of southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin characterized by its gray color, rough texture, and many fossils. It was heavily used in the early decades of the building of the Twin Cities and Faribault.
A devastating cyclone hit Rochester on August 21, 1883. It killed dozens of people and injured many more, but emergency health services in the tornado's aftermath also led to the eventual creation of the Mayo Clinic.
The July 13, 1890, capsizing of the steamer Sea Wing on Lake Pepin and the deaths of ninety-eight of its passengers horrified Minnesota and the nation. The accident ranks among the most deadly on America’s inland waterways.
On October 5, 1869, water seeped and then gushed into a tunnel underneath St. Anthony Falls creating an enormous whirlpool. The falls were nearly destroyed. It was years before the area was fully stabilized and the falls were again safe from collapse.
When Congress enacted the Timber Culture Act of 1873, many hoped that giving settlers deed to public lands in return for growing trees would reshape the environment of the West. However, legal loopholes meant that most of the tree claims filed under the Timber Culture Act were never planted with trees. Fraudulent claims and wild speculation meant that the act was repealed less than twenty years after it was enacted.