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Bemidji, Minnesota facts for kids

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Quick facts for kids
Statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Flag of Bemidji
B-Town, The Belle of Beltrami
"The First City on the Mississippi"
Location of the city of Bemidjiwithin Beltrami Countyin the state of Minnesota
Location of the city of Bemidji
within Beltrami County
in the state of Minnesota
Bemidji is located in the United States
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Beltrami
Incorporated 1896
 • City 19.50 sq mi (50.51 km2)
 • Land 14.58 sq mi (37.76 km2)
 • Water 4.92 sq mi (12.75 km2)  8.63%
1,365 ft (416 m)
 • City 14,574
 • Density 1,058.57/sq mi (408.73/km2)
 • Urban
14,500 (roughly)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 218
FIPS code 27-05068
GNIS feature ID 0655325

Bemidji ( bə-MIJ-ee) is a city and the county seat of Beltrami County, in northern Minnesota, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates Bemidji's population as of 2019 at 15,434, making it the largest commercial center between Grand Forks, North Dakota and Duluth.

As a central city for three Indian reservations, Bemidji is the site of many Native American services, including the Indian Health Service. Near Bemidji are the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Bemidji lies on the southwest shore of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost lake feeding the Mississippi River; it is nicknamed "The First City on the Mississippi". Bemidji is also the self-proclaimed "curling capital" of the U.S. and the alleged birthplace of legendary Paul Bunyan.


Its name derives from the Ojibwe Buh-mid-ji-ga-maug (Double-Vowel orthography: bemijigamaag), meaning "a lake with crossing waters". On occasion, in Ojibwe, the city of Bemidji is called Wabigamaang ("at the lake channel/narrows"), because part of the city is situated on the Lakes Bemidji/Irving narrows, located on the south end of Lake Bemidji, and extends to the eastern shore of Lake Irving. Some sources also credit the name to Chief Bemidji, an Ojibwe chief.


Bemidji Township was surveyed in 1874 and organized in 1896 twenty-four days after the village of Bemidji was chartered and is the oldest township in the county. In 1897, the county attorney declared the original Bemidji township organization illegal (no reason given) and the township reorganized June 26, 1897.

Parks and recreation

Bemidji is near Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park, Big Bog State Recreation Area, and state forest areas. Bemidji has 400 lakes within 25 miles (40 km), 500 mi (800 km) of snowmobile trails and 99 mi (160 km) of cross country ski trails. Bemidji is home to many recreational events throughout the year. The Paul Bunyan Triathlon is the 3rd Saturday in August. The Dragon Boat Festival is a racing competition held at the waterfront during the first week of August. The Bemidji Polar Days is a week-long event held during the winter months. The Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon is also held in Bemidji.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.14 square miles (36.62 km2), of which 12.92 square miles (33.46 km2) is land and 1.22 square miles (3.16 km2) is water.

Four-lane U.S. Route 2, U.S. Route 71, and Minnesota State Highway 197 are three of the main routes in the city. Minnesota State Highways 89 and 371 are nearby.

The largest earthquake on record for the Bemidji area was recorded on September 3, 1917. It is claimed that it shook houses down in Bemidji and across northern Minnesota. The epicenter was about 95 miles (153 km) away in Staples, Minnesota and affected an area of 48,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) with a magnitude 4.4 with a maximum intensity of VI to VII. The closest and most recent quake occurred in Walker, Minnesota on September 27, 1982 with a magnitude of 2.0.


Bemidji has a hemiboreal humid continental climate, Dfb in the Koeppen climate classification - short, warm summers; long, severe winters. The average mean annual temperature in Bemidji is 37.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest month is January with an average daily high of 16 degrees and an average daily low of -4 degrees. The warmest month is July with an average daily high of 79 degrees and an average daily low of 57 degrees. The average annual humidity is 47%. The average annual snowfall is 41.1 inches and the average annual rainfall is 23.8 inches. The average day Lake Bemidji freezes over is November 26 and the average day the ice goes off the lake is April 26.

Climate data for Bemidji, Minnesota
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 52
Average high °F (°C) 16.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 5.9
Average low °F (°C) −4.3
Record low °F (°C) −50
Average snowfall inches (cm) 8.2
Source: Climatography of the United States


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,183
1910 5,099 133.6%
1920 7,086 39.0%
1930 7,202 1.6%
1940 9,427 30.9%
1950 10,001 6.1%
1960 9,958 −0.4%
1970 11,490 15.4%
1980 10,949 −4.7%
1990 11,245 2.7%
2000 11,917 6.0%
2010 13,431 12.7%
2020 14,574 8.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 13,431 people, 5,339 households, and 2,557 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,039.6 inhabitants per square mile (401.4/km2). There were 5,748 housing units at an average density of 444.9 per square mile (171.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.3% White, 1.2% African American, 11.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 4.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.

There were 5,339 households, of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.7% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.1% were non-families. Of all households, 38.6% were made up of individuals, and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.83.

The median age in the city was 27.1 years. 19.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 26.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21.6% were from 25 to 44; 17.5% were from 45 to 64; and 14.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.


1894 photo of Carson's Trading Post, Bemidji's first white business. Brothers George Earl and Merian Ellsworth Carson moved to the area in 1888, and Merian eventually married into a Leach Lake Band family.

Bemidji is a college city with strong arts influences. The city's streets are lined with small shops and adorned with sculptures and other forms of public art.

The Concordia Language Villages are located near Bemidji and have been influential in the existence of several language conversational groups (including French, Chinese, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, and German) that meet weekly in local coffee houses.

In 2011, Red Lake Ojibwe Nation Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. complimented the city for its Ojibwe language signage in places of business.

During the summer, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse operates a non-Equity, summer stock theater. Bemidji Community Theatre also provides live theatre for the Bemidji area when Paul Bunyan Playhouse is not in operation.

Regional center

The City of Bemidji acts as a regional center for shopping, arts, entertainment, education, health services, worship, and government services. The Bemidji Area includes parts or all of Beltrami (Pop. 44,442), Hubbard (Pop. 20,428), Cass (Pop. 28,567), Itasca (Pop. 45,058), Koochiching (Pop. 13,311), Lake Of The Woods (Pop. 4,045), Marshall (Pop. 9,439), Pennington (Pop. 13,930), Red Lake (Pop. 4,089), Clearwater (Pop. 8,695), and Mahnomen (Pop. 5,413) counties. The Bemidji area also includes the White Earth (Pop. 9,192) and Leech Lake (Pop. 10,660) Reservations and the Sovereign Nation of Red Lake (Pop. 5,162). This places the Bemidji Area population at 131,553.

In popular culture



Industries Number of Employees
Healthcare and social assistance 6,782
Retail Trade 2,669
Accommodation and food services 1,327
Professional, scientific, and technical services 760
Other services (except public administrations) 550
Finance and insurance 351
Information 343
Wholesale trade 335
Transportation and warehousing 222
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 165
Manufacturing 149
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 130
Educational services 109
Utilities 93
Real estate and rental and leasing 60

These are the top 15 industries in Bemidji. On the United States Census Bureau American Factfinder, some industries had a range of employees, so the average number of employees were used. Also, some industries, such as healthcare and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, other services, arts, entertainment, and reaction, and educational services were split into three different categories. The number of employees for the three categories was combined into one category.


The city is well-known to hockey fans. As a Division II team, Bemidji State was a hockey dynasty in the 1980s and '90s. Bemidji State was in the title game eight straight years, winning five titles. It became a Division I team in 1999, and has not won any Division I titles.

The city is also familiar to curling fans. Both men's and women's rinks from the Bemidji Curling Club won the right to represent the United States in the 2005 World Curling Championship and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Pete Fenson, the skip of the U.S. curling team that took the bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, is a native of Bemidji, as is Natalie Nicholson, who was the lead for the United States women's team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A city referendum for a Bemidji Regional Events Center passed by a slim majority of 43 votes out of 4,583 cast in November 2006. Opening in 2010, the center was renamed the Sanford Center and serves as home to the Bemidji State University hockey team. The men's and women's hockey teams are both members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. From 2014 to 2015, the Sanford Center was the home of the city's first-ever professional sports team, the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League.

From January 16 to January 19, Bemidji hosted Hockey Day Minnesota, a three-day event aired on Fox Sports. The Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University boys and girls hockey teams both played on outdoor rinks outside of the Sanford Center. The Minnesota Wild team also played on the outdoor rinks.

In 2013, runners signed up for the first Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon. The race, run in October, draws athletes and recreational runners from around the region. The events spawned a weekend of races that includes two kids races, a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and a 26K that circles Lake Bemidji.


Bemidji is home to Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College, and Oak Hills Christian College. Public education, served by Bemidji Area Schools, is a part of Independent School District 31, and includes eight elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. Also in the district are TrekNorth Charter High School, Voyagers Charter High School, Schoolcraft Charter School, and Bemidji is home to three private schools: St. Philip's Catholic School, St. Mark's Lutheran School and Heartland Christian Academy.


Major highways

The following routes are in the Bemidji area.

  • US 2.svg U.S. Highway 2
  • US 71.svg U.S. Highway 71
  • MN-89.svg Minnesota State Highway 89
  • MN-197.svg Minnesota State Highway 197

Air service

Bemidji is served by Bemidji Airport, which has passenger services on three airlines, Delta Connection, Sun Country Airlines and Bemidji Airlines, the latter of which is based in Bemidji. Bemidji Airlines also operates cargo flights, while Corporate Air is the only airline to operate all-cargo-only flights to the airport, on behalf of FedEx Express.

Notable people

  • Russell A. Anderson, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court
  • Roy C. Booth, author
  • Gary Burger, guitarist and lead vocalist for the band The Monks
  • Dave Casper, football player
  • Bob Decker, Minnesota state senator and educator
  • Pete Fenson, American curling skip
  • Terry Frost, actor, starred in The Monster Maker
  • Bryan Hickerson, baseball player
  • Bob A. Johnson, Minnesota state representative
  • Frank Moe, Minnesota state representative
  • Joe Motzko, hockey player
  • Kent Nerburn, author
  • Brian Paulson, record producer and musician
  • Jane Russell, actress
  • Gary Sargent, ice hockey defenseman
  • Gail Skare, Minnesota state representative
  • Kerry Taylor, baseball player
  • Theodore W. Thorson, Minnesota state representative
  • Will Weaver, author and professor emeritus.

See also

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