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Central Minnesota facts for kids

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National-atlas-central-minnesota image with outline of region generally defined as central Minnesota

Central Minnesota is the region consisting of the central portion of the state of Minnesota. Although no specific boundaries of the region exist, most definitions of what makes up the region would generally consist of the vast swath of land north of Interstate 94, east of U.S. Highway 59, south of U.S. Highway 2, and west of U.S. Highway 169.


The northern portion of the region contains many softwood forests, including the expansive Chippewa National Forest. The western and southern portions of the region, meanwhile, are dotted with rolling prairie, and as such, contain the largest agricultural operations in the region. The eastern part of the region contains a great deal of both hardwood and softwood forests, and once had rich iron ore deposits. The now-depleted Cuyuna Range, which formed the southwestern border of the large Iron Range region of Minnesota, was located near Crosby and Ironton at the eastern edge of the region.

One thing the entire region of central Minnesota has in common, however, is its abundance of lakes. Indeed, many of the lakes that make Minnesota the "land of 10,000 lakes" can be found in the central part of the state. A typical image conjured up of central Minnesota is likely to include the many large and small lakes that surround the central Minnesota cities of St. Cloud (by far the region's largest city), Alexandria, Brainerd, and Grand Rapids.

Two lakes situated within the region, Mille Lacs Lake, with an area of 206 mi² (534 km²), and Leech Lake, with an area of 175 mi² (453 km²), are, respectively, the second and third largest lakes located entirely within Minnesota. The Mississippi River winds extensively through the region from its source at Lake Itasca.

Area high school athletic conferences acknowledge the region's location and natural geography with names including Central Lakes,[1] Granite Ridge, Great River, [2] Heart O'Lakes,[3] Mid-State,[4] and Pine to Prairie.[5]


The ethnic makeup of central Minnesota is largely representative of the first settlers who came to the region. People of German and Scandinavian heritage by far make up the majority of the region’s residents, though there is also a sizable Native American population. Two of the state’s largest reservations, the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and the White Earth Indian Reservation, are located within the boundaries of central Minnesota. In addition, the small Mille Lacs Indian Reservation is also located within the region, along the southshores of Mille Lacs Lake, from near the city of Garrison to Isle.

Although the 1996 film Fargo and its television series are largely set in the region’s cities of Brainerd and Bemidji, the accents of those living in central Minnesota are not nearly as pronounced as those in the franchise. The central Minnesotan dialect can be said to be analogous to that of the entire Upper Midwest.


Central Minnesota is home to one MSA and one μSA.

St. Cloud MSA (pop. 192,510)

Brainerd μSA (pop. 91,067)

Other Central Minnesota cities include:

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