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Cottonwood County, Minnesota facts for kids

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Cottonwood County
Cottonwood County Courthouse
Cottonwood County Courthouse
Map of Minnesota highlighting Cottonwood County
Location within the U.S. state of Minnesota
Map of the United States highlighting Minnesota
Minnesota's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Minnesota
Founded May 23, 1857 (created)
July 29, 1870 (organized)
Named for Cottonwood River
Seat Windom
Largest city Windom
 • Total 649 sq mi (1,680 km2)
 • Land 639 sq mi (1,660 km2)
 • Water 10 sq mi (30 km2)  1.5%%
 • Total 11,517
 • Estimate 
11,569 Increase
 • Density 18.0/sq mi (6.9/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts 1st, 7th

Cottonwood County is a county in the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of the 2020 census, the population was 11,517. Its county seat is Windom.


Cottonwood County was established May 23, 1857 and formally organized on July 29, 1870. It was named after the Cottonwood River - a translation of the Dakota Sioux name, "Waraju" - which runs through the northeast corner of Germantown Township. The river received its name from the abundance of cottonwood trees on its banks.

Minnesota Governor Austin appointed three county commissioners when the county was established. They met at a private home about six miles northwest of Windom on the Des Moines River at Big Bend. During this meeting, they designated the commissioners districts and changed various county officers. In the fall of 1870, the first general election was held. The first deed on record was filed on January 10, 1870. The first land assessments were made in 1871, and in 1872, the first taxes were paid.

The city of Windom was declared the county seat in the 1872 general election and a proclamation was signed by the governor.

County NRHP listings

  • The Cottonwood County Courthouse built in 1904, is an example of Neoclassical architecture and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Mountain Park, located southeast of Mountain Lake, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, since 1973. A 1976 archeological dig unearthed evidence of Fox Indian inhabitation there dating from as early as 500 B.C. Thus, the park has the honor of being home to the site of the oldest human habitation yet to be discovered in the state of Minnesota.
  • The Jeffers Petroglyphs, located near the town of Jeffers, is a site containing pre-European Native American rock carvings which is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Presidential Election Results 2000-2016
Year Democratic Republican
2016 29.33% 1,678 64.31% 3,679
2012 41.50% 2,433 56.57% 3,316
2008 45.71% 2,759 52.30% 3,157
2004 42.80% 2,726 55.85% 3,557
2000 40.50% 2,503 54.51% 3,369


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 649 square miles (1,680 km2), of which 639 square miles (1,660 km2) is land and 10 square miles (26 km2) (1.5%) is water.


The northeast part of the county drains north to the Minnesota River through numerous small creeks, the Cottonwood River and Watonwan River. The southwest part of the county drains south through the Des Moines River. These two watersheds come together at the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa. Most wetlands in the county have been drained for agricultural use.


Des Moines River Watershed Minnesota River Watershed
  • Clear Lake: in Lakeside Township
  • Clear Lake: there is another Clear Lake, mostly in Southbrook Township, but the far southern side stretches into Jackson County
  • Cottonwood Lake: eastern two thirds in Lakeside Township; western third in Great Bend Township
  • Harder Lake: in Dale Township
  • Talcot Lake: mostly in Southbrook Township, but the far western side stretches into Murray County
  • Oaks Lake: mostly in Southbrook Township, but the northern quarter is in Rose Hill Township
  • Parso Lake: in Lakeside Township
  • String Lakes: mostly in Great Bend Township, but the southern tip is in Jackson County
  • Three Lakes: in Lakeside Township
  • Warren Lake: in Great Bend Township
  • Wolf Lake: in Lakeside Township
  • Arnolds Lake: in Dale Township
  • Augusta Lake: in Amo Township
  • Bartsh Lake: in Carson Township
  • Bat Lake (see Rat Lake)
  • Bean Lake: in Westbrook Township
  • Bingham Lake: in Lakeside Township
  • Carey Lake: in Rose Hill Township
  • Clear Lake: there is a third Clear Lake in Westbrook Township
  • Double Lake: in Westbrook Township
  • Eagle Lake: in Carson Township
  • Fish Lake: northern third in Lakeside Township; southern two thirds in Jackson County
  • Hurricane Lake: mostly in Highwater Township but the far western tip is in Westbrook Township and the souther third is in Storden Township
  • Long Lake: in Carson Township
  • Long Lake: there is another Long Lake in Rose Hill Township
  • Maiden Lake: in Carson Township
  • Mountain Lake: in Midway Township
  • Rat Lake: in Carson Township
  • Round Lake: in Westbrook Township
  • Swan Lake: in Dale Township

Major highways

  • US 71.svg U.S. Highway 71
  • MN-30.svg Minnesota State Highway 30
  • MN-60.svg Minnesota State Highway 60
  • MN-62.svg Minnesota State Highway 62

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 12
1870 534 4,350.0%
1880 5,533 936.1%
1890 7,412 34.0%
1900 12,069 62.8%
1910 12,651 4.8%
1920 14,570 15.2%
1930 14,782 1.5%
1940 16,143 9.2%
1950 15,763 −2.4%
1960 16,166 2.6%
1970 14,887 −7.9%
1980 14,854 −0.2%
1990 12,694 −14.5%
2000 12,167 −4.2%
2010 11,687 −3.9%
2020 11,517 −1.5%
2021 (est.) 11,569 −1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020
USA Cottonwood County, Minnesota age pyramid
Age pyramid of county residents based on 2000 census data

As of the 2000 census, there were 12,167 people, 4,917 households, and 3,338 families in the county. The population density was 19.0/sqmi (7.35/km2). There were 5,376 housing units at an average density of 8.41/sqmi (3.25/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.23% White, 0.34% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 1.63% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.35% from other races, and 1.14% from two or more races. 2.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 50.2% were of German and 18.6% Norwegian ancestry.

There were 4,917 households, out of which 28.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.10% were married couples living together, 6.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.10% were non-families. 28.90% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.94.

The county population contained 25.00% under the age of 18, 6.50% from 18 to 24, 23.20% from 25 to 44, 23.20% from 45 to 64, and 22.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 94.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,943, and the median income for a family was $40,237. Males had a median income of $28,993 versus $19,934 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,647. About 7.40% of families and 11.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.40% of those under age 18 and 8.70% of those age 65 or over.

County parks

  • Dynamite (Great Bend Township)
  • Lady Bird (Southbrook Township)
  • Pat's Grove (Springfield Township)
  • Mountain (Mountain Lake Township)
  • Red Rock (Germantown Township)
  • South Dutch Charlie (Westbrook Township)
  • Talcot Lake (Southbrook Township)




  • Amboy Township
  • Amo Township
  • Ann Township
  • Carson Township
  • Dale Township
  • Delton Township
  • Germantown Township
  • Great Bend Township
  • Highwater Township
  • Lakeside Township
  • Midway Township
  • Mountain Lake Township
  • Rose Hill Township
  • Selma Township
  • Southbrook Township
  • Springfield Township
  • Storden Township
  • Westbrook Township

Unincorporated community

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