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Dakota County, Minnesota facts for kids

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Dakota County
Dakota County Courthouse
Dakota County Courthouse
Map of Minnesota highlighting Dakota 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 October 27, 1849
Named for Dakota people
Seat Hastings
Largest city Lakeville
 • Total 587 sq mi (1,520 km2)
 • Land 562 sq mi (1,460 km2)
 • Water 25 sq mi (60 km2)  4.2%%
 • Total 439,882
 • Estimate 
442,038 Increase
 • Density 786/sq mi (303/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Dakota County is the third-most populous county in the U.S. state of Minnesota, located in the east central portion of the state. As of the 2020 census, the population was 439,882. The population of Dakota County was estimated to be 442,038 in 2021. The county seat is Hastings. Dakota County is named for the Dakota Sioux tribal bands who inhabited the area. The name is recorded as "Dahkotah" in the United States Census records until 1851. Dakota County is included in the MinneapolisSt. PaulBloomington, MN–WI Metropolitan Statistical Area, the sixteenth largest metropolitan area in the United States with about 3.64 million residents. The largest city in Dakota County is the city of Lakeville, the eleventh-largest city in Minnesota and sixth-largest Twin Cities suburb. The county is bordered by the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers on the north, and the state of Wisconsin on the east.


Little Crow-cropped image
Taoyateduta led the Mendota Mdewakanton in northern Dakota County. He and 121 Sioux leaders ceded much of the present Twin Cities region.

In the 1600s, Mdewakanton Dakota fled their ancestral home of Mille Lacs Lake in northern Minnesota in response to westward expansion of the Ojibway nation. According to Dakota tradition, their ancestors pushed out the Iowa who were found settled at the mouth of the Minnesota River. Later in 1680, the Mdewakanton Dakota were contacted by French explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut and the Mendota (mdo-TE) band of the Mdewakanton south of the Minnesota River were contacted later by Joseph Nicollet in the 18th century. While Taoyateduta (a.k.a. Little Crow) led the Mendota in northern Dakota County, upstream to the southwest, Chief Black Dog established his village of 600 people around 1750 at the isthmus between Black Dog Lake (from which is named after him) and the Minnesota River, near the present site of the Black Dog Power Plant.

St. Peter's Mendota 2006
Saint Peter's Church in Mendota is the state's oldest church

Following the published expeditions of explorers, in 1805, Zebulon Pike negotiated for military territory with the Mendota band which included land in Dakota County at the Mississippi River confluences with the Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers. In 1819, on what is now Picnic Island on the south bank of the Minnesota River, Colonel Henry Leavenworth built a stockade fort called "St. Peter's Cantonment" or "New Hope," where materials were assembled for the construction of Fort Snelling to be built on the bluff on the north bank. Permanent settlement on the island was impossible due to annual flooding. Alexis Bailey built some log buildings nearby to trade in furs in 1826. Henry Hastings Sibley later built the first stone house in Minnesota in 1836, overlooking Fort Snelling. Sibley was a partner in the American Fur Company, and considerable fur trade occurred at Mendota due to the accessibility of the confluence.

On-going United States expansion into the then "Northwest Territory" led to government purchase of land from the Dakota people (the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton bands) via the Treaty of St. Peters and the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851. and the Treaty of Mendota. After the establishment of the Minnesota Territory in 1849, Dakotah County (later Dakota County) spanned from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River. By the time Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858, power and influence had shifted from Mendota, across the rivers to Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Hastings and South Saint Paul

Continuing into the 20th century, the hub of activity in the county was in Hastings, the county seat, and a focal point of transportation, communication, and commerce. St. Peter's, now Mendota, had lost out to Fort Snelling. Hastings is critically located on the Mississippi River at the confluence of the St. Croix River and on the Vermillion River, which provided ample water power. Commercial interests built substantial wealth among the businessmen who dealt in lumber, milling, and railroads as the county residents depended on them to sell their agricultural products and to provide the goods needed for a growing economy and rising standard of living.

During this time, the stockyards and meat-packing plants in South Saint Paul became historically significant as the largest stockyards in the world. Ranchers in the vast countryside to the west brought their livestock for shipping to the hungry populations of St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans, downstream. These plants were worked by new immigrants from Romania, Serbia, and other Eastern European countries. The rest of the county remained agricultural during the boom of milling activity north of the Minnesota River due to lack of bridge connections. Rail access came in 1866 via the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railroad which shipped grain to millers. The Minneapolis St. Paul Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Company line in 1905 (now the Dan Patch Corridor), was primary for passengers going to entertainment parks and resorts in Burnsville and Lakeville.

Suburban growth

Beginning in the 1950s, population and household growth shifted to the western portion of the county. This area of Dakota County had been predominantly Irish and Scottish extending southward toward the Scandinavians of Southern Minnesota. As population pressures expanded south from Minneapolis and Bloomington, the completion of Interstate 35W and 35E brought about major construction in the post-World War II period, turning villages into cities over the period of 20 years. Burnsville, Apple Valley, Eagan, and Lakeville brought over 200,000 people into the county by the end of the century. The Western and Northern Service Centers were constructed in the early 1990s each with an additional courthouse location. License centers were subsequently set up in Burnsville and Lakeville. Though pressure remained since the postwar boom to move the county seat to one of the larger communities in the county, the Dakota County Board maintained the seat in Hastings, while providing government services across the county.

Historic sites

The history of the county is well-illustrated by the Registered Historic Places in the county, including the settlement at Mendota, the homes of well-heeled residents of Hastings, the ethnic gathering places in South Saint Paul, and other sites related to life on the prairie, including religion, education, transportation, commerce, and farm life.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 587 square miles (1,520 km2), of which 562 square miles (1,460 km2) is land and 25 square miles (65 km2) (4.2%) is water. The surface is nearly level.


Vermillion Falls in Hastings

The northern and eastern border of Dakota County is marked by the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Management and jurisdiction of the rivers falls into multiple local, State and Federal agencies. Most of the Minnesota River bank is under the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge with fish, wildlife, and parkland managed collectively by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District assists the county's six watershed management organizations (WMO) which include the Black Dog WMO, Gun Club Lake WMO, Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, Lower Mississippi WMO, North Cannon River WMO, and the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization.



Major highways

  • I-35.svg Interstate 35
  • I-35E.svg Interstate 35E
  • I-35W.svg Interstate 35W
  • I-494.svg Interstate 494
  • US 52.svg US Highway 52
  • US 61.svg US Highway 61
  • MN-3.svg Minnesota State Highway 3
  • MN-13.svg Minnesota State Highway 13
  • MN-19.svg Minnesota State Highway 19
  • MN-20.svg Minnesota State Highway 20
  • MN-50.svg Minnesota State Highway 50
  • MN-55.svg Minnesota State Highway 55
  • MN-56.svg Minnesota State Highway 56
  • MN-77.svg Minnesota State Highway 77
  • MN-110.svg Minnesota State Highway 110
  • MN-149.svg Minnesota State Highway 149
  • MN-156.svg Minnesota State Highway 156
  • MN-316.svg Minnesota State Highway 316
  • County 42 (MN).svg County Road 42
  • County 23 (MN).svg County Road 23
  • Other County Roads

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 584
1860 9,093 1,457.0%
1870 16,312 79.4%
1880 17,391 6.6%
1890 20,240 16.4%
1900 21,733 7.4%
1910 25,171 15.8%
1920 28,967 15.1%
1930 34,592 19.4%
1940 39,660 14.7%
1950 49,019 23.6%
1960 78,303 59.7%
1970 139,808 78.5%
1980 194,279 39.0%
1990 275,227 41.7%
2000 355,904 29.3%
2010 398,552 12.0%
2020 439,882 10.4%
2021 (est.) 442,038 10.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2010 census

According to the 2010 census, Dakota County had a population of 398,552, of which 195,661 (49.1%) were male and 202,891 (50.9%) were female. In terms of age, 76.7% of the population were 16 years and over, 73.6% were 18 years and over, 70.5% were 21 years and over, 12.8% were 62 years and over, and 10.0% were 65 years and over. The median age was 36.8 years. The median age for males was 35.7; the median age for females was 37.9.

In terms of race and ethnicity, the county was 85.2% White (82.3% Non-Hispanic White), 4.7% Black or African American, 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 4.4% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 2.4% from some other race, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 6.0% of the population.

In terms of households, 69.5% were family households and 30.5% were non-family households. Approximately 55.2% were husband-wife family households; 26% had children under 18 years of age. Approximately 36.6% of households had children under 18 years of age living in them; 18.6% had people over the age of 65 living in them. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.12. In terms of housing occupancy, 95.3% of households were occupied and 4.7% were vacant. Of the vacant housing units, 2.0% were for rent, 0.1% were rented but not occupied, 1.2% were for sale only, 0.2% were sold but not occupied, 0.5% were for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use, and 0.8% were all other vacants. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7% and the rental vacancy rate was 8.1%. Of all occupied housing units, 76.5% were owner-occupied and 23.5% were renter-occupied. The population in owner-occupied units was 314,833; the average household size was 2.71. The population in renter-occupied units was 80,866; the average household size was 2.26.




Street in downtown Apple Valley with signature red lamp posts. In the background is the Western Service Center.

Dakota County is home to sites significant in the state's early history. At Mendota, the Treaty of Mendota was signed, opening much of Southern Minnesota to settlement, and there prominent Saint Paul businessmen built their grand mansions. Though linked with the state's capital for much of history via rail, Dakota County owes much of its current growth to the expansion of Minneapolis' population which accelerated during the post-World War II boom era of the 1960s. This demand for housing along with two major interstate highways linking Minneapolis (I-35W) and St. Paul (I-35E) to the county concentrated major growth and demand along the northern end. Today, the cities of Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Rosemount, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Mendota Heights, West St. Paul, and South St. Paul are synonymous with the Twin Cities, as being part of "the Cities." Both Burnsville and Eagan are nearly developed and have become more like independent cities attracting major development than just residential bedroom suburbs.

Lakeville's downtown began in the early 20th century, contrasting its modern suburban development.

In contrast, the southern part of Dakota County reflects the rural past with small towns such as Farmington, Coates, Vermillion, Hampton, Randolph, and Miesville where street grids and housing dating from the early 20th century can be found. Much of the county is self-contained except for two examples. The City of Hastings, the county seat, lies on both banks of the Mississippi River and was heavily linked historically and physically by rail to the early growing influence of the state's capital, Saint Paul. On the south border, the City of Northfield, technically in Rice County, has slightly expanded north into Dakota however the city itself is allowed into the municipal sewer boundary.

Though all of Dakota County is considered part of the metropolitan area and open to major development, the county government has steadily preserved farmland and continues to acquire new permanent natural lands in the southern townships. This has further defined the boundaries between urbanized and rural which is starkly visible in the outskirts of the developed cities. While the center of population still lies north with more cosmopolitan residents, culturally Dakota County is a rural community and the Dakota County Fair is still a largely agricultural event and held in Farmington.

Most of northern Dakota County is frequently referred to as "South of the River" for its location being south of the Minnesota River.



  • Castle Rock Township
  • Douglas Township
  • Empire Township
  • Eureka Township
  • Greenvale Township
  • Hampton Township
  • Marshan Township
  • Nininger Township
  • Randolph Township
  • Ravenna Township
  • Sciota Township
  • Vermillion Township
  • Waterford Township

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns


Since the county grew as a bedroom community of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, over half of the residents (54%) work outside the county.


Dakota County is home to the state's largest school districts and some of the highest paid Superintendents. Nationally recognized Independent School District 196 (Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan) houses 28,000 and is the fourth largest school district in the state. Other districts include Independent School District 191 (Burnsville–Eagan–Savage School District), Independent School District 194 (Lakeville–Elko–New Market), Independent School District 197 (West St. Paul–Mendota Heights–Eagan) and Independent School District 200 (Hastings).


High school

  • Apple Valley High School (ISD 196)
  • Burnsville Senior High School (ISD 191)
  • Burnsville Alternative High School (ISD 191)
  • Eagan High School (ISD 196)
  • Eastview High School (ISD 196)
  • Farmington Senior High School (ISD 192)
  • Hastings Area Alternative School & Learning Center (ISD 200)
  • Hastings High School (ISD 200)
  • Two Rivers High School (ISD 197)
  • Lakeville North High School (ISD 194)
  • Lakeville South High School (ISD 194)
  • Rosemount High School (ISD 196)
  • School of Environmental Studies (ISD 196)
  • Simley High School (ISD 199)
  • South Saint Paul High School (SSD 6)

Junior high school

  • Black Hawk Middle School (ISD 196)
  • Boeckman Middle School (ISD 192)
  • Century Middle School (ISD 194)
  • Dakota Hills Middle (ISD 196)
  • Dodge Middle School (ISD 192)
  • Friendly Hills Middle School (ISD 197)
  • Gateway Academy (ISD 192)
  • Hastings Middle School (ISD 200)
  • Heritage E-STEM Magnet School (ISD 197)
  • John Metcalf Junior High School (ISD 191)
  • Joseph Nicollet Junior High School (ISD 191)
  • Kenwood Trail Middle School (ISD 194)
  • Levi P. Dodge Middle School (ISD 192)
  • McGuire Middle School (ISD 194)
  • Robert Boeckman Middle School (ISD 192)
  • Rosemount Middle School (ISD 196)
  • Scott Highlands Middle School (ISD 196)
  • South Saint Paul Secondary (SSD 6)
  • Valley Middle School (ISD 196)

Elementary school

  • Akin Road Elementary (ISD 192)
  • Cedar Park Elementary School (ISD 196)
  • Cherry View Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Christa McAuliffe Elementary (ISD 200)
  • Christina Huddleston Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Cooper Elementary (ISD 200)
  • Deerwood Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Diamond Path Elementary (ISD 196)
  • East Lake Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Eastview Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Echo Park Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Edward D. Neill Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Farmington Elementary (ISD 192)
  • Garlough Environmental Magnet School (ISD 197)
  • Gideon Pond Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Glacier Hills Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Greenleaf Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Highland Elementary (ISD 196)
  • John F. Kennedy Elementary (ISD 194)
  • Kaposia Education Center (SSD 6)
  • Lake Marion Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Lakeview Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Lincoln Center Elementary (SSD 6)
  • Meadowview Elementary (ISD 192)
  • Mendota Elementary School (ISD 197)
  • Moreland Arts & Health Sciences Magnet School (ISD 197)
  • North Trail Elementary (ISD 192)
  • Northview Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Oak Hills Elementary School (ISD 194)
  • Oak Ridge Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Orchard Lake Elementary (ISD 194)
  • Parkview Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Pilot Knob STEM Magnet School (ISD 197)
  • Pinecrest Elementary (ISD 200)
  • Pinewood Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Rahn Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Red Pine Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Riverview Elementary (ISD 192)
  • Rosemount Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Shannon Park (ISD 196)
  • Sioux Trail Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Sky Oaks Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Somerset Elementary School (ISD 197)
  • Southview Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Thomas Lake Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Tilden Elementary (ISD 200)
  • Vista View Elementary (ISD 191)
  • William Byrne Elementary (ISD 191)
  • Westview Elementary (ISD 196)
  • Woodland Elementary (ISD 196)

Other schools

  • Saint Joseph Catholic School (pre-kindergarten–8th grade)
  • St. Croix Lutheran High School and Middle School
  • Holy Trinity Catholic School (pre-kindergarten–8th grade)
  • Faithful Shepherd Catholic School (pre-kindergarten-8th grade)

Colleges and universities

  • Dakota County Technical College
  • Inver Hills Community College


Notable people

  • Pierce Butler, United States Supreme Court justice
  • Ignatius Donnelly, politician
  • Steven Engler, politician
  • David Knutson, Minnesota State Senator of District 37, 2003-2004
  • Henry Hastings Sibley, first Governor of Minnesota
  • Harold Stassen (R), Former Governor of Minnesota, Aide to Adm. Bull Halsey, Aide to President Dwight Eisenhower, Participant/Drafter of the United Nations Charter

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Dakota (Minnesota) para niños

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