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International Falls
International Falls
International Falls
Icebox of the Nation,
Frostbite Falls
Location of International Fallswithin Koochiching County and the U.S. state of Minnesota
Location of International Falls
within Koochiching County and the U.S. state of Minnesota
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Koochiching
 • Total 6.42 sq mi (16.63 km2)
 • Land 6.41 sq mi (16.60 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
1,131 (344m) ft (342 m)
 • Total 6,424
 • Estimate 
 • Density 906.69/sq mi (350.09/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 218 Exchanges: 283, 285
FIPS code 27-31040
GNIS feature ID 0645435
Website City Website

International Falls (sometimes referred to as "I-Falls") is a city in and the county seat of Koochiching County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 5,802 at the 2020 census.

International Falls is located on the Rainy River directly across from Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. The two cities are connected by the Fort Frances–International Falls International Bridge. Voyageurs National Park is located 11 miles east of International Falls. There is a major U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port of Entry on the International Falls side of the toll bridge and a Canadian Customs entry point on the north side of the bridge.

International Falls is nicknamed the "Icebox of the Nation,” with an average of 109.4 days per year with a high temperature below 32 °F (0 °C).


Although the International Falls area was well known to explorers, missionaries, and voyagers as early as the 17th century, it was not until April 1895 the community was platted by a teacher and preacher L. A. Ogaard for the Koochiching Company and named the community Koochiching. The word "Koochiching" comes from either Ojibwe word Gojijiing or Cree Kocicīhk, both meaning "at the place of inlets," referring to the neighboring Rainy Lake and River. The European inhabitants gave the names Rainy Lake and Rainy River to the nearby bodies of water because of the mist-like rain present at the falls where the lake flowed into the river.

On August 10, 1901, the village was incorporated and two years later its name was changed to International Falls in recognition of the river's role as a border between the United States and Canada. It was incorporated as a city in 1909.

Realizing the potential for water power and mills in the area, industrialist E.W. Backus, president of the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company in the early 20th century, built a dam on the Rainy River to power the company's mills. Purchased by Boise Cascade Corporation in 1965, and sold to an investment group in 2003, the company remains the largest business and employer in the area. In 2013 Boise laid off 265 employees and closed down a paper machine. It then sold to Packaging Corporation of America (PCA).


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.53 square miles (16.91 km2), of which 6.42 square miles (16.63 km2) is land and 0.11 square miles (0.28 km2) is water.


International Falls, with its relatively central position in the North American continent, has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), with long, bitterly cold winters and humid warm summers. January averages 2.7 °F (−16.3 °C), and lows reach 0 °F (−18 °C) on average of 58 nights annually. Highs only reach the freezing point or above an average of 14–15 days between December 1 and February 28 (February 29 in leap years); and in combination with an average seasonal snowfall of 71.6 inches (182 cm), snow cover is deep and long-lasting. Spring, and more especially autumn, are short but mild transition seasons. July averages 65.2 °F (18.4 °C), with highs reaching 90 °F (32 °C) an average of only 3.2 days annually, and in close to 40% of years, the temperature does not rise that high. Precipitation averages about 24.1 inches (612 mm) per year, and is concentrated in the warmer months. The average window for sub freezing temperatures is September 15 thru May 26. The all-time record high temperature is 103 °F (39 °C), while the all-time record low is −55 °F (−48 °C), a range of 158 °F (88 °C).

Climate data for International Falls, Minnesota (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 49
Average high °F (°C) 15.4
Average low °F (°C) −6.6
Record low °F (°C) −55
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.61
Snowfall inches (cm) 15.1
Trace 0
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.3 7.9 8.8 8.7 12.4 13.7 11.9 11.0 11.9 11.7 10.0 10.7 127.9
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 12.7 10.0 7.7 3.4 0.6 0 0 0 0.2 2.4 9.5 12.7 59.1
Source: NOAA (extremes 1897–present)

Icebox of the Nation

International Falls has long promoted itself as the "Icebox of the Nation"; however, the trademark for the slogan has been challenged on several occasions by the small town of Fraser, Colorado. Officials from Fraser claimed usage since 1956, International Falls since 1948. The two towns came to an agreement in 1986, when International Falls paid Fraser $2,000 to relinquish its "official" claim. However, in 1996, International Falls inadvertently failed to renew its federal trademark, although it had kept its state trademark up to date. Fraser then filed to gain the federal trademark. International Falls submitted photographic proof that its 1955 Pee Wee hockey team traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the slogan. After several years of legal battles, the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially registered the slogan with International Falls on January 29, 2008, Registration Number 3375139. Only a few days after announcing its success in the trademark battle, International Falls had a daily record low temperature of −40 °F (−40 °C), beating a previous record of −37 °F (−38.3 °C) in 1967.

Besides Fraser, there are still many towns that are smaller and annually overall colder than International Falls, many of these being mountain communities in the Rockies, as well as several in northern Minnesota. International Falls is still called the "Icebox of the Nation" after winning the claim against Fraser in court. One thing that does help or hinder International Falls is that Fraser is located within the Rocky Mountains, which would help to depress low temperatures while International Falls is located on relatively flat land, which takes longer to cool on warm summer nights. Also, while sub−freezing temperatures are very common at high elevation, valley sites in the Rockies during the winter, maximum temperatures that remain sub−freezing are quite rare, while at International Falls and much of the upper (Northern) Midwest they are of relatively frequent occurrence. This is reflected by the average monthly temperatures during the winter months.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 1,487
1920 3,448 131.9%
1930 5,036 46.1%
1940 5,626 11.7%
1950 6,269 11.4%
1960 6,778 8.1%
1970 6,439 −5.0%
1980 5,611 −12.9%
1990 8,324 48.4%
2000 6,703 −19.5%
2010 6,424 −4.2%
2019 (est.) 5,811 −9.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
2013 Estimate

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $29,908, and the median income for a family was $41,458. Males had a median income of $41,584 versus $20,053 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,171. About 10.0% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.5% of those under age 18 and 12.3% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 6,424 people, 2,903 households, and 1,645 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,000.6 inhabitants per square mile (386.3/km2). There were 3,157 housing units at an average density of 491.7 per square mile (189.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.3% White, 1.0% African American, 2.5% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.1% of the population.

There were 2,903 households, of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.1% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.3% were non-families. 37.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.80.

The median age in the city was 42.4 years. 21.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.4% were from 25 to 44; 27.3% were from 45 to 64; and 19.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.1% male and 51.9% female.


  • Icebox Radio Theater

The Backus Community Center opened in 2002 and serves as one of the cultural centers of International Falls. Each year, the Backus Performing Arts Series presents a number of musical and stage productions to the local community.

The Borealis Bards community theatre group has staged a number of productions since its founding in 2014, including 2015's production of Alice In Wonderland.

The International Falls post office contains a mural, Early Lodging in Koochichin Falls, painted by Lucia Wiley. Federally commissioned murals were produced from 1934 to 1943 in the United States through the Section of Painting and Sculpture, later called the Section of Fine Arts, of the Treasury Department. The WPA was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing individuals to carry out public works projects.


Falls International Airport (IATA code: INL, ICAO code: KINL) is a public airport located just south of the city. The airport has two runways. It is mostly used for general aviation but is also served by a single commercial airline, Delta Air Lines' Delta Connection, which has two daily flights to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport.

The Minnesota, Dakota and Western Railway operates a 4 mi (6.4 km) line between International Falls and Ranier.

Major highways

The following routes are located within the city of International Falls.

  • US 53.svg U.S. Highway 53
  • US 71.svg U.S. Highway 71
  • MN-11.svg Minnesota State Highway 11

Port Code : 3604

Notable people

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