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Otter Tail County, Minnesota facts for kids

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Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County Courthouse in Fergus Falls.
Otter Tail County Courthouse in Fergus Falls.
Map of Minnesota highlighting Otter Tail 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 March 18, 1858 (created)
September 12, 1868 (organized)
Named for Otter Tail Lake and Otter Tail River
Seat Fergus Falls
Largest city Fergus Falls
 • Total 2,225 sq mi (5,760 km2)
 • Land 1,972 sq mi (5,110 km2)
 • Water 252 sq mi (650 km2)  11%
 • Total 60,081
 • Estimate 
60,046 Decrease
 • Density 30.5/sq mi (11.8/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 7th

Otter Tail County is a county in the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of the 2020 census, its population was 60,081. Its county seat is Fergus Falls. Otter Tail County comprises the Fergus Falls micropolitan statistical area. With 1,048 lakes in its borders, Otter Tail County has more lakes than any other county in the United States.


Native Americans used the survey area for hunting and fishing and had permanent dwelling sites. Two Native American tribes were in constant conflict. The Dakota (Sioux) were being pushed from their home area by the Ojibwa (Chippewa) during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Burial mounds and artifacts can still be found. Some of the oldest remains of Native Americans were found near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. The remains, nicknamed Minnesota Girl, were dated at about 11,000 B.C. (Otter Tail County Historical Museum).

The first white men to enter the county were French and British fur traders. Efforts were made to set up trading posts on the Leaf Lakes and Otter Tail Lake. In the late 19th century, most of the towns were built along the railroad lines. Lumber and agriculture were the major industries in the county at that time. The pine and hardwood forests, transportation system, and markets were instrumental in the development of Fergus Falls into a lumber center.

Ottertail Pie Chart 2016 Wiki Version
Native vegetation based on NRCS soils information
Bluff Creek WMA Wiki Version
Soils of Bluff Creek WMA area

In 1870, the population of the county was about 2,000. At that time the principal languages spoken in the county were Norwegian, Swedish, German, and English. Otter Tail County was established in March 1858 by a legislative act. It was organized in 1868. The original county seat was Ottertail City.

The people of Fergus Falls organized a new county named Holcomb. In 1872, a legislative act abolished Holcomb County, added additional townships to the west, and established Fergus Falls as the county seat of Otter Tail County. There are 62 townships in the county. The county is named for Otter Tail Lake and the Otter Tail River.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,225 square miles (5,760 km2), of which 1,972 square miles (5,110 km2) are land and 252 square miles (650 km2) (11%) are covered by water. Otter Tail is one of 17 Minnesota savanna region counties with more savanna soils than either forest or prairie soils. According to the official web site, Otter Tail County contains over 1000 lakes and two Minnesota state parks, Maplewood State Park and Glendalough State Park. The highest point in Otter Tail County is Inspiration Peak in the Leaf Mountains, at 1750 feet above sea level.

Adjacent counties


Major Highways

  • I-94
  • US 10
  • US 52
  • US 59
  • MN 29
  • MN 34
  • MN 78
  • MN 106
  • MN 108
  • MN 210


  • Aerovilla Airport - 2 miles (3 km) NW of Perham
  • Battle Lake Municipal Airport - 1.6 mile (2.6 km) NNE of Battle Lake
  • Fergus Falls Municipal Airport (FFM) - 3.8 miles (6.1 km) W of Fergus Falls
  • Henning Municipal Airport (05Y) - 1.1 mile (1.8 km) S of Henning
  • Pelican Rapids Municipal Airport (47Y) - 4.6 miles (7.4 km) NNW of Pelican Rapids
  • Perham Municipal Airport (16D) - 1 mile (1.6 km) NW of Perham
  • Wadena Municipal Airport (ADC) - 3.4 miles (5.5 km) W of Wadena

Adjacent counties

Protected areas

  • Aastad State Wildlife Management Area
  • Amor State Wildlife Management Area
  • Bluff Creek State Wildlife Management Area
  • Davies State Wildlife Management Area
  • Dead Lake State Wildlife Management Area
  • Doran State Wildlife Management Area
  • Eagle Lake State Wildlife Management Area
  • Eastern Township State Wildlife Management Area
  • Elmo State Wildlife Management Area
  • Folden Woods State Wildlife Management Area
  • Glendalough State Park
  • Hi-View State Wildlife Management Area
  • Inman State Wildlife Management Area
  • Inspiration Peak State Wayside Park
  • Jensen Memorial State Wildlife Management Area
  • Maplewood State Park
  • Orwell State Wildlife Management Area
  • Otter Tail Prairie Scientific and Natural Area
  • Prairie Ridge State Wildlife Management Area
  • Valdine State Wildlife Management Area


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 240
1870 1,968 720.0%
1880 18,675 848.9%
1890 34,232 83.3%
1900 45,375 32.6%
1910 46,036 1.5%
1920 50,818 10.4%
1930 51,006 0.4%
1940 53,192 4.3%
1950 51,320 −3.5%
1960 48,960 −4.6%
1970 46,097 −5.8%
1980 51,937 12.7%
1990 50,714 −2.4%
2000 57,159 12.7%
2010 57,303 0.3%
2015 (est.) 57,716 0.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2015
USA Otter Tail County, Minnesota age pyramid
Age pyramid of county residents based on 2000 U.S. census data

As of the census of 2000, there were 57,159 people, 22,671 households, and 15,779 families residing in the county. The population density was 29 people per square mile (11/km²). There were 33,862 housing units at an average density of 17 per square mile (7/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.11% White, 0.29% African American, 0.51% Native American, 0.44% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.84% from other races, and 0.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.67% of the population. 35.5% were of German and 31.2% Norwegian ancestry.

There were 22,671 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.1% were married couples living together, 6.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the county, the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 100.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,395, and the median income for a family was $42,740. Males had a median income of $30,151 versus $20,930 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,014. About 6.7% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.1% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.


Phelpsmill ottertailcounty
The Otter Tail River as it passes Phelps Mill in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. Photo by Scott Backstrom. June 2004
City Hall in Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Fergus Falls City Hall in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
This is a scene of one of Glendalough State Park's picnic and beach areas. The park is close to Battle Lake, Otter Tail County. Photo by James Benjamin Bleeker. 18 July 2010



  • Aastad Township
  • Amor Township
  • Aurdal Township
  • Blowers Township
  • Bluffton Township
  • Buse Township
  • Butler Township
  • Candor Township
  • Carlisle Township
  • Clitherall Township
  • Compton Township
  • Corliss Township
  • Dane Prairie Township
  • Dead Lake Township
  • Deer Creek Township
  • Dora Township
  • Dunn Township
  • Eagle Lake Township
  • Eastern Township
  • Edna Township
  • Effington Township
  • Elizabeth Township
  • Elmo Township
  • Erhards Grove Township
  • Everts Township
  • Fergus Falls Township
  • Folden Township
  • Friberg Township
  • Girard Township
  • Gorman Township
  • Henning Township
  • Hobart Township
  • Homestead Township
  • Inman Township
  • Leaf Lake Township
  • Leaf Mountain Township
  • Lida Township
  • Maine Township
  • Maplewood Township
  • Newton Township
  • Nidaros Township
  • Norwegian Grove Township
  • Oak Valley Township
  • Orwell Township
  • Oscar Township
  • Otter Tail Township
  • Otto Township
  • Paddock Township
  • Parkers Prairie Township
  • Pelican Township
  • Perham Township
  • Pine Lake Township
  • Rush Lake Township
  • Scambler Township
  • St. Olaf Township
  • Star Lake Township
  • Sverdrup Township
  • Tordenskjold Township
  • Trondhjem Township
  • Tumuli Township
  • Western Township
  • Woodside Township

Unincorporated communities

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