Minnesota's Seaport. More than three billion tons of iron ore, along with millions of tons of grain, lumber, fish, and coal, have passed through the Duluth-Superior harbor since the beginning of Minnesota's Iron Age. The first ore from the rich Mesabi Range left the harbor for smelters on the lower lakes in 1892, and by 1916 yearly shipments had reached nearly 38 million tons. Huge loading docks, built first of wood and later of steel and concrete, could load four of five ore-carrying lake freighters simultaneously from nearly 400 railroad cars. In 1953 an all-time yearly record 64 million tons of ore was shipped. As the rich hematite ore became scarce in the late 1950s, methods were developed to process and ship taconite, a plentiful lower grade ore.
The mouth of the St. Louis River forms a fine natural harbor with some 49 miles of serviceable frontage protected by one of the longest freshwater bay mouth bars in the world. The Duluth ship canal, originally a hand-dug cut through the bar, opened in 1870. Superior, Wisconsin, is located directly opposite the only natural harbor entrance.
For much of the twentieth century this harbor was second in total tonnage only to New York among U.S. ports, even though it is open to shipping only about eight months each year. Since the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, ocean-going vessels have carried the grain harvests of the northern plains and Montana soft coal from the Twin Ports to destinations around the globe.
Welcome to Minnesota. Known to her citizens as the North Star State or the Gopher State, Minnesota has never claimed to be the Land of the Giants. But two famous American giants do hail from Minnesota. The giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan cut the pine forest of the north that helped build America's towns and cities, and the Jolly Green Giant towers over the south's lush corn, vegetable, and soybean fields, a part of the midwest's fertile farm belt.
Like its neighbors, the thirty-second state grew as a collection of small farm communities, many settled by immigrants from Scandinavia and Germany. Two of the nation's favorite fictional small towns—Sinclair Lewis's Gopher Prairie and Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon—reflect that heritage. But the vast forests, the huge open pit iron ore mines, and the busy shipping lanes of Lake Superior attracted different settlers with different skills and made Minnesota a state of surprising diversity.
Best known for its more than 15,000 lakes, Minnesota has some 65 towns with the word "lake" in their names, not counting those whose names mean "lake" or "water" in the Chippewa or Dakota Indian languages. There are also 13 "falls," 10 "rivers," 5 "rapids," and a smattering of "isles," "bays," and "beaches." Even the state name itself means "sky colored water" in Dakota. The mighty Mississippi River starts as a small stream flowing out of Minnesota's Lake Itasca, and a Minneapolis waterfall called Minnehaha inspired "The Song of Hiawatha," even though Longfellow never actually visited the falls his poem made known to every schoolchild.
Minnesotans are proud of their state's natural beauty and are leaders in resource conservation and concern for the quality of life.