The Lake Minnetonka and Mississippi River area is not only known for its picturesque beauty but also its rich history dating back to as early as 8000 BCE.

The History of Lake Minnetonka

While the area dates back to before 8000 BCE, it was around this time that the first indigenous tribes settled the area. They were followed thousands of years later by mound builders, who lived there until around 1500 CE. The area was used as the hunting and fishing grounds of the Mdewakanton people who were part of the Dakota Nation starting in the 1700s. The natives of the tribe used the area until they were banished from the state following the Dakota War of 1812.

The first Americans came to the area via Minnehaha Creek in 1822, through the area remained unsettled until almost three decades later. The lake was officially named in 1852 by the governor of the territory, Alexander Ramsey. The name is derived from the Dakota phrase for Big Water. The following year the first establishment was made, and the first method of transportation to the area, a steamboat named Governor Ramsey was launched in 1861. Travel began to occur more regularly after the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad line extended to the area in 1867.

The 1870s and 1880s saw significant growth in the area with the establishment of multiple hotels along the lake. It attracted many visitors from the South who were looking to enjoy a cooler environment. The area became popular for visitors looking to sail or enjoy the natural beauty of the lake. Close to the turn of the century, the tourist population declined, causing many hotels to close down and some steamboats to cease their operation. The hotel area was eventually replaced by summer cottages that began to pop up around the area.

It was during the golden age of the early 1900s when many of the prestigious country clubs around the lake were founded. The area continued to grow with parks, trails, and natural preserves, and has become a popular retreat for those looking to escape the city life.

A Short History of the Mississippi River

The second longest river in North America, which spans from northern Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Native Americans have based their settlements along the rich and fertile banks of the Mississippi River dating back for centuries. By the 16th century, the river began to be used by European explorers and then settlers as a vital form of transportation and communication. The river area is known as one of the most fertile regions in the United States and was a site of the growing agricultural and industrial industries. The river’s possession became crucial to Union forces winning the Civil War as it was of vital importance to the Confederate forces.

A great flood in the 1930s threatened the towns and cities along its path and the event was considered one of the greatest peace-time calamities in the history of the country. After this, a plan was implemented to control the waters of the river through a system of dams, locks, runoff channels, and higher levees to prevent another Great Flood from occurring.

The History of Bohemian Flats

By the latter half of the 19th century, housing was almost impossible to find in the city of Minneapolis. Many American’s formed a squatter’s village along the banks of the Mississippi. The area was home to over 1,000 people and was tucked beneath the Washington Avenue bridge which was a quaint village where many of the migrants from Bohemia, Finland, and Slovakia shopped, worked and worshipped.

While the inhabitants had to worry about the rising water level of the river, they found the area suited their needs, providing them the ability to keep gardens and livestock. Over time the homes in the area began to grow from simple shanties into more substantial homes. While the area all but disappeared in the 20s and 30s, as it was cleared to make way for a new freight terminal, the area has now been rediscovered. The history of the area is now celebrated in an exhibit in the Mill City Museum.

Want to check out the beautiful waters and picturesque scenery of Lake Minnetonka in style. Book a Paradise Charter cruise for your next party or event. Or simply book a trip on one of our public cruise outings.


The Scale of Nature: Modeling the Mississippi River