Northwoods Tourism

Tour curated by: Charlie Kilman, Ben Pletta, & the Minnesota Environments Team

Going “up north” has saturated the language of Minnesotan vacationers since the early 20th century. Though industry in the Northwoods landscape originated from its abundant timber resources, the land’s expansive lakes, countless white and red pines, and irresistible vistas offered a perfect retreat from the suburban and urban lifestyle. Following the growing desire to fish, relax, and enjoy the natural surroundings, the tourism industry took hold in Northern Minnesota and remains symbolic of the place today. The growth of tourism and private development generated a desire for conservation in order to offer a more controlled and consumable environment.

Locations for Tour

At the end of the 19th century, logging was an integral part of northern Minnesota’s economy. Although the timber industry gained substantial revenue and fueled development in various parts of the country, its reliance upon trees weighed heavily on…

By the early 20th century, Northwoods entrepreneurs increasingly embraced tourism as a reliable business, and in the process transformed the region from landscapes of production, built on extracting the region’s abundant natural resources, into…

The recreational development of Minnesota’s Northwoods was not limited just to resorts. Private cottage development was also underway during the early 20th century and forged a strong bond between regional metropolitan areas and the scenic lake…

Gooseberry Falls State Park, situated on the bank of Lake Superior, embodies the shift of land use from extraction to recreation and reveals that the conservation mindset has always been present within the history of Minnesota’s tourism industry.…