Minnesota: Kittson County

Today I’m starting my online journey through Minnesota’s 87 counties. The first stop is Kittson County, in the northwestern corner of the state. (See “Map of Minnesota,” above, for the complete route.) Kittson County (pop. 4,552) is the fourth-smallest county, by population, in the state.

In the northwestern corner of Kittson County, right next to the Canadian border, is the town of Noyes (pop. 11). Unfortunately for Noyes, its border crossing to Emerson, Manitoba, was closed some years ago. Now, northbound drivers must turn around in Noyes and go back south a few miles, then west a few miles into North Dakota, and then north on Interstate 29 to the border.

Former border crossing at Noyes

From the border, it’s only about 70 miles north to Winnipeg.

No, this is not Kittson County; it’s Winnipeg.

The flood-prone Red River of the North, which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, is one of the world’s few north-flowing rivers. It goes through Manitoba to Lake Winnipeg and eventually to Hudson Bay.  The folk song “Red River Valley” was first sung in the late 1800s in the Red River area of Canada.

The other Red River is the Red River of the South; it flows between Texas and Oklahoma and later joins the Mississippi River in Louisiana. The title of the 1948 cattle-drive movie “Red River,” starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, refers to the Red River of the South.

They’re not in Minnesota.

In western Kittson County, the Red River Valley has fertile farmland for wheat, barley, sugar beets, sunflowers, canola, and soybeans. The river does not go in a straight line.

North Dakota on the left, Kittson County on the right

On the North Dakota side of the river, Interstate 29 goes south to Grand Forks, Fargo, and Sioux Falls, and then along the Missouri River to Sioux City, Omaha, and Kansas City.

U.S. Highway 75 goes south from Noyes to Hallock (pop. 981), the county seat, and on to Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, ending in Dallas.  Several scenes from the movie “Fargo” were filmed in Hallock.

Paralleling Highway 75, a few miles to the east, is U.S. Highway 59; it also goes all the way to Texas, ending near the Mexican border in Laredo.

About 20 miles south of the Canadian border on Highway 59 is Lake Bronson – the town, the lake, and the state park (the only state park in the county). Minnesota may be the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Kittson County’s most prominent lake is man-made.

Lake Bronson in autumn

The 45-foot Lake Bronson Water Tower, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939, has an observation platform for visitors.

A few miles south of Lake Bronson is Karlstad, the “Moose Capital of the North.” Karlstad,  the second-largest town in Kittson County with a population of 760, has a life-size statue of a moose in the city park and hosts a Moose Festival every August.

NEXT: ROSEAU COUNTY