Minnesota: Cass County

Cass County (pop. 28,567), east of Hubbard County, has the third-largest lake located entirely in Minnesota – Leech Lake.

View from the dock, Leech Lake

Leech Lake is on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, which has the largest area and the largest population (10,660) of any Indian reservation in Minnesota.

Most of the reservation is within the Chippewa National Forest, which has about 1,300 lakes and an estimated 150 nesting pairs of bald eagles.

World’s Largest Eagle Statue, Remer

Walker, the county seat (pop. 941), is the fourth-smallest county seat in Minnesota.

Walker is on the shores of Walker Bay, Leech Lake

The town of Longville (pop. 156), which calls itself the Turtle Racing Capital of the World, has weekly turtle races in the summer.

Every Wednesday afternoon

In Cass County’s early years, it was shaped like Mexico.

The 1851 shape is in orange, today’s in red.

The Big Fish Supper Club and Resort in Bena (pop. 118) has a 65-foot wooden muskie, constructed in 1958.

NEXT: AITKIN COUNTY

Minnesota: Itasca County

Leaving Cook County, we backtrack down Highway 61 to Duluth, then go northwest on Highway 2 to Itasca County (pop. 45,058). Its county seat, Grand Rapids, is the birthplace of Judy Garland.

Frances Ethel Gumm and friends

In addition to a Judy Garland museum (in her family’s home), Grand Rapids (pop. 10,869) has the impressive Old Central School, built in 1895 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.

Restored in 1984

In the 19th century, Grand Rapids was the uppermost limit of steamboat travel on the Mississippi River. Now, the rapids are hidden under high waters behind a dam.

Mississippi River steamboat

Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi, is not in Itasca County; it’s in Clearwater County, about 100 miles west of Grand Rapids.

Itasca County has about 1,400 lakes and has been a longtime center of Minnesota’s timber industry.¬† Much of the county¬† is within the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

The county’s largest lake is Lake Winnibigoshish, which was created by the construction of a dam on the Missisissippi River in 1884.

Lake Winnie, for short

Northwest of Grand Rapids is Deer River (pop. 930), which hosts “The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival” every year.

Foods for sale include Wild Rice Hotdish Dinner and Snapping Turtle Stew

NEXT: BELTRAMI COUNTY