Historical Marker in
Otter Tail County, Minnesota

The first European to explore Minnesota was French explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634. He traveled along Lake Michigan and the Fox River and likely reached the present-day state of Minnesota.
Otter Tail County, located in Minnesota, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The region was originally inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe Native American tribes, who lived off the land and engaged in trade with European fur traders. European explorers, such as French Canadian voyageurs, began arriving in the area in the 18th century.

In the mid-19th century, the United States government established treaties with the Native American tribes, which opened up the land for settlement. Settlers began arriving in Otter Tail County in the 1850s, primarily seeking agricultural opportunities. The county was officially organized in 1858 and named after the Otter Tail River, which runs through the area.

The pioneer era in Otter Tail County was marked by the establishment of small towns and the development of farms. The construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1870s brought increased connectivity and economic growth to the region. The county experienced a population boom during this time, with the number of residents more than doubling between 1870 and 1880.

In the early 20th century, Otter Tail County faced challenges due to economic fluctuations and the impact of two world wars. However, the county remained resilient and continued to develop its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Today, Otter Tail County is known for its beautiful lakes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and strong sense of community. It has become a popular destination for visitors and residents alike, offering a perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and modern amenities.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

  • 1849 - Otter Tail County is established by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature.
  • 1870 - The Great Dakota Boom brings a period of rapid expansion and settlement to the region.
  • 1883 - The Northern Pacific Railroad reaches Otter Tail County, fueling further growth and development.
  • 1921 - Northwestern Minnesota is hit by a devastating tornado outbreak, including significant damage in Otter Tail County.
  • 1930 - Otter Tail County sees a decline in population due to the Great Depression and agricultural challenges.
  • 1940 - The construction of reservoirs begins, including the creation of Orwell and West McDonald lakes.
  • 1963 - The completion of the Orwell Dam leads to the formation of the Orwell Reservoir, providing recreational opportunities.
  • 1997 - Otter Tail County celebrates its 150th anniversary.
  • 2008 - The county experiences severe flooding, resulting in damaged infrastructure and property.
  • 2019 - Otter Tail County continues to thrive as a popular tourist destination, known for its lakeside communities and outdoor activities.