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The Detroit Lakes Destination encompasses three states in the Midwestern United States, namely Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In western Minnesota, the destination’s namesake, Detroit Lakes, is a city that occupies a total area of 17.37 square miles and is acknowledged as the county seat of Becker County. Outdoor recreational activities are generally a prominent draw for tourism throughout the destination, as a number of lakes and rivers surround the city of Detroit Lakes. Fishing is one of the most common outdoor pastimes in the area. This is especially true for the Red River, which serves as the border shared between North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as Detroit Lake, a large body of water that is surrounded by Detroit Lakes city. People frequently visit the Frank State Wildlife Management Area and the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge to go wildlife viewing, both of which are located northeast of Detroit Lakes. Some wildlife viewers have come to the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge specifically to observe the trumpeter swan. Visitors may have the opportunity to view the trumpeter swan at any given time of the year; however, it has been recommended by the Tamarac Refuge’s management to visit between April and October for the best chances of seeing the trumpeter swan. Concerning climatic conditions, Detroit Lakes experiences temperatures that generally vary between 2 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year.
In the Midwestern United States, the Detroit Lakes Destination comprises a portion of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Several cities are found in the destination, including Fargo, situated along the border shared between North Dakota and Minnesota; Ortonville, which occupies an expanse on the border shared between Minnesota and South Dakota; Wheaton, Minnesota; Hankinson, North Dakota; and Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The namesake of the destination, Detroit Lakes, is a city in western Minnesota that serves as the county seat of Becker County. Currently, an estimated total of 10,259 people reside in Detroit Lakes, and the population is presently growing at a rate of 1.28% annually. The most recent census in 2020 recorded approximately 9,869 inhabitants, indicating that the population has increased by 3.95% since then.
A handful of tourists and locals consider the city of Detroit Lakes to be “a regional summer and winter recreation destination.” Located a few miles east of the city is Detroit Mountain, where a considerable number of seasonal tourists engage in snow sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. The Nordic and snowshoe trails at Detroit Mountain can allow people to tour the 200 acres of forested land on the winding trails. Some of the snowshoe routes connect to adjacent trail systems that lead to Mountain View Recreation Area and Leitheiser Lake. As for warm-weather activities, mountain biking, fishing, and golfing tend to draw visitors to the city. Crappie and bluegill are a couple of the most sought-after fish and some of the most successful catches for those who go fishing at Detroit Lakes. Many fishermen also try to catch walleye in the lakes that encompass the city.
Though Detroit Lakes’ economy is primarily driven by summer tourism, other industries contribute to the city’s economic development, including healthcare services, retail stores, and service businesses. Tourists often come to the city to visit the Detroit Lakes’ downtown shopping center—another business that aids the city’s economic growth—which covers nearly 135,000 square feet.
A relatively high quantity of lakes, ponds, and bogs are scattered around the city of Detroit Lakes in the destination’s northern and eastern regions. The city itself encompasses a body of water known as Detroit Lake and is surrounded by other aquatic landforms such as Brandy Lake, Long Lake, Lake Sallie, Lake Melissa, Floyd Lake, and Abbey Lake, among several others. Considering the numerous lakes that are found in the city’s vicinity, a diverse range of habitats has been created throughout the destination, including upland deciduous hardwood forests, lowland hardwoods, lowland brush/willow swamp, mixed emergent marshes, and open grassland. These habitats can prominently be found north of the city in the Frank State Wildlife Management Area. This 400-acre site is frequently utilized as hunting grounds for those who seek game species such as deer, bear, turkey, doves, waterfowl, and forest upland birds.
Further north of Frank State Wildlife Management Area is another designated wildlife site known as Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Similarly, the Tamarac Refuge contains eastern deciduous hardwoods, northern coniferous forests, and western tallgrass prairie. Established as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds, the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge is home to a notable population of nesting trumpeter swans. Other species that reside in this refuge are woodcock, ring-necked ducks, and the golden-winged warbler.
Coursing from the destination’s northern portion is the Red River, which also acts as the border shared between the states of North Dakota and Minnesota. Oftentimes, fishermen are drawn to the Red River Valley with the intent to catch some of the species that inhabit the waters, such as channel catfish, northern pike, carp, and trophy walleye. The Red River has also been noted to be “one of the world’s flattest landscapes” that was formed thousands of years ago during the draining of Glacial Lake Agassiz.
A few miles west of the Red River is the Sheyenne National Grassland area (Dakota Prairie Grassland) in southeastern North Dakota. The sizable park covers approximately 70,180 acres of public land and is characterized by a diverse ecosystem that provides several different habitats for various flora and fauna species. One of the largest populations of the western prairie fringed orchid—a particular plant type that was placed on the list of Threatened Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—can be found in Sheyenne National Grassland.
For those who intend to undertake warm-weather activities at Detroit Lakes, it has been recommended by a number of people who have previously visited the city to tour the area between late June to late August. This is due to the fairly moderate climatic conditions, as the summer season has been described by former tourists as “long” and “warm.” Generally speaking, the average daily high during the summer rises above 68 degrees Fahrenheit; however, the hottest month of the year in Detroit Lakes is most commonly July, when temperatures reach around 79 degrees Fahrenheit on average. In comparison to the warm season, the cold season typically experiences more extreme temperatures that range between 3 and 31 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is now presently known as Detroit Lakes first began as a village that was incorporated and named Detroit in 1881. The term “détroit” translates from French to English, meaning “straight," referring to the sand bar separating Big Detroit Lake from Little Detroit Lake. Hotel Minnesota, Lakes Hotel, a bank, an opera house, and a newspaper business were all established in Detroit Lakes by 1884. That same year, the foundation of the first courthouse was laid. The city’s first major industry was the Fargo-Detroit Ice Company, which sold spring water. It wasn’t until 1926 that the city was renamed Detroit Lakes in an effort to avoid postal mix-ups with Detroit, Michigan.
Detroit Lakes is located along the line of the Northern Pacific Railway about 200 miles northwest of St. Paul. Following the railroad’s construction, the city began to develop significantly. Eventually, the city became the county seat after a proposed election in 1877. Other nearby cities that were in the running for the position of the county seat were Frazee, Lake Park, and Audubon. Becker County itself is considered by many to be an “agricultural county,” as some of the most profitable industries in the county are stock raising and dairy production.
Big Foot Resort
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County Line Campground
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