Statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
"The First City on the Mississippi"
|• Mayor||Rita Albrecht|
|• City||19.50 sq mi (50.51 km2)|
|• Land||14.58 sq mi (37.76 km2)|
|• Water||4.92 sq mi (12.75 km2) 8.63%|
|Elevation||1,365 ft (416 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1,058.57/sq mi (408.73/km2)|
|• Urban||14,500 (roughly)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0655325|
Bemidji (// bə-MIJ-ee) is a city and the county seat of Beltrami County, in northern Minnesota, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates Bemidji's population as of 2019 at 15,434, making it the largest commercial center between Grand Forks, North Dakota and Duluth, Minnesota.
As a central city for three Indian reservations, Bemidji is the site of many Native American services, including the Indian Health Service. Near Bemidji are the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Bemidji lies on the southwest shore of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost lake feeding the Mississippi River; it is nicknamed "The First City on the Mississippi". Bemidji is also the self-proclaimed "curling capital" of the U.S. and the alleged birthplace of legendary Paul Bunyan.
Its name derives from the Ojibwe Buh-mid-ji-ga-maug (Double-Vowel orthography: bemijigamaag), meaning "a lake with crossing waters". Some sources say that Chief Bemidji, an Ojibwe leader, is the namesake.
On occasion, in Ojibwe, Bemidji is called Wabigamaang ("at the lake channel/narrows"), because part of the city is situated on the Lakes Bemidji/Irving narrows, on the south end of Lake Bemidji, and extends to the eastern shore of Lake Irving.
Beltrami County was created on February 28, 1866, by an act of legislation.
Bemidji Township was surveyed by European Americans in 1874. It was organized in 1896, 24 days after the village of Bemidji was chartered, and is the oldest township in the county. In 1897, the county attorney declared the original Bemidji township organization illegal (no reason given) and the township reorganized on June 26, 1897.
About 50 Leech Lake Indians lived along the south shore of the lake prior to the 1880s. They called the lake Bemidjigumaug, meaning "river or route flowing crosswise". Freeman and Besty Doud claimed 160 acres west of and including present-day Diamond Point; they were Bemidji's first homesteaders. The Porter Nye family soon followed them.
John Steidl's sawmill was on the east bank of the Mississippi River, close to Carson's Trading Post. Remore Hotel and Carl Carlson's blacksmith shop were on the west side of the river. Bemidji was incorporated on May 20, 1896, and by that time there were three publishing companies, Alber Kaiser, The Bemidji Pioneer, and the Beltrami County News. William Bartleson's Stage and Express Service was created to carry mail between Bemidji and Park Rapids. He was advertised by Speelman's Eagle, owned by Clarence Speelman, along with other stores. By 1898, railroads came to Bemidji and brought even more business. By 1900 the Village of Bemidji's population had grown to 2,000.
Thomas Barlow Walker and John S. and Charles Pillsbury invested millions into timber in 1874, since beaver pelts were nearing depletion by the mid-1890s. Walker owned Red River Lumber Company of Crookston, which claimed almost half of Beltrami County's timber. He soon sold his sawmill and timber claim to Thomas Shevlin and Frank Hixon. Logging was done in the winter and sawmilling in the summer. Crookston opened 13 logging camps, which provided jobs and homes for lumberjacks. Between 1907 and 1910 drought and forest fires came to northern Minnesota. Lumber production was Bemidji's major industry, but on July 19, 1914, a sawmill burned down, causing disaster for business. It was later rebuilt. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Bemidji's business profited, providing food, materials, and services for the Civilian Conservation Corps and Youth Conservation Corps programs. During the war years lumber business stopped, but when men came back from war lumber business boomed, since many people needed homes.
By the 1870s, timber cruisers were already making forays into the great pine forests that surrounded Bemidji. They were seeking new timberlands for Walker, the Pillsburys, Henry Akeley, Charles Ruggles and Frederick Weyerhaeuser, the barons of the wood industry.
Art Lee created the story that the folkloric figure Paul Bunyan came from the Northwoods. Tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox led to public sculptures of them in the 1930s. According to Discover America, the Paul and Babe statues are "the second most photographed statues in America," surpassed only by Mount Rushmore. The Rotarians of Bemidji commissioned the statue of Paul Bunyan during the Great Depression as a tourist attraction. It was unveiled on January 15, 1937, to kick off a Winter Carnival that drew more than 10,000 visitors.
Today Bemidji is an important educational, governmental, trade and medical center for north central Minnesota. The wood industry is still a significant part of the local economy, with Georgia-Pacific, Potlatch, and Northwood Panelboard all having waferboard plants in the local area. They use wood species that were once classified as waste trees.
Parks and recreation
Bemidji is near Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park, Big Bog State Recreation Area, and state forest areas. There are 400 lakes within 25 miles (40 km), 500 mi (800 km) of snowmobile trails and 99 mi (160 km) of cross-country ski trails.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs from Brainerd, Minnesota, and Lake Bemidji State Park. It is used for walking, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. There is also a bike trail around Lake Bemidji about 17 miles long. Each year an event is held where families and individuals can bike around the lake, with rest stops along the way.
Art in the Park, hosted by Paul Bunyan Communications and Watermark Art Center, is held every year at Bemidji Library Park, across from the Watermark Art Center. Art in the Park has been a summer highlight for Bemidji residents since 1967. The event features more than 100 artists, food vendors, and live entertainment. A variety of items are sold, made in such materials as wood and ceramics, along with clothing and jewelry, photography, metalworking, greeting cards, homemade preserves, food, candles, and soaps. Roughly 4,000 people attend annually.
Every year, in the first week of August, teams compete in the Dragon Boat races. There are also many food vendors, kids' activities, and musical and cultural performances. In the early 21st century, dragon boat racing was the fastest growing water sport in the nation.
The Bemidji Polar Days, also known as Winterfest, is a weeklong festival that includes many different activities, such as a polar plunge, sled derby, broomball, a 5k polar walk/run, curling, pond hockey, and a cornhole tournament.
The Paul Bunyan Triathlon takes place the third Saturday in August. The Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon is also held in Bemidji.
The largest earthquake on record for the Bemidji area was recorded on September 3, 1917. It is claimed that it shook houses in Bemidji and across northern Minnesota. The epicenter was about 95 miles (153 km) away in Staples, Minnesota, and it affected an area of 48,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi); it had a magnitude 4.4 with a maximum intensity of VI to VII. The closest and most recent quake occurred in Walker, Minnesota, on September 27, 1982, with a magnitude of 2.0.
Bemidji has a hemiboreal humid continental climate, Dfb in the Köppen climate classification: short, warm summers, and long, severe winters. The average mean annual temperature in Bemidji is 37.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest month is January with an average daily high of 16 degrees and an average daily low of −4 degrees. The warmest month is July with an average daily high of 79 degrees and an average daily low of 57 degrees. The average annual humidity is 47%. The average annual snowfall is 41.1 inches and the average annual rainfall is 23.8 inches. The average day Lake Bemidji freezes over is November 26 and the average day the ice goes off the lake is April 26.
Annual snowfall in the Bemidji Area increased 5% in the 21st century vs. the 1930–1999 period, according to the National Weather Service.
|Climate data for Bemidji, Minnesota 1981–2010 Normals, snowfall 1987–2018|
|Record high °F (°C)||52
|Average high °F (°C)||16.3
|Daily mean °F (°C)||5.9
|Average low °F (°C)||−4.6
|Record low °F (°C)||−50
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.73
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||10.7
|Source 1: Climatography of the United States|
|Source 2: XMACIS|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 13,431 people, 5,339 households, and 2,557 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,039.6 inhabitants per square mile (401.4/km2). There were 5,748 housing units at an average density of 444.9 per square mile (171.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.3% White, 1.2% African American, 11.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 4.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.
There were 5,339 households, of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.7% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.1% were non-families. Of all households, 38.6% were made up of individuals, and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.83.
The median age in the city was 27.1 years. 19.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 26.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21.6% were from 25 to 44; 17.5% were from 45 to 64; and 14.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,917 people, 4,669 households, and 2,427 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,011.8 people per square mile (390.6/km2). There were 4,948 housing units at an average density of 420.1 per square mile (162.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 84.31% White American, 0.76% African American, 11.52% Native American, 1.12% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.20% from other races, and 2.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.14% of the population.
There were 4,669 households, out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.0% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.0% were non-families. Of all households, 35.9% were made up of individuals, and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 21.2% under the age of 18, 24.9% from 18 to 24, 23.0% from 25 to 44, 15.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,072, and the median income for a family was $37,250. Males had a median income of $28,312 versus $20,694 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,264. About 13.2% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.7% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.
|Industries||Number of Employees|
|Healthcare and social assistance||6,782|
|Accommodation and food services||1,327|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||760|
|Other services (except public administrations)||550|
|Finance and insurance||351|
|Transportation and warehousing||222|
|Arts, entertainment, and recreation||165|
|Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services||130|
|Real estate and rental and leasing||60|
These are the top 15 industries in Bemidji. On the United States Census Bureau American Factfinder, some industries had a range of employees, so the average number of employees were used. Also, some industries, such as healthcare and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, other services, arts, entertainment, and reaction, and educational services were split into three different categories. The number of employees for the three categories was combined into one category.
|Council Ward 1||Michael Meehlhause|
|Council Ward 2||Vacant|
|Council Ward 3||Ron Johnson|
|Council Ward 4||Emelie Rivera|
|Council Ward 5||Nancy Erickson|
Bemidji's government is made up of a mayor and a council, with the latter elected from five single-member districts or wards.
Bemidji is a college city, with strong arts influences. The city's streets are lined with small shops and adorned with sculptures and other forms of public art.
The Concordia Language Villages are near Bemidji. They have supported several language conversational groups (including French, Chinese, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, and German) that meet weekly in local coffeehouses. In 2018 Concordia's Korean Language Village received a $5 million grant. The Korean village is the newest of the Villages.
During the summer, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse operates a non-Equity, summer stock theater at the Chief Theater. The Bemidji Community Theatre provides live theatre there when the Paul Bunyan Playhouse is not in operation.
The statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are a popular tourist destinations. Many people photograph themselves in front of them. The statues are next to the Bemidji Tourist Information Center, where tourists can learn about local activities, events, and attractions. The center also includes many artifacts of the lumberjack's legend and a giant visitors' book travelers can sign; the names go back a long time. An old fireplace there was built with 900 stones, taken from every state in the United States, and most of the Canadian provinces, and Minnesota national parks.
The city is well-known to hockey fans. As a Division II team, Bemidji State was a hockey dynasty in the 1980s and '90s. Bemidji State was in the title game eight straight years, winning five titles. It became a Division I team in 1999, and has not won any Division I titles.
The city is also familiar to curling fans. Both men's and women's rinks from the Bemidji Curling Club won the right to represent the United States in the 2005 World Curling Championship and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Pete Fenson, the skip of the U.S. curling team that took the bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, is a native of Bemidji, as is Natalie Nicholson, who was the lead for the United States women's team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
A city referendum for a Bemidji Regional Events Center passed by a slim majority of 43 votes out of 4,583 cast in November 2006. Opening in 2010, the center was renamed the Sanford Center and serves as home to the Bemidji State University hockey team. The men's and women's hockey teams are both members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. From 2014 to 2015, the Sanford Center was the home of the city's first-ever professional sports team, the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League.
From January 16 to January 19, Bemidji hosted Hockey Day Minnesota, a three-day event aired on Fox Sports. The Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University boys and girls hockey teams both played on outdoor rinks outside of the Sanford Center. The Minnesota Wild team also played on the outdoor rinks.
In 2013, runners signed up for the first Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon. The race, run in October, draws athletes and recreational runners from around the region. The events spawned a weekend of races that includes two kids races, a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and a 26K that circles Lake Bemidji.
Bemidji is home to Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College, and Oak Hills Christian College. Public education is served by Bemidji Area Schools is a part of Independent School District 31, and includes eight elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. Also in the district are TrekNorth Charter High School, Voyagers Charter High School, Schoolcraft Charter School, and Bemidji is home to three private schools: St. Philip's Catholic School, St. Mark's Lutheran School and Heartland Christian Academy.
Bemidji is as a regional center for shopping, arts, entertainment, education, health services, worship, and government services. The Bemidji area includes parts or all of Beltrami (pop. 46,847), Hubbard (pop. 21,332), Cass (pop. 29,519), Itasca (pop. 45,108), Koochiching (pop. 12,440), Lake Of The Woods (pop. 3,758), Marshall (pop. 9,390), Pennington (pop. 14,178), Red Lake (pop. 3,999), Clearwater (pop. 8,810), and Mahnomen (pop. 5,519) counties, the White Earth (pop. 9,192) and Leech Lake (pop. 10,660) Reservations and the Sovereign Nation of Red Lake (pop. 5,162). Lexington Realty International places the Bemidji Area population at 131,553.
Most of Bemidji's TV stations primarily rebroadcast the television stations of the Twin Cities.
|First Nations Experience
|Northern Minnesota Public Television, Inc.|
|Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians|
|CBS||WCCO 4||12.2||Start TV||CBS Corporation|
|Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians|
|WGN||Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians|
|First Nations Experience
|Northern Minnesota Public Television, Inc.|
|Fox Television Stations, Inc.|
|AM radio stations|
|820 AM||WBKK||AM 820||Catholic Talk||Real Presence Radio|
|1300 AM||KPMI||County Legends||Classic Country||Paskvan Media|
|1360 AM||KKBJ||Talkradio 1360||News/Talk||RP Broadcasting|
|1450 AM||KBUN||The Bun||Sports
|Paul Bunyan Broadcasting|
- inBemidji, a quarterly lifestyle magazine focused on the Bemidji area. First published in December 2013 (as inMagazine) by The Bemidji Pioneer.
- Northwoods Woman, a bimonthly magazine published from 2008 to 2013, launched in Bemidji, Walker and Park Rapids, included articles about women who live and work in northern Minnesota.
The following routes are in the Bemidji area.
Bemidji is served by Bemidji Airport, which has passenger services on three airlines, Delta Connection, Sun Country Airlines and Bemidji Airlines, the latter of which is based in Bemidji. Bemidji Airlines also operates cargo flights, while Corporate Air is the only airline to operate all-cargo-only flights to the airport, on behalf of FedEx Express.
- Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union
- Bank Forward
- Bemidji Holding Co
- Citizens State Bank – Midwest
- Deerwood Bank
- First National Bank of Bemidji
- Minnesota Finance
- Riverwood Bank
- Security Bank USA
- Trustar Federal Credit Union
- Ultima Bank Minnesota
- Wells Fargo
- Russell A. Anderson, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court
- Roy C. Booth, author
- Gary Burger, guitarist and lead vocalist for the band The Monks
- Dave Casper, football player
- Pete Fenson, American curling skip
- Terry Frost, actor, starred in The Monster Maker
- Bryan Hickerson, baseball player
- Bob A. Johnson, Minnesota state representative
- Joe Motzko, hockey player
- Kent Nerburn, author
- Brian Paulson, record producer and musician
- Jane Russell, actress
- Gary Sargent, ice hockey defenseman
- Will Weaver, author and professor emeritus.
In popular culture
- "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- "Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary". Beaumont. 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Upham, Warren (1920). Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 36.
- "History". Bemidji Township.
- "Discover America – Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox". Discover America. Archived from the original on October 5, 2011.
- "Bemidji Minnesota History". A Guide to Minnesota Communities. Archived from the original on 22 August 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Paul Bunyan State Trail". TrailLink. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Biking". Visit Bemidji Minnesota. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "Art in the Park". Watermark Art Center. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival". Visit Bemidji Minnesota. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "Winterfest on Lake Bemidji". Bemidji Chamber. Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "Home of the Minnesota Finalndia". Minnesota Finlandia Community Health Sports. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 2, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- "Earthquake Shakes City". Little Falls Daily Transcript. September 4, 1917.
- "Minnesota at a Glance: Earthquakes in Minnesota" (PDF). Regents of the University of Minnesota. 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-07-12.
- John Hinderaker (27 January 2019). "The Al Gore Effect Comes to Minnesota". Center of the American Experiment. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
The nearest weather station to Bemidji is Cass Lake, just a few miles away. The National Weather Service records show that from 1930 through 1999, the average annual snowfall at Cass Lake was 50.2 inches. From 2000 through 2018, it was 52.5 inches–more snow, not less. And the 2008–09 total of 73.7 inches was the most since 1955–56.
- "Monthly Average of Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperature" (PDF). National Climatic Data Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-16. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
- "Monthly Climate Normals (1981–2010) – BEMIDJI, MN". National Climatic Data Center.
- United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved September 11, 2013.
- "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
- "2012 Economic Census of the United States". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "Bemidji City Council". City of Bemidji First City on the Mississippi. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- Amble, Rosemary Given. "Bemidji Minnesota History: Original Inhabitants Meet White Settlers". LakesnWoods.com. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Hyatt, Kim (April 2, 2018). "Global handbag king hands $5 million donation to Concordia's Korean Language Village". Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- Meurs, Michael (September 21, 2011). "Native American Language Revitalization on Red Lake Agenda". Indian Country Today Media Network. Archived from the original on June 29, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- "History of the Chief Theater". thechieftheater.com. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- "The BCT Story". bemidjicommunitytheater.org. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
- "Bemidji Tourist Information Center". Visit Bemidji Minnesota. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- Nov 26th 2015 - 6pm, Pioneer Staff Report |. "INDOOR FOOTBALL: Axemen axed from IFL". Bemidji Pioneer. Retrieved October 21, 2019.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- Matthew, Liedke (October 7, 2018). "Back for the Blue Ox: Two-Day Event Starts Friday in Bemidji". Bemidji Pioneer. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-01-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Pioneer Web Site". Bemidji Pioneer and Forum Communications Company. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "The Bemidji pioneer. [volume]". loc.gov. National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved October 21, 2019 – via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
- "inMagazine Winter 2014". Issuu. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
- "Northwood Woman". Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Froemming, Joe (April 18, 2014). "Bemidji is 'Fargo': From characters large and small to the town itself, a fictional Bemidji plays a large role in new, much-anticipated FX television series". Bemidji Pioneer. Event occurs at 3pm. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
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