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The first city on the Mississippi

(Forum News Service File Photo)
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This article is from DESTINATIONS magazine, your source for inspiration and resources about travel in Central and Northern Lakes Area Minnesota! Read on for more links and information about some of Bemidji's most noteworthy sites and events, or click here to return to mndestinations.com , where you can browse travel articles about other communities throughout the region.

For fun DESTINATIONS apparel and more, visit shop.forumcomm.com/midwest-apparel.

DESTINATIONS is a travel magazine published annually by select Forum Communications Company newspapers.



Artwork by artist Troy Becker, for DESTINATIONS magazine

It doesn’t get much more Minnesotan than this little city of tall timber, tall tales, lots of plaid, and Paul Bunyan.

Folk tales claim the giant lumberjack created the Mississippi River with his massive footsteps, along with all the area’s lakes. Today, in a nod to these tales, an 18-foot statue of Paul Bunyan stands next to a 5-ton statue of his beloved blue ox, Babe, on the shores of Lake Bemidji. They are believed to be the second-most photographed roadside attraction in the nation , behind only Mount Rushmore.

Breath-taking natural beauty surrounds Bemidji, with over 400 crystal clear fishing lakes in the region. Fishing, boating, swimming and other water activities are a big draw for visitors, as are the area’s extensive trail systems, golf courses, hunting opportunities and more.

There are area parks to enjoy and public beaches maintained at Diamond Point and Cameron parks . Winter recreation is provided by a curling arena, two municipal skating rinks and Buena Vista Ski Area.

Paul & Babe.jpg
(Forum News Service File Photo)



  • It's home to the second-most photographed roadside attraction in the nation!
  • It was voted 'Best Minnesota Town' by Minnesota Monthly in 2017!



Explore the trails

(Forum News Service File Photo)

The city and surrounding area boast an extensive trail network, with over 440,000 forested acres in Beltrami County.

There are nine cross-country ski trail systems in the vicinity for all skill levels.

Bemidji also serves as a hub for two major trail systems: The 100-mile Paul Bunyan Trail connects Bemidji to Brainerd, and the 110-mile Blue Ox Trail extends from Bemidji to International Falls.


During the summer, bicyclists, runners and walkers frequent the trails, while snowmobilers enjoy them once the snow flies.

Make a splash at the Water Carnival

The 77th annual Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival will be held over the Fourth of July. A “Red, White and Boom” fireworks spectacular will start at dusk on July 4, with the best viewing at the southwest end of Lake Bemidji. A grand parade will be at 1 p.m.

Enjoy the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boats.jpg
(Bemidji Pioneer File Photo)

Dragon boat racing is the fastest growing water sport in the nation, and thousands of people come to the Lake Bemidji waterfront every year to enjoy the action. The 15th annual festival, happening this Aug. 4-7, features great food, music, kids’ activities, a parade of teams, cultural performances and more. Dragon boat racing began 2,500 years ago in China, as a way to appease the rain gods and celebrate summer rice planting.


Arts and culture in Bemidji

(Forum News Service File Photo)



Monsters lurk in the waters of Bemidji

Bemidji lies in the epicenter of some of the most productive muskellunge waters in the country. Every year, muskies reaching lengths of more than 48 inches have been caught.

The story behind Bemidji's name

Considered “the first city on the Mississippi River,” Bemidji’s name derives from its connection to the great river. The Anishinaabe people, who were the first residents of the area, named the city “Bemejigamaug,” which means “a lake with water flowing through it” in the Ojibwe language. The name refers to the Mississippi, which flows across Lake Bemidji before turning south.

To learn more about Bemidji’s rich history, visit the Bemidji County History Center, located in the Great Northern Depot downtown. Check out more than 105,000 pieces of American Indian and settlement artifacts there, along with old maps, newspapers and photographs.


Want to explore more? Visit these sites:

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