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Elk River, Minnesota is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi River and Elk River in Sherburne County (for which it is the county seat), about thirty-four miles northwest of Minneapolis. Prior to the arrival of white settlers, the area was inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe, who fought a battle there in 1772 and 1773. Zebulon Pike came through during his 1805 exploration of the upper Mississippi River, naming the Elk River for the herd of elk he saw in the area. In 1846, David Faribault established a trading post at the river junction, which was later sold to Pierre Bottineau. In 1851, Ard Godfrey, a native of Orono, Maine, constructed a dam and sawmill on the Elk River, creating the first lobe of Lake Orono, and platted the nearby town of Orono. Around that time, Elk River became a distinct settlement. After a period of slow growth during the Civil War, Elk River’s population grew to more than two thousand by 1870, when it was named the county seat. The Orono Dam was was destroyed by an ice storm in 1912, and replaced in 1915, the new dam creating the four lobes of Lake Orono as it is today. In 1978, Elk River Township consolidated with the City of Elk River, making it one of the largest land-based cities in Minnesota. Nearby communities include Albertville, Bailey, Big Lake, Nowthen, Otsego, Ramsey, Rogers, St. Michael, and Zimmerman.


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