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Although located in the southwestern portion of Hubbard County, the city of Park Rapids, Minnesota serves as its county seat. Situated near the Fish Hook River rapids, which have since been dammed, and near Itasca State Park, the source of the Mississippi River, and the beginning of the Heartland State Trail, there are more than seventy lakes in the Park Rapids area, the largest and nearest being Fish Hook Lake and Long Lake, making the town a popular resort area. US Highway 71 and Minnesota Highway 34 are the main routes through the city. Nearby communities include Arago, Dorset, Hubbard, Menahga, Nevis, and Osage. Bemidji is about fifty miles north of Park Rapids. The area was largely unsettled until after the Civil War, when trading posts were set up at Leech Lake and White Earth, and a government trail known as the White Earth Road was built to connect them. In 1868, this trail crossed what is now Hubbard County, passing along the south shores of local lakes, then turning northwest to White Earth. The White Earth Road was the only one passable for wagons until 1881, when homesteaders built another trail north from Verndale, then a stop along the Northern Pacific Railroad. There, at the rapids, where the prairie met the forest, a town was built and named Park Rapids. First a fur trading town, it soon became a lumber town, and Park Rapids became a supply center for the logging camps. The town’s main street was made extra wide in order to allow teamsters to turn six-horse teams around. Many early homesteaders supplemented their income by working in the logging camps after their fields froze in the fall. In 1883, Park Rapids was chosen as the county seat. Although town officials were disappointed in the amount of time it took to attract a railroad, the Wadena and Park Rapids line came through in 1891, and the Park Rapids and Leech Lake Railway Company extended the Great Northern east to Cass Lake, an abandoned track that now serves as the Heartland State Trail.


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