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This is a guide to transportation in the State of Minnesota.

Traveling today, is relatively easy, whether by land or by air. Our cars are air-conditioned, and there are hotels, restaurants, and gas station competing for our business all along the way. Flying can be a bother, given security precautions, but once the plane is in the air, a flight to Minnesota from anywhere in the country takes very little time. That wasn't the case when Minnesota was settled.

The first European explorers and trappers came in much the same way that the indigenous people traveled: walking or by canoe. Many of the first families came to Minnesota with their belongings carried by ox-drawn wagons, without the luxury of hotels and restaurants, and with a constant threat of danger. Most came by canoe.

The first highway in Minnesota was the Mississippi River. Canoes and keelboats came north from Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, in what is now Wisconsin, to Fort Saint Anthony, now Fort Snelling, near Saint Paul. Those were the first boats to navigate the shallow bottoms of the Mississippi River in the north. However, in the spring of 1823, the Virginia, a sternwheel steamboat, made the trip.

Most of the first settlements in Minnesota were along waterways, given that most of Wisconsin and Minnesota were covered with dense forest, making travel by land difficult.

Until about 1840, the primary business in Minnesota was the fur trade. The forests weren't yet cleared, so agriculture was non-existent, and the lumber industry wouldn't start until the 1850s.

As more and more steamboats made their way farther upstream along the Mississippi, German and Scandinavian immigrants began moving into the parts of the territory, populating the mining towns, the army posts, and the area around the fur-trading posts and sawmills. The steamboats were able to bring people in to work the businesses, and bring the product out to market.

Stagecoaches also played a part in the development of the Minnesota territory, if only for a short time. As people moved away from the Great Lakes and the riverways, roads were cut into the forests and stagecoach lines transported people and delivered mail and supplies.

The lumber industry cleared the forests from the riverbanks, establishing sawmills and lumber operations along the navigable rivers. Most of Minnesota depended on the Mississippi River to move its product to market. Logging crews were restricted to places where they could access the waterways. The coming of the railroads changed that and opened the entirety of Minnesota up for settlement.

In 1867, Minneapolis was connected to Prairie du Chien by rail. Then, the wealthy lumber barons began building their own railroads, allowing crews to penetrate deeper into the forests, at the same time opening the area to settlement.

Today, Minnesota is served by only one intercity rail line, Amtrak's Empire Builder, which stops at Winona, Red Wing, Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, Staples, and Detroit Lakes, although there are plans for a Northstar Corridor line and a Northern Lights Express. Most of Minnesota's train depots have closed or been turned into museums.

The Twin City Rapid Transit Company operated streetcars in the Twin City region from the 1890s to 1954, when they were replaced by buses. Although they used to be more common, today there are only two light rail lines, the Blue Line and the Green line, both operated by Metro Transit.

Most of the railroads and major freeways in Minnesota connect to the Twin Cities metro area, where most of the state's residents live. The major Interstate Highways in Minnesota are I-35, I-90, and I-94, although there are other spur routes and beltways.

Regular bus transport systems can be found in Duluth, East Grand Forks, Mankato, Moorhead, Rochester, Saint Cloud, Winona, and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, which has a Metro Transit system with more than a hundred routes. Intercity bus services is provided by Jefferson Lines, Greyhound, and Megabus, with Jefferson serving the largest number of cities.

Water transport today, is mostly recreational, although barges still haul grain and other products down the Mississippi, and cargo vessels haul grain, coal, and iron ore from the state's Lake Superior ports.

Minnesota's busiest airport is the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, but commuter service is also available at Bemidji, Brainerd, Hibbing, International Falls, Saint Cloud, and Thief River Falls.

In recent years, bicycling has become a popular recreational activity in Minnesota, many of which use the right-of-ways that the railroads once followed.

Topics related to statewide transportation issues in Minnesota are suitable for this category, while local transportation topics should be listed in the appropriate Cities & Towns category.



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