The Minnesota River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 332 miles (534 km) long, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It drains a watershed of nearly 17,000 square miles (44,000 km²), 14,751 square miles (38,205 km²) in Minnesota and about 2,000 sq mi (5180 km²) in South Dakota and Iowa.
It rises in southwestern Minnesota, in Big Stone Lake on the Minnesota–South Dakota border just south of the Laurentian Divide at the Traverse Gap portage. It flows southeast to Mankato, then turns northeast. It joins the Mississippi south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, near the historic Fort Snelling. The valley is one of several distinct regions of Minnesota. As shown on old maps of Fort Snelling, early explorers dubbed the waterway the St. Pierre or St. Peter's River. Pierre-Charles Le Sueur was the first European to visit the river, but there is no consensus as to the origin of its original name.
Its name comes from the Lakota language mini meaning "water" and sota which is alternately translated "smoky-white" or "like the cloudy sky". Minnesota Territory, and later the state, were named for the river.
The valley that the Minnesota River flows in is up to five miles (8 km) wide and 250 feet (80 m) deep. It was carved into the landscape by the massive glacial River Warren between 11,700 and 9,400 years ago at the end of the last ice age in North America.
The river valley is notable as the origin and center of the canning industry in Minnesota. In 1903 Carson Nesbit Cosgrove, an entrepreneur in Le Sueur presided at the organizational meeting of the Minnesota Valley Canning Company (later renamed Green Giant). By 1930, the Minnesota River valley had emerged as one of the country's largest producers of sweet corn. Green Giant had five canneries in Minnesota in addition to the original facility in Le Sueur. Cosgrove's son, Edward, and grandson, Robert also served as heads of the company over the ensuing decades before the company was swallowed by General Mills. Several docks for barges exist along the river. Dried goods are transported to the ports of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and then shipped down the Mississippi River.
|Order of entry||River||Location of confluence|
|11||Blue Earth River||West side of Mankato|
|9||Cottonwood River||Southeast of New Ulm|
|13||Credit River||Scott County, just southeast of Minneapolis-Saint Paul|
|5||Lac qui Parle River||Lac qui Parle State Park, 10 mi (15 km) northwest of Montevideo|
|10||Little Cottonwood River||Cambria Township, 7 mi (11 km) southeast of New Ulm|
|1||Little Minnesota River||Big Stone Lake in Browns Valley|
|4||Pomme de Terre River||Marsh Lake in southwestern Swift County, 4 mi (6 km) southwest of Appleton|
|8||Redwood River||Near Redwood Falls|
|12||Rush River||2.9 mi north of Le Sueur|
|2||Whetstone River||Ortonville, near the South Dakota state line|
|3||Yellow Bank River||Agassiz Township, 3 mi (5 km) southeast of Odessa|
|7||Yellow Medicine River||Upper Sioux Agency State Park in Sioux Agency Township|