Ottertail, Minnesota

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Ottertail is a city in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 451 at the 2000 census.



According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.1 square miles (13.3 km²), of which, 4.4 square miles (11.4 km²) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (1.9 km²) of it (14.59%) is water.

Minnesota State Highways 78 and 108 are two of the main routes in the community.


Long before there were roads in this area of the country, the best method of travel was by water. Two of these water highways are the Leaf Lake chain, which drains south to the Gulf of Mexico, and Otter Tail Lake, which drains north to Hudson Bay. Because of its strategic position, Native Americans and early explorers often held meetings on the shores of "La Queue de Loutre", so named because of the long sand bar separating the lake from the river, which looked like – and still looks like (two centuries later) – an otter's tail. In the mid-19th century, a fur trader named Donald McDonald started a trading post on the east shore of Lake Ottertail, which he called Ottertail City.[3]

Otter Tail City is in the heart of Otter Tail County, a very popular tourist destination to enjoy Minnesota's vast outdoors to golf, swim, fish, hike, hunt, and much more. In the winter, it is a community of 451 residents; however, when summer arrives Ottertail City swells to over 1000. Located on Minnesota highways 108 and 78, it is nestled among many streams and upwards of a thousand lakes, the largest of which is the namesake, Otter Tail Lake. The base population increases dramatically in the summer, yet it still does not reach the levels that it attained in the 1870s when residents numbered around 1200. During its heyday Ottertail had its own weekly newspaper, five hotels, 27 saloons and many other types of enterprises necessary for pioneer life.[4]

In the mid-90s a developer of a trailer park built among ancient Indian burial mounds located within the city limits and shortly thereafter had to settle with the group that sued to protect their ancestral cemetery. Many neighbors have multiple small upthrusts in their backyards which mark one of 23 ancient burial sites located within the trailer park, about 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The park still remains on the original grounds but has agreed to preserve and protect the sites to the greatest extent possible (no sites have been destroyed in its development). A few incidents of restless Indian spirits were said to be disturbing families shortly thereafter.[5]


As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 451 people, 190 households, and 133 families residing in the city. The population density was 102.7 people per square mile (39.7/km²). There were 323 housing units at an average density of 73.6/sq mi (28.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 99.56% White and 0.44% Native American. 42.8% were of German, 23.7% Norwegian and 7.7% Swedish ancestry according to Census 2000.

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