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Thief River Falls
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Located in the northern portion of the Midwestern United States is the Thief River Falls Destination. Roseau, Warroad, Crookston, Argyle, Warren, Bagley, Cass Lake, and Blackduck are some of the towns that are situated throughout the destination. Often abbreviated as TRF or referred to as Thief River, the destination’s namesake is a city that is situated on the junction between two rivers: the Red Lake River that courses from the east to the southeast and the Thief River that flows from the north.[1] Thief River Falls generally draws those who take an interest in outdoor activities, especially river and lake recreation, as the Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake can be found in the vicinity of the city. Red Lake River offers visitors opportunities for camping, tubing, and canoeing.[9] Furthermore, the destination’s northeastern region is characteristic of a fraction of Lake of the Woods—a lake that is shared with the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota—and the Beltrami Island State Forest. Similar to the Red Lake River, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming are also popular at Beltrami Island State Park, in addition to hunting and camping.[6] Previous visitors suggest that the “best time of year” to visit Thief River Falls and its surrounding areas for warm-weather activities is from late June to late August, as climatic conditions are somewhat moderate.[5]

What Thief River Falls is known for

The Thief River Falls Destination encompasses the entire northwestern corner of Minnesota. One of the most prominent constituents of the destination is Beltrami Island State Forest, a sizable expanse of land comprising forested regions, various designated Scientific and Natural Areas, and Hayes Lake State Park. The namesake of the destination, Thief River Falls, is a city that can be found slightly west of the destination’s central region in Pennington County. The city covers a total land area of 6.12 square miles and serves as the county seat for Pennington County.[1] As of 2023, roughly 8,803 residents account for the total population of Thief River Falls, as the city currently grows at an annual rate of 0.20%. Concerning the racial composition of the population as a whole, white residents constitute the majority at 93.57%. The remaining percentage of the racial demographic is composed of black or African American individuals (2.21%), Native American residents (2.20%), people who are classified as two or more races (1.73%), those of an “other race” (0.17%), and Asian residents (0.13%).[2]

Major industries that are notable within Thief River Falls include farm machinery, snowmobiles, and global electronics distribution.[1] In terms of tourism, the city tends to be fairly popular among outdoor enthusiasts, as many visitors consider Thief River Falls to be “one of the country’s top birding and wildlife areas.” This opinion seemingly derives from the city’s location on Minnesota’s first birding trail called “Pine to Prairie Birding Trail.”[4]

Several tourists frequent Upper Red Lake and Lower Red Lake to undertake lake recreation. These two lakes are connected, and they both occupy an area in the destination’s eastern portion. One of the most popular lake activities that draw visitors to Upper Red Lake is fishing, as the lake offers 288,000 acres of fishing water. Some of the most sought-after fish that inhabit Upper Red Lake are crappie, northern pike, and walleye. Aside from fishing, people also go boating, canoeing, swimming, and wildlife viewing, among other activities.[8]


Grasslands, forested regions, and pastoral land primarily comprise the Thief River Falls Destination’s topographic formation. A considerable number of wildlife refuges and state forests can be found in various parts of the destination as well, one of the largest being the Beltrami Island State Forest. Ranked second-largest out of Minnesota’s 60 state forests, the Beltrami Island State Forest contains the headwaters of five rivers: Roseau, Warroad, Rapid, Winter Road, and Moose. Hayes Lake State Park is situated in Beltrami Island’s western portion and is the state’s largest Wildlife Management Area. Moreover, nearly 25 miles of hiking trails, 141 miles of hunting grounds, and 238 miles of off-highway vehicle trails are available within the Beltrami Island State Forest. Canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hunting, and swimming are a few activities that visitors often engage in at the park.[6] 

Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge—located north of Thief River Falls—is another notable designated wildlife area. A diverse range of wetland and upland habitats are found throughout the approximate 61,500 acres of land that the refuge comprises. Due to the refuge’s position in the aspen parkland transition zone between the boreal forest to the north and east and the tallgrass prairie to the south and west, the area provides a home to both nesting and migratory birds, as nearly 26 wetland impoundments serve as habitats. The wetland impoundments range in size from 30 to 9,000 acres. Furthermore, the refuge is a breeding ground for waterfowl and several other species of birds. Gray wolves and moose have also been seen in the area occasionally.[7] 

Coursing through the city of Thief River Falls is the Red Lake River, which first begins on the western side of the Lower Red Lake and flows westward. The river merges in East Grand Forks with the Red River of the North, after having passed through a few cities and towns, such as Thief River Falls, Red Lake Falls, and Crookston. Red Lake River stretches a total length of 193 miles in northwestern Minnesota.[9]

Temperatures vary between the range of -1 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year in Thief River Falls. The summer season has been described by tourists as “long” and “comfortable,” in contrast to the winter season, which has been said to be “frigid,” “snowy,” and “windy.” Cloud cover frequently occurs over the course of the year, and June tends to experience the highest number of rainy days, with an average of 10.9 days that receive at least 0.04 inches of precipitation. July is most commonly the warmest month of the year, as temperatures reach 78 degrees Fahrenheit on average. A high of 16 degrees Fahrenheit is typical during January, which is reportedly the coldest and driest month of the year.[5]


The name of Thief River Falls dates back to ancient times when a Native American tribe known as the Sioux was among a murderer during their residence in what is now known as Thief River Falls. The murderer of the Sioux tribe was allegedly concealed in the general vicinity of the river, living what many considered to be an “outlaw’s life” that entailed many robberies, hence the current name of the city. In 1750, the Chippewa tribe drove the Sioux out of Thief River Falls and settled in the area. The Chippewas kept the name of the river, though they translated it accordingly to their own language. Later in the 1800s, a fur trader by the name of Alexander Henry wrote about the land, referring to it as “Lac aux Voleurs” and “River aux Voleurs,” which translates from French to English as “Lake and River of Thieves.” Supposedly the first time that the area’s name was written in English was when Major S. H. Long of the United States army utilized a map during his expedition of the Red River, which contained a report of his journey and noted the area as “Thief R.”[3]

Thief River Falls was established in 1887 and later incorporated as a city almost ten years after.[1] The city initially developed as a lumber milling town; however, its location in a “major agriculture area” is a result of the “rich soil” that was left by Glacial Lake Agassiz in ancient times. Eventually, Thief River Falls became a hub for shipping wheat, and this, in turn, brought success to the Great Northern and the Soo Line railroads that arrived at the city. Currently, Soo Line Engine 1024 is showcased outside the city hall, a building that was formerly known as the Soo Line Depot. The city hall also displays historically significant photographic panels that pertain to Thief River Falls’ history.[10]