Water/Ways - Becker County Historical Society

In 1882, the citizens of Becker County recognized the need for preservation of the history of their community. The result was the Pioneer Settlers Union. This group, comprised of many of our founding residents, actively worked to preserve the history of their community as it was happening. In 1924, this organization was renamed the Becker County Historical Society which started the Becker County Museum in 1943. All the while the mission stayed the same: "To preserve and communicate the history of Becker County and its people to all generations."

Water/Ways - February 25, 2017 - April 19, 2017


Our Local Water Story

Little and Big Detroit Lakes were named due to the sand bar, known as a detroit in French, that separates Big and Little Detroit Lakes. The first settlement by non-native people began in the late 1860s and early 1970s. The original town was called Tyler town, after one of the first settlers in the area named Melvin Tyler. The name of the town was quickly changed to Detroit in 1872 after the nearby lakes and later Detroit Lakes to reduce confusion with Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Lakes have served the City of Detroit Lakes and the Becker County Community as a hub for their economy and tourism throughout Becker County’s history. The Otter Tail River starts in Clearwater County and goes through a number of other counties including Becker County. It was heavily used to transport logs from the forest further north of Frazee that eventually made their way to the saw mills based in the Frazee area. Currently the river serves as a great place to go tubing.

Cormorant Lake at one time was the biggest lake in Becker County. The water was lowered and the lake split into the different Cormorant Lakes as a result. It is home of the rumored Viking mooring stone which marks a site where a possible early Viking expedition occurred. Seven Sister Lakes have female names that the locals believe were all sisters of one gentleman at one point. Five of the lakes (Melissa, Sallie, Ida, Maud and Eunice Lakes) are in Becker County while two (Lizzie and Lida) are in Ottertail County. Tullaby, Strawberry, White Earth, and Elbow Lake are just a few popular lakes in the White Earth Reservation. Floyd Lakes (Big and Little) is a popular lake because you drive through it on the Richwood road on the way to Richwood. The lake is on both sides of the road.

The Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center understands first hand that water is the main reason our tourists come to the area. Time spent on the water is not only important to families for recreation, but to fishermen, boaters and anyone looking for a gorgeous sunrise/sunset or day at the beach…daily life and local economy revolves around our water ways.

The Water Ways Exhibit in February will help remind residents and visitors how the history of our water (lakes, rivers, streams) has influenced our people and culture from the past and of the need to preserve our water for future generations to come.

Upcoming Events and Activities

February 8, 12–1p.m. — Ojibwe Water Stories, Mike Swan, Spiritual Leader and former Director of White Earth Natural Resources Department, Becker County Historical Society

February 17, 5-7 p.m. — Aquavit Social and Water Bar, this event is part of the Detroit Lakes Polar Fest, Becker County Historical Society

February 25, 10 a.m. — Water/Ways Exhibit Detroit Lakes Opening Ceremony, Opening Ceremony events include making a rain garden, rain barrels, rain chain, and bird bath, Becker County Historical Society

March 4, 10-11:30 a.m. — School and Community Field Trip: Detroit Lakes Water Treatment Plant, Detroit Lakes Water Treatment Plant

March 8, 12-1 p.m. — Brown Bag Lunch: Detroit Lakes Fish Hatchery Discussion, Mandy Erickson, Fisheries Specialist with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Becker County Historical Society

March 11, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. — Family Day: Make a Rain Barrel, Becker County Historical Society

Additional Events and Activities to be scheduled

School & Community Field Trips (Shuttle Bus Provided):
Sucker Creek Trail Walk (Dates to be announced dependent on ice out)

Additional events and programming, such as poster contest, student art on display, coloring books, Educator Guide Activities provided by Minnesota Humanities Center, and more are being currently being developed and scheduled.


Becker County Historical Society
714 Summit Avenue
Detroit Lakes, MN 56501


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