The Making of a Valley


Jane Johnson


"This land is mine. God gave this brave and ancientland to me." These words, from the song "Exodus" expressthe feelings of most residents of the Red River Valley. The land is surelytheirs and it is brave and ancient. As one walks along the Northerly flowingRed River, he can look around and see the miles of flat fertile farmland. It is a beautiful land and one full of opportunity.

A part of a Red River Valleyan's heritage is planted andnurtured by geography. As one geologist has said:

"Geography means many interrelated things. It involveslocation, proximity to seas and other land areas, climate and seasons, soil,and minerals. It has to do with mountains, hills, valleys, prairies, lakesand streams, water power and supply, and animal and plant life. It looksat nature's resources in their abundance or lack of abundance and at whatpeople have thought about resources and done with them. (1)

This ancient land is millions of years older than mankinditself. Mountains came and went, valleys were born and then suffocated bybelching volcanoes. There were many shallow oceans and rivers which rippedand tore at the earth, always making - destroying. At the dawn of the firstice age, many millions of years ago, glaciers covered a large part of NorthAmerica. Minnesota alone was devoured four different times by glaciers. These powerful, moving ice masses served a great part in carving out valleysor filling them in. They cut into rock and carried vast amounts of boulders,rock, sand, gravel, and soil. At the edges they piled up all this materialin great ridges or moraines. These can still be seen today at the outskirtsof the Red River Valley. When the last of the four glaciers melted manyhuge lakes were formed. Greatest of these was a gigantic lake which coveredmuch of Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, and a small part of Michigan. This pleistonic lake was named Lake Agassiz after the eminent Swiss naturalist,Louis Agassiz. (He concluded that great sheets of ice once covered allcountries in which boulder drift is found.) At it's greatest extent, LakeAgassiz stretched more than 700 miles across what is now Canada, Minnesota,and part of the Dakotas. It was considered a shallow lake, but in its widthof 250 miles there were certain areas where it was as much as 700 feet deep.

Lake Agassiz spilled over to send the mighty prehistoricWarren River rushing down, carving out what is now the Minnesota River Valley.

In time, Lake Agassiz began to shrink. The various levelscan be traced by ancient beaches the lake left on its former shores. Onlya few fragments of Lake Agassiz still remain - such as Red Lake and LakeWinnepeg in Canada. When the great ice sheet receded, the waters of thelake drained away into Hudson Bay. This also left thousands of tiny lakesand ponds scattered over its former area. This is how Minnesota got itsnickname "Land of a thousand lakes."

For thousands and thousands of years plant and animal lifelived, died, and fell to the bottom of the lake to contribute their partto the fertile sedimentary soil. The lake had been formed by a glacierwhich melted in the latter part of the ice age. Finally after centuriesit drained off through the Mississippi River and then to the North. Thisleft a river flowing in that direction and hundreds of square miles of flatearth.

This is the Valley as we know it today. It is one of therichest valleys in the world. Much is still undeveloped and lying in waiton opportunity's doorstep. The Red River Valley is known as the "cashcrop region" of the state. This is the valley where rich fields displayspring wheat and many other plentiful varieties of grain. The Valley isalso known for its potatoes and sugar beets. This is a land where thereare wide open spaces, the bed of a once mighty lake. Many mineral sourceshave been discovered including copper and many others. Oil is another richpossibility.

The poet and novelist, Lawrence Durrell, once wrote: "Theimportant determinant of any culture is the spirit of place." Thiscould certainly describe the way our people feel about this fertile valley.There is definitely a spirit of place and a will to move upward and onward. All residents in the Red River Valley are proud of their heritage and theircountry. Somehow it seems remarkable that this land is ours and God didgive it to us all.

(1) Minnesota (A History of the State). Theodore C. Blegen. Minnesota Press, copyright 1963

gen. Minnesota Press, copyright 1963