From an isolated cluster of cabins to the region's commercial hub, Grand Rapids has marshalled its natural and cultural resources to become the economic and government center of Itasca County
Location Location Location
In real estate, location is everything. Situated at the northern tip of navigable waters on the Mississippi River, Grand Rapids had location in the 19th century. It still does. The community was named for its strong rapids on this mighty river. Like most towns on The Edge of the Wilderness, it began as a small group of rustic log buildings. Then steamboats came up the river in the late 1800's, cruising for the regions vast pine resources. By 1902, civic leaders harnessed the rapids by constructing a dam for a paper mill. Decades later, Grand Rapids became and remains a starting point for vacations to The Edge of the Wilderness. As you travel the Byway, you can tell that the forests, lakes and accompanying recreational opportunities are perfect for a prosperous tourism industry.
Despite the dominance of these important industries, Grand Rapids also claimed early agricultural development. Potatoes were a popular crop because of suitable soil and weather. In 1896, the North Central Agricultural School and Experiment Station was established here to develop the region's farming and forestry.
A re-created 1900's era logging camp can be found at the Forest History Center on the Great River Road southwest of town.
Take a Closer Look
This beautiful and clean community boasts landmark structures. Be sure to see the Old Central School, which was constructed in 1895. It now serves as a cultural and retail facility and is the home of the Itasca County Historical Society. Grand Rapids is a regional retail center, offering shopping, lodging, restaurants and tourism attraction.