A History of the Town and
The Wagon Trails of Beltrami County before the Railroads Came


The First Railroad in Beltrami County

The Pioneer Community of Buena Vista, Minnesota, and the wagon trails that brought in new settlers and supplies for the logging camps and homesteaders make a local history story that began over one hundred years ago. In May, 1996, Buena Vista was given particular notice:


In recognition of the role of Buena Vista, Minnesota,

as a pioneer community

The Buena Vista Archaeological Historic District

has been placed on

The National Register of Historic Places.


The townsite of Buena Vista lies twelve miles north of Bemidji, Minnesota, and 25 miles south of the Red Lake Indian Reservation along Beltrami County Road 15. (Bemidji, the county seat of Beltrami County, is located on US 2 125 miles east of Grand Forks, ND, and 150 miles west of Duluth, MN. It is 100 miles south of the Canadian border on US 71.)

Map of the Buena Vista - Bemidji Area

Click on the map to expand it; Click on the Back button on the toolbar to return to text.

The map shows Red Lake, Buena Vista, Blackduck, Turtle River, Leech Lake, Walker, Park Rapids, Detroit, Fosston, and Crookston.

The map represents the area in about 1920, after the railroads had come through Bemidji. The small towns east of Fosston on the Great Northern and the towns between Walker and Bemidji on the Northern Pacific date from 1898 or later. Those northeast of Bemidji On the Minnesota and International came after 1900 or later. The Soo line northwest of Bemidji came last of all.

Buena Vista sits atop the Continental (Laurentian) divide in a place the Native Americans called "the top of the world." On its south is Little Turtle Lake, whose waters eventually flow into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. On its north is Lake Julia, whose waters flow into Red Lake and eventually into the Red River and beyond to Hudson's Bay. (Lake Julia was named in 1823 by the Italian explorer Giacomo Constantino Beltrami.) Today the only original Buena Vista building left standing is the schoolhouse (1898), now the Turtle Lake Town Hall; but the site is filled with memories of settlers, immigrants, transients, loggers, sawmills, school teachers, and saloons. It is a place of geographic and historic significance and a place of great natural beauty in summer, winter, and -- with its flaming maples -- spectacularly so in the fall.

Lake Julia at Sunset
from the Ski Hill atop the Laurentian Divide


Buena Vista

  1. History Before Settlement
  2. Buena Vista, The Town
  3. Buena Vista Today

The Making of the Red Lake Indian Reservation

  1. The United States government and the Red Lake band down to the Act of 1889
  2. The final diminishing of the Red Lake Reservation

The Red Lake Line

  1. Building a Railroad in the Wilderness
  2. The Minneapolis, Red Lake and Manitoba Railway
  3. The Making of Nebish and The End of the Line

Historic Trails
in Beltrami County to 1897

  1. The Six Main Trails
  2. Leech Lake Trail
  3. Red Lake Trail
  4. Fosston Trail
  5. Park Rapids Trail
  6. Black Duck County Road
  7. Fosston County Road


  1. Books Used and Recommended
  2. Permissions, Copyright Notices, and Acknowledgments

E-MAIL: woss@mail.utexas.edu
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 William and Madeline Sutherland
Copyright information and property rights are listed in the section
Permissions, Copyright Notices, and Acknowledgments.

Last update July 11, 2008
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