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Deer River, Minnesota



Our History

Deer River was officially incorporated as a small village on January 22nd, 1898. At that time the town contained a neat depot, three hotels crowded every day with lumberjacks, three stores, several restaurants, but no church. A log schoolhouse had been built some five years before. Logging companies were employing 1000 to 1500 men and had constructed 26 miles of rails northward; in 1898 timber outfits were "banking" 35 million feet of logs.

That year three blocks of Deer River's streets had been graded; a fine village well had been dug, and water "clear as crystal" flowed from a depth of 88 feet. Wheat was selling in Duluth at $1.19 a bushel; flour was about $2.00 a hundred pounds; Arbuckle coffee, un-ground, 20 cents a pound; shotgun shells, 98 cents a box; oak and maple firewood, $1.50 a cord.

For some years Deer River remained a rough and tumble muddy town. It was moved out of the swamp to the point where the M. & R. crossed the Great Northern in 1899. But it was not until 1906 that residents were able to vote a bond issue of $12,000 to build roads and bridges in the township. Before that the "boys" along "Whiskey Row" had had no desire to pay for such unnecessary luxuries as roads. They never used them and they felt that others could always wade, swim or boat along the roads as well as along the creeks.

The population even swelled out to the south beyond the limits of Deer River itself. Zemple, the little town on the other side of the tracks to the south of Deer River, was officially organized in 1911. The first council meeting was held in June of that year. At the first election 28 people voted. The town was named for R. T. Zemple who owned most of the land and was elected the first village president.

Community Data



- US Highway 2

- State Highway 6



  • Grand Rapids, MN = 13 miles

  • Bigfork, MN = 36 miles

  • Bemidji, MN = 55 miles

  • Duluth, MN = 98 miles

  • St. Paul, MN = 203 miles     




  • Country = United States

  • State = Minnesota

  • County = Itasca

  • Area Total = 1.51 sq. mile

  • Elevation = 1293 feet

  • Population = 930 (2010 Census)

  • Newspaper = Herald Review

  • Medical = Essentia Health

  • Dental = Deer River Dental Clinic

  • Schools - ISD #317

  • Festivals - Wild Rice Festival & BBQ - Brewfest

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