Minnesota is drained by three major systems. The first system drains a narrow area north and west of Lake Superior either into the St. Louis River or into many short streams along the lake’s north shore, and then into the lake itself. From the Great Lakes the water enters the St. Lawrence River, which empties into the Atlantic. The second system drains most of the north central part of the state into the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, on to Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, and finally into Hudson Bay. The northwestern portion is drained by the Red River of the North through Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay.
The remaining portion of the state is drained by the Mississippi River system. Most of central Minnesota is drained by the Mississippi River itself, which has its source at Lake Itasca in the north central region of the state. The east central border area is drained through the Saint Croix River to the Mississippi, and most of the southern part is drained by a major tributary of the Mississippi, the Minnesota River. The Minnesota rises in Big Stone Lake on the state’s western border and flows into the Mississippi near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, only a few miles from the eastern border. A small area in the southwest is drained by a tributary of the Missouri River. The Des Moines and Cedar rivers drain other small sections in the south and flow southward into Iowa, eventually reaching the Mississippi.
Minnesota shares with Ontario, Wisconsin, and Michigan the shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, and many smaller lakes straddle the Minnesota-Canada border. Lake Traverse and Big Stone Lake are long narrow lakes that are located only a few miles apart on the border separating Minnesota and South Dakota. Some of the other large lakes in Minnesota are Itasca, Leech, Mille Lacs, Vermilion, Winnibigoshish, Upper Red, and Lower Red lakes. "Minnesota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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