Beginning with Native Americans, who taught their canoe routes to the early French fur traders, water was the primary means of travel in Minnesota. As the state developed, settlements grew up next to lakes and rivers, and steamboats brought commerce.
Minnesota began to develop as a modern state with the coming of the railroads. As tracks were laid across the prairies in the 1860s and 1870s, numerous towns grew up beside them. by 1900 the trains ran to nearly every community in the state, but since then the network of rails has been steadily shrinking. Visit the Minnesota Transportation Museum.
Highways and freeways have taken their place, and jets now connect Minnesota with the world. Northwest Airlines was started in Minneapolis in 1926 and still makes its home there.
Since the 1940, however, water transportation has come back. The Mississippi River channel was deepened, dams and locks were built, and the St. Lawrence seaway opened Lake Superior to international trade. Duluth became the largest freshwater port in the world.