Place Names - Blue Earth River

Blue Earth River  

The name Blue Earth is a translation of the Dakota Indian word Mahkato, meaning “greenish blue earth.” The Blue Earth River took its name from the bluish green earth that was used by the Sisseton Dakota as a pigment, found in a shaley layer of the rock bluff of this stream about three miles from its mouth.

Interestingly, the Winnebago name was MA SHOOCH GAH (1) earth (2) blue (3) they. “Where they get the blue clay.” (Durand)

The Dakota probably gave the name to early French explorer Pierre Le Sueur and his party."We called this green river, because it is of that color by reason of a green earth which, loosening itself from the copper mines, becomes dissolved in it and makes it green." In Dakota language the same word, to, is used both for blue and green. (Upham)


(1) earth (2) blue or green (3) to take. “Blue (or green) earth river.” A tributary of the Minnesota River at present day Mankato. Also expressed as MA-KA TO YU-SPI (1) earth (2) blue or green (3) to pick or gather. This green or blue clay was found six miles above the junction with the Minnesota River above the mouth of the Le Sueur River, left bank. Most tribes considered green and blue as the same color since what appears green in sunlight turns blue in the distance. (Durand)

Early French explorer Pierre Le Sueur arrived at the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers in 1683. He returned to the Blue Earth River in 1700 and built an outpost called Fort Le Huillier and set out to mine what he thought was copper ore in the bluffs of the Blue Earth River. It turned out to be clay and the mining operation was never pursued. A plaque on Highway 66 south of Mankato marks his outpost.



Watersheds | Blue Earth | Chippewa | Cottonwood | Hawk Creek | Lac qui Parle | Le Sueur | Pomme de Terre | Redwood | Watonwan | Yellow Medicine | Minnesota River |

Upham, Warren (1969) Minnesota Geographic Names. Minnesota Historical Society: St. Paul, MN
Durand, Paul (1994) Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet: An Atlas of the Eastern Sioux. Prior Lake, MN
Minnesota Place Names

This page was last updated 4/15/11


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