Place Names - Watonwan River

Watonwan River

According to French explorer Joseph Nicollet, the Watonwan River was named for a Dakota story. Watonwan Ktepi Watepe – where they killed Watonwan – he who has the eye on everything. Early French accounts describe it as the “Riviere ou ils tue Watonwan, celui qui a l’oeil sur tout” (the river where they killed Watonwan – he who saw everything).

There are many other ideas for the name Watonwan. Another theory is that the word might mean "I see," or "he sees." It may have been applied to this branch of the Blue Earth as being a prairie country and presenting a good prospect, but it is uncertain whether this is the meaning. Another idea is that the word could have been misspelled, and that it should be Watanwan, meaning "fish bait," or "where fish bait abounds." (Upham)

CAN-SU-SKA WA-KPA-DAN (north fork)
(1) box elder (2) creek.
Box elder creek is the name of the present day north fork, of the WA-TON-WAN River which flows eastward into the Blue Earth. (Durand)

WA-TON-WAN KTE-PI WA-KPA (south fork)
This place name is not clearly understood. (1) the prefix WA may refer to WA-HAN-KSI-CA, the black bear. (2) TON WAN, in this context is to look, to see (3) where they killed (4) river. This is the present day south fork of the Watonwan River. (Durand)

The Watonwan and Le Sueur Rivers flow into the Blue Earth River.


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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