Naming Geographic Features
DNR Waters participates in an advisory role during the process of the naming of geographic features in Minnesota in accordance with Minnesota law.
Naming lakes, rivers, streams or other natural geographic features in Minnesota is guided by the statutory process found in Minnesota Statute 83A.04 - 83A.07. The process requires 15 or more registered voters to petition the county board of commissioners in the county where the feature is located for a public hearing concerning a proposed name. If the county board agrees on a name, the board adopts a resolution in support of the proposed name (or other name if favored by the board as a result of testimony at the hearing), and forwards it to the state commissioner of natural resources (DNR). The name proposed in the resolution MUST be approved by the commissioner of natural resources to become the official name of the feature in Minnesota. Approved names are subsequently submitted to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal approval and use.
The process to change a name is the same. However, a name that has existed for 40 years or more may not be subject to change via the county board hearing process. Also, the commissioner of natural resources will not approve a name that commemorates, or may be construed to commemorate, living persons. For additional information, please contact Pete Boulay, phone: 651-296-4214.
Only a handful of public hearings regarding a geographic name change are held in Minnesota during a given year. Since they happen fairly infrequently, county staff and proponents sometimes seek advice on how to draft certain documents. The following are some samples of what other proponents and counties have used:
- U.S. Board on Geographic Names (U.S. Geological Survey)
- U.S. Board on Geographic Names: Principles, Policies and Procedures (U.S. Geological Survey)
- U.S. Board on Geographic Names: Geographic Names Information System (U.S. Geological Survey)
- Minnesota Place Names (Minnesota Historical Society)
- Public Waters Inventory Maps and Lists
- ToMO (Tons of Maps Online)
- Public Waters Name Changes Approved by the DNR Commissioner
- Gazetteer of Meandered Lakes, July 1928 (3.5 Mb)
- Bulletin No. 25 - An Inventory of Minnesota Lakes, 1968