Naming geographic features

Naming a lake, river, stream or other natural geographic feature in Minnesota is guided by Minnesota Statues 83A.02 - 83A.07.

Naming process


The process begins at the county where the natural feature is located. Fifteen or more voters registered in that county must petition the county board of commissioners for a public hearing. If the county board agrees on the proposed name, the board adopts a resolution in support of the name.


The county resolution is sent to the Department of Natural Resources for approval from the Commissioner. In considering county requests to name a geographic feature or change a feature's name, the DNR considers whether the county followed a proper public process and whether the county-approved name complies with naming conventions. Names must avoid confusion with similarly named features and may not commemorate a living person.

If approved by the DNR Commissioner, the name is recorded by the county and is official in Minnesota.


As a final step, information is sent to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, who will approve or deny the name change for federal use.


Public hearing documents

If you're interested in naming or changing the name of a geographic feature, the following samples may be used as you work with your county.

Minnesota Statute Chapter 83A

  • 83A.02 - Powers and duties
  • 83A.03 - Names given to be official
  • 83A.04 - County boards naming geographic features must have approval of commissioner of natural resources
  • 83A.05 - Changing and giving names to water bodies
  • 83A.06 - Hearing on petition
  • 83A.07 - Names not to be duplicated

Related resources and links


Pete Boulay, 651-296-4214

Back to top