upper Midwest as well as places in California and Maine, and his achievements read like the exploits of Chuck Norris or a Dos Equis commercial, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone more responsible for the history and creation of the Great Lakes region than the enormous buffalo-plaid wearing Paul Bunyan, and his trusty sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox. Here are a few of Bunyan’s geological accomplishments to prove it.
- Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes were created by the footprints of Paul and Babe as they wandered blindly through a terrible blizzard.
- Paul needed to create the Great Lakes so that Babe had a sufficient watering hole.
- The Mississippi River was created when the Blue Ox pulled tank wagon used to coat the logging roads with ice in the winter, sprang a leak and trickled south.
- Every time they needed new shoes for Babe, they had to open a new iron mine.
- Even our own Rib Mountain is rumored to be Paul Bunyan’s final resting place, giving us a glimpse into his mythical size. By my estimation, that would make him nearly 2 miles tall.
Paul Bunyan’s achievements even extend to the western states, with the creation of the Grand Canyon as Paul drug his axe behind him and Mount Hood getting its beginnings as a stack of rocks piled by Bunyan as he put out his campfire. But, in spite of the intended comedic relief of Bunyan's folklore, many of the tall tales also offer us a glimpse into the harsh reality that was life in a logging camp. The weather could be harsh, the work dangerous, and the seclusion uninviting, but the lumberjacks and logging camps prospered. In the end, they helped develop many of the cities and towns of our "Northwoods", they formed the roots of our paper industry, and shaped the rail tracks and roadways we have today. And, even though Paul Bunyan himself won't be mentioned in Great Lakes History 101, the thousands of people his character was based on, have a starring role.
"The year of the two winters it got so cold the axemen let their beards grow full length. They wrapped the beards around them for warmth. In the spring Paul cut all the beards with a large scythe. The whiskers were stacked like hay and later sold for making mattresses..." Courtesy of Bang Printing, Drawing by Homer Dimmick