Geography of Carlton County, Minnesota

Carlton County, situated in northeastern Minnesota, is a region characterized by its diverse geography, pristine natural landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. From its dense forests and sparkling lakes to its winding rivers and rolling hills, the county’s geography plays a significant role in shaping its economy, ecology, and way of life. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other notable features of Carlton County.


According to Plus-Size-Tips, Carlton County covers an area of approximately 875 square miles in northeastern Minnesota. It is bordered by St. Louis County to the north, Aitkin County to the west, Pine County to the south, and the state of Wisconsin to the east. The county seat is Carlton, while other significant communities include Cloquet, Scanlon, and Moose Lake.

The landscape of Carlton County is diverse, encompassing vast tracts of forested land, numerous lakes and rivers, and rolling hills. The county lies within the Northern Minnesota Forests ecoregion, characterized by its mix of coniferous and deciduous forests, wetlands, and peatlands. The region is known for its scenic beauty, outdoor recreational opportunities, and abundant wildlife.


Carlton County experiences a humid continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and warm, humid summers. The region’s climate is influenced by its inland location, its proximity to Lake Superior, and its location within the Northern Minnesota Forests ecoregion.

Winters in Carlton County are cold and snowy, with average high temperatures in the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit (around -6 to -1°C). Snowfall is frequent, particularly in December and January, with average annual snowfall ranging from 60 to 80 inches (about 150-200 cm). The region can also experience occasional winter storms and blizzards, bringing heavy snowfall and strong winds.

Summers in Carlton County are warm and humid, with average high temperatures ranging from the 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 21-28°C). High humidity levels can make the temperature feel even warmer, particularly during heatwaves in July and August. Thunderstorms are common during the summer months, bringing heavy rainfall and occasional severe weather.

Spring and fall are transitional seasons, with gradually changing temperatures and blooming vegetation. These seasons bring mild, pleasant weather, making them ideal times to explore Carlton County’s outdoor attractions and cultural events.

Rivers and Lakes

Carlton County is home to numerous rivers, lakes, and streams, which play important roles in both the region’s ecology and human activities such as recreation, fishing, and transportation.

The St. Louis River, one of the major rivers in northeastern Minnesota, flows through the western part of Carlton County, providing habitat for diverse wildlife and supporting recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and kayaking. The river is known for its scenic beauty, clear waters, and abundant fish populations.

Other significant rivers in Carlton County include the Nemadji River, which flows through the eastern part of the county, and the Kettle River, which forms part of the county’s southern border. These rivers and their tributaries provide habitat for various species of fish, birds, and other wildlife, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation and scenic beauty.

Carlton County also contains numerous lakes and ponds, including Big Lake, Eagle Lake, and Grindstone Lake, which offer opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. These lakes provide additional recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike, as well as important habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Natural Attractions

In addition to its rivers and lakes, Carlton County boasts several natural attractions that showcase the region’s beauty and biodiversity.

Jay Cooke State Park, located near Carlton, is a scenic area that encompasses over 8,000 acres of forests, rivers, and waterfalls. The park features hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and historic sites, as well as opportunities for camping, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The park’s iconic swinging bridge, which spans the St. Louis River, offers stunning views of the river gorge and surrounding landscape.

The Willard Munger State Trail, a designated Minnesota State Trail, winds through Carlton County, offering opportunities for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling. The trail follows the route of the former Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway, passing through forests, wetlands, and scenic vistas along the way.


Carlton County, Minnesota, offers a diverse array of geographical features, including rivers, lakes, forests, and rolling hills. The region’s humid continental climate, natural beauty, and outdoor recreational opportunities make it a desirable destination for residents and visitors alike. Whether it’s hiking in Jay Cooke State Park, fishing on the St. Louis River, or exploring the Willard Munger State Trail, Carlton County invites visitors to experience the best that northeastern Minnesota has to offer.