Thief River Falls is the home of snowmobile manufacturer Arctic Cat. South of Thief River Falls is one of the area’s few Native American casinos, 7 Clans Casino, which also contains a hotel and indoor water park. Thief River Falls is home to the electronic parts distributor Digi-Key, one of the largest employers in the area, and was the birthplace of the vaunted Steiger Tractor, produced from 1958 to the late 1980s.
Thief River Falls first developed as a lumber milling town.It also became a major agricultural service area because of the rich soil left by ancient, glacial Lake Agassiz. The unusual name, “Thief River,” was given to the river by the Ojibwe and Dakota people. “Falls” was added to the name of the new city in 1896 because a series of rapids in the river had been converted to a waterfall by the construction of a dam. Until 1904, an Ojibwe village of 40 families was located where the Thief River and Red Lake River meet. The Great Northern and Soo Line Railroads brought prosperity when Thief River Falls became a center for shipping wheat. Today, the city continues its entrepreneurial spirit, preserving and respecting the past, yet growing and moving toward the future, especially in the manufacturing and distribution industries.