Dakota County is 587 square miles in area and has a population of about 442,000. Situated in the southeast corner of the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, it is the third-most populous county in the state of Minnesota.
Dakota County maintains a land use mixture of 1/3 urban, 1/3 suburban and 1/3 rural. This combination of land use and the confluence of two major rivers (the Mississippi and Minnesota) that form the county's northern and eastern borders makes Dakota County a unique geographic area.
Founded in 1849, Dakota County was one of the original nine counties created by the Minnesota Territory Legislature. Thus, it was established before Minnesota was considered a state. The county seat moved to Hastings in 1857, where it has remained.
Between 1990 and 2000, Dakota County's population grew by nearly 30 percent. In recent years, second and third ring communities in Dakota County (Burnsville, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights, Apple Valley, Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount) have dramatically increased in population as development continues to move outwards from the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul, into suburban cities and townships.