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Washington Post writer who ranked Red Lake as 'ugliest' county to come see for himself

RED LAKE FALLS, Minn.—The journalist who reported Red River Valley counties were undesirable is coming to see the "ugliness" for himself.

Christopher Ingraham, a Washington Post writer who ranked Red Lake County as the least desirable place to live in the contiguous United States, told Jason Brumwell, owner of Voyageur's View Campground and Outfitters north of Red Lake Falls, that the newspaper gave the green light for a visit to the northwestern Minnesota county.

"We wanted to take the opportunity to invite Chris out here and see if he'll come and check out the worst county in the U.S.," he said.

Ingraham later confirmed his trip to Red Lake County on Friday via Twitter.

"Alright folks it's official—I'm heading out to Minnesota's Red Lake County next week to see what life is *really* like up there!" he tweeted.

Ingraham, who writes about politics, drug policy and all things data, penned the article "Every county in America, ranked by scenery and climate," which names the best and worst places to live in the U.S. The Post based its criteria on "six measures of climate, topography and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer."

Those qualities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture "include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation and access to a body of water."

The article did not include counties in Alaska or Hawaii.

Red Lake County, which is known for being the only landlocked county in the country surrounded by two neighboring counties, ranked last in Ingraham's article, which was published Monday.

North Dakota and Minnesota did not fare any better. Most counties in those states had extremely low to low natural amenities in the article.

Out of the 3,111 counties that were ranked, Cook County was the only one in Minnesota to break the top 1,000—it came in at 310. Ventura County, Calif., was the most desirable.

While Ingraham's article itself does not mention whether a county is ugly, many on social media were angered by the designation. People in Minnesota posted photos of the landscape in Red Lake County and expressed their anger toward the Post.

Even U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., weighed in: "A survey taken in the Franken office determined that the least desirable place to live in the county is actually inside the Washington Post's headquarters."

Brumwell said he took the article "at jest," adding people from across the world come to Voyageur's View and tell him the county is beautiful.

"Every single day we are reminded it is a beautiful place," he said. "There were a number of citizens from Red Lake County who took it to heart and they were really hurt by it. They don't get to hear every single day how beautiful the county is."

Brumwell sent a tweet to Franken asking for his help to prove to Ingraham that Red Lake is not the worst county in the U.S. Though Brumwell hadn't received a response from Franken as of Friday, Ingraham did favorite the tweet.

Brumwell then sent an email to Ingraham Thursday and got a response Friday, stating Ingraham's publishers thought it was a good idea to visit the county.

Brumwell said Ingraham asked if he was available for a few days next week, though the days weren't set as of Friday.

"When you are named the worst county in the U.S., that's a pretty good opportunity for you to capitalize on that," Brumwell said, adding he would make time for Ingraham for some tubing down the Red Lake River.

Voyageur's View has been in business for more than 30 years, Brumwell said, and if Red Lake was the ugliest county in the county, the campground would have shut down a long time ago.

"Thankfully, enough people around the world don't think it is as ugly as maybe the USDA does," he said laughing.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.