The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Route
Our Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway journey started for us in Belle Plaine, on the bridge over looking the River. Our goal was to hit a few historical sites along the 400-mile route to learn more about some of our area's Native American heritage and the Dakota War of 1862.
From the west side of the river, we headed south on Hwy 6, which turned into 93 in Henderson. This was a great leg to start the ride. We took 93 to St. Peter, although it put us back on 169 for about a mile before it crossed over the river into Le Sueur, finishing up on the east side of the river to St. Peter. In St. Peter we visited our first historical site, the Treaty Site History Center just a mile or so north of town on 169.
From there, we took 169 south to Mankato, where we got on 68 just south of town. 68 was a nice riding road. As we entered New Ulm, we took advantage of the nice day and visited Hermann the German at Hermann Heights Park, and climbed all the way up the dome to take in a beautiful view of the entire town.
In New Ulm, we took 15 across the river, and then 21 west, which was the most enjoyable part of the ride. 21 follows the river and mid-way through this beautiful twenty mile stretch you'll come across another historical site, the Harkin Store. The store is virtually unchanged since it served the once-bustling river traders back in the 1860's. The $5 admission fee is worth every cent. 21 ends at Hwy 4 and Fort Ridgely, where we learned a lot of the Byway continuing west is gravel. Big road bikes and gravel doesn’t mix well, so we took Hwy 4 north to Fairfax, and then 19 west to Redwood Falls.
Just south and east of Redwood Falls is the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation. We stopped at the visitor center, and walked down a trail to see the building that was at the center of the beginning of the Sioux Uprising, which culminated into the battle of Little Bighorn and the end of General Custer.
From the Lower Sioux Reservation, we took 67 west out of Redwood Falls. After about nine miles, it heads straight north and meets up with the river and takes you to the Upper Sioux Indian Reservation in Granite Falls. This was a fun road to ride, with lots of winding turns and views of the river.
As we rode north, we saw a marker for a historical site in Renville County, and about one mile west of 67 we came across the Wood Lake Battle monument, where the Dakota warriors attacked Union soldiers. As a result, more than 30 Sioux warriors were sentenced and hanged in Mankato, the largest mass execution in U.S. history.