Historic Minnesota – Prairies, Pioneers and Pipestone

By Explore Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument GiftshopIn 1819, soldiers arrived at the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers to build the northwest link in the U.S. chain of forts and agencies. As they built, they forged relationships with the native peoples who preceded them. It was nearly 40 years later that Minnesota became a state, and during that time thousands of pioneers came to make their home in this new land.

Day One

  • This morning, travel south to the Traverse des Sioux treaty site along the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway. The treaty signed here in 1850 promised American Indians food and supplies in return for the land given to settlers. Stop in nearby St. Peter for lunch, shop along the charming Main Street, and stroll the beautiful grounds of Gustavus Adolphus College.
  • Continue down the scenic byway to Mankato and drive through the neighborhood that inspired Maud Hart Lovelace to write the Betsy-Tacy children's books.
  • End the day in New Ulm, where German heritage is evident in the downtown glockenspiel and local brewery. The brewery tour is not only interesting and tasty, but surprising with its extensive garden, deer park and resident peacocks. Stay in a German-style hotel or bed-and-breakfast.

Day Two

  • Those who have read or watched "Little House on the Prairie" will recognize New Ulm as one of the places mentioned in the series. In fact, the town is located on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway. Travel through other familiar towns like Sleepy Eye to get to Walnut Grove where you can visit the Wilder Museum. For a true immersion experience, travel to Sanborn where you can tour or stay in a real sod house.
  • Museums highlighting different aspects of pioneer and prairie history are found in every direction – railroad and transportation history at the End O Line Railroad Park in Currie, Dakota Indian history at Lower Sioux Agency near Redwood Falls, and prairie history at The Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie near Lake Benton are just a few. Stay in the Sodhouse B&B, a motel or inn.

Blue Mounds State ParkDay Three

  • Take some time this morning to browse the wide variety of antique stores in Lake Benton and other towns in Lincoln County.
  • Travel on to Pipestone, where the red-quartzite you see in the buildings has been used for hundreds of years as the ceremonial stone for the plains Indians. The name Pipestone came from process of making peace pipes. Today, the quarries are protected as part of the Pipestone National Monument and only Native Americans can remove the stone. Native artisans are at work at the Pipestone National Monument carving pipes and other ceremonial objects while you watch.
  • To get a feel for the life of early settlers and native people, visit Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, where one of the last remnants of native prairie is preserved, complete with a small buffalo herd. Stay in one of many historic inns or motels.