June 17th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member………printed with permission by the Renville County Register

This is Part Two of our summer vacation series. Last week we reviewed a lot of great places to visit on a summer vacation. We talked about bucket lists of places you want to see. The number of places you haven’t been to are so numerous that you could easily never finish this list of visits.

If we draw a line from Austin, Minnesota to Alexandria, Minnesota, we have the Southwest part of Minnesota as a great tourist destination. And, of course, going to Southwest Minnesota doesn’t take long. You can take several shorter trips and cover a lot of great spots here.

Austin is a great place to go and study SPAM. We read all kinds of stories about SPAM, but to appreciate it we must go to the SPAM Museum. The Hormel Plant is a tourist destination too. Albert Lea is a city of lakes and has a nice State Park there to attract the visitor.

Many towns in Southwest Minnesota have parks of their own that are worth a visit and the towns have neat shops, bed and breakfast homes and other things to see and do. A list of some of the towns here will certainly make you realize that there are many places you haven’t visited before or haven’t been to in many years. The list: Waseca, Waterville, New Prague, St. Peter, Le Center, Mankato, New Ulm, Jackson, Worthington, Pipestone, Marshall, Montevideo, Granite Falls, Morris, Redwood Falls and Hutchinson.

Not to slight the other towns, but the ones listed are surrounded by many small towns that can offer up all kinds of interesting things to see and do. They have parks and are sometimes located very near a seriously nice tourist attraction. Just when was the last time you visited for some time in one of those towns above?

A vacation can be exciting even in our Southwest Prairie Region. A trip to any area can bring you to a State or Regional Park that would be a neat place to camp, picnic, hike or go bike riding in. The State Parks in Southwest Minnesota are listed here for you: Helmer Myre, Albert Lea; Rice Lake, Owatonna; Nerstrand Woods, Faribault; Sakatah Lake, Waterville; Minneopa, Mankato; Flandrau, New Ulm; Fort Ridgely, Fairfax; Kilen Woods, Windom; Blue Mounds, Luverne; Split Rock Creek, Pipestone; Camden, Marshall; Upper Sioux Agency, Granite Falls; Lac Qui Parle, Watson; Big Stone Lake, Ortonville; Monson Lake, Benson; Sibley, Spicer; Glacial Lakes, Glenwood; Lake Louise, Leroy.

Besides all of these State parks, one will find County Parks and recreation areas mixed in with all of the others. We are, indeed, blessed with many places a few of us have not visited yet. So, there remains a lot of places top go and explore. All of these State Parks are Close enough for just a day or two to enjoy them. One can camp in one or more for several days to really get to know them. When camping, one can explore the towns nearby and discover many interesting things.

Remember, if you don’t have a tent or camper, you may be able to reserve a “Camping Cabin” in a State Park. They are nifty little cabins for you to be very comfortable in.

What a great goal it would be to try to visit all of the State Parks in the Southwest Part of Minnesota!

Now, for those who live in Renville County, a new summer challenge. Visit all of the Renville County parks this summer. If you camp, wonderful. But if your vacation requires you to stay in your home, you can visit, explore, and enjoy each park for one day.

If you wish to learn more about the Dakota War of 1862, we have many destinations for you to visit and explore. All of Renville County, Some of Brown County, Kandiyohi County, and Meeker County were involved. Study on-line or in literature at your library about this tragic war. That way you can pick out spots to visit. A summer vacation with learning is very good. The kids can benefit greatly from such an experience. Your first part of exploration of this war could be at the Renville and Redwood County Museums. Both have lots of stuff about the war.

A day trip could begin at Fort Ridgely State Park where remnants of the old Fort exist for you to study. A monument about the Fort and the war stands in the Fort for you to read and ponder. Then you move up the Minnesota Valley to the Lower Agency Visitor’s Center and study the war there. Move from here up to the Birch Coulee Battlefield and do the battlefield walk where the battle is explained in some detail for you. Then, of course have a picnic in the Birch Coulee, one of Renville County’s favorite parks.

If you haven’t been to Pipestone National Monument in some time, do it this year. Include a trip south from Pipestone to Blue Mounds State Park. Both places provide a lot of native prairie to study, and much history. The Blue Mounds State Park has a nice herd of buffalo (Tatanka in Dakota). The cliffs of red quartzite rock at Blue Mounds will give you some great photographic scenes. Be careful when on top of the cliffs so we don’t lose you to a fall. Yes, there are places like that in Southwest Minnesota. It is believed from buffalo bones found below the cliffs that perhaps the Dakota drove herds of buffalo over the cliff where they were killed by the fall or wounded and killed by Dakota waiting for the buffalo to drop over the cliff.

Learning and exploring takes time to do it right.

Next week we will study some even closer places to visit, right here in Renville and Redwood County. The Parks of Renville County and Redwood County will be a destination worthy of your family’s time. We will be studying the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor, that area on either side of the Minnesota River in Redwood and Renville Counties. That could be a really nice stay-at-home type of vacation with your family.


Today Sven quotes Robert Lewis Stevenson: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go; I travel for travel’s sake; the great affair is to move.”

Here is our Redwood County 2015 Calendar of Events! There is a LOT going on right in our own backyard!

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