The Bluff Country of southeastern Minnesota is an outdoor paradise and fun for the whole family. Considered one of the top 10 most scenic areas in North America, it is bordered by the Mighty Mississippi River to the east and the Great American Plains to the west. I have lots of links here and since they are prone to getting broken I have also included them in parenthesis for you to copy and paste if needed.
Want to grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and watch a 25 minute video that will introduce you to this breathtaking and unique area of the North American continent (NOT a tourist video!), go here for Mysteries of the Driftless: http://www.bluffcountryfossils.net/blog/mysteries-of-the-driftless-video/ or just click on the video below.
Drive from the Twin Cities
Drive the scenic Great River Road, Highway 61, from Redwing to La Crescent and be awestruck by the majestic beauty of the Missisippi River and towering bluffs that frame it. A bit of a review from the National Geographic Traveler – Drives of a Lifetime: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/northern-mississippi-river-road-trip/ Or just do a search for: Great River Road, Minnesota, and pull up all kinds of destinations and videos.
Stop at the National Eagle Center (http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/) in Wabasha (Home of Grumpy Old Men) to meet Bald Eagles up close and personal.
Between Winona (http://www.visitwinona.com/) and La Crescent, jump off Hwy. 61 and enjoy the spectacular views of the Mississippi Valley from the bluff tops on Apple Blossom Drive (clearly marked on Hwy. 61) lots of pictures here on Amerca’s Scenic Byways: http://scenicbyways.info/byway/2238.html
Alternate Routes Insertion
Coming down on Hwy. 52 after visiting the Lilydale Fossil Park (http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/07/25/lilydale-fossil-hunting)? Don’t miss Minnesota’s other fossil park at Quarry Hill Nature Center (http://www.qhnc.org/) in Rochester. For a pictorial tour of Quarry Hill Nature Center on Bluffcountryfissils.net, go HERE (http://www.bluffcountryfossils.net/blog/quarry-hill-nature-center-rochester/), sorry, I did not make it to the quarry that day. Take Hwy. 63 south to Scenic Byway Hwy. 16, if you go west on Hwy. 16 you will be up close and personal with the incredible wind farms of the prairies.
Or come to come to Spring Valley (http://www.springvalley.govoffice.com/index.asp?SEC=9B5DBD7B-315D-4408-94C2-E489B427ED55&Type=B_LOC) and proceed down Hwy. 63 taking a right to LeRoy (http://www.visitleroy.com/tourism.html) and see the informative wind farm ( A bit about the Prairie Star Wind Farm: http://www.visitleroy.com/horizon.html) kiosk they have at Windmill Park with a walkway in the shape of a windmill where you can walk the length of the windmill and a blade, here is a link to a 30 second video showing the windmills in action – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUHWjSrTr-4 I find them absolutely fascinating! From there proceed on Scenic Byway Hwy. 16 to the east. Contact me several days in advance (bcfossillady at gmail dot com) and I can arrange a custom fossil hunt for you of seven fossil hunting sites within 10 miles of Spring Valley! If you are a TFF member with more than 50 posts, I will even customize an Ordovician fossil hunt just for your hunting style and desired fossils for free, with or without me. 😀
Drive down to Hokah (Don’t miss the spectacular Como Falls Waterfall, the park is across from the Kwik Trip kind of kitty korner behind the Fire Station… http://www.hokah.info/recreation/comoPark/index.html) and start Scenic Byway Hwy. 16 (http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/scenic-drive-in-minnesota-historic-bluff-country-scenic-byway-ga1.htm) that will lead you directly to one of the Midwest’s top destination towns – Lanesboro, Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota!
Lanesboro (http://www.lanesboro.com/) is a tourist town located in the heart of Bluff Country with access to both the Root River and the Root River Bike Trail (http://www.rootrivertrail.org/site/index.php). Bicycles can be rented for an afternoon ride along the Root River or try a more challenging ride and head toward Fountain where you can stop at the Fillmore County Museum and see a fenced off sink hole (Fountain is the sink hole capital of the United States) up close and personal. Artisan shops with unique wares like the two blocks of Lanesboro’s downtown and a world class theatre is also located in downtown Lanesboro. Is birding your fancy? A must stop is Avian Acres just outside of town. Tubes, canoes, and kayaks are available for rent on the Root River.
Things to See & Do
Bluff Country is an outdoorsman’s paradise, boasting 750 miles of creeks and rivers for your trout fishing delight with the National Trout Fishing Center located in Preston. For everything related to trout fishing and the beauty of our rivers, go here:
A great rock shop and they even have miniature golf! Harmony also boasts over 100 dealers in an Antique Mall (http://www.generationsofharmony.com/) where you can purchase anything from Native American arrowheads to glassware. Amish Tours of Harmony (http://www.amish-tours.com/) will take you out an an afternoon excursion to the local Amish Community giving you an overview of the “Plain People’s” lifestyle and tailoring your tour to what you want to see and perhaps buy. Slim’s Woodshed (http://www.slimswoodshed.com/) is another big draw in the town of Harmony besides lots of unique little shops to pique your interest. Go to Explore Harmony.com for more information.
Want to explore a little bit of Scandinavian Heritage? Spring Grove (http://www.springgrovemn.com/) is the place to go! They honor their heritage with a statue in the town park of a Viking and have a yearly Syttende Mai Festival (http://www.sgsyttendemai.org/Syttende_Mai_Home.html) it is a blast! And hey, don’t miss the Bluff Country Artists Gallery (http://www.bluffcountryartistsgallery.org/) for a potential treasure to take back home with you created by local artisans!
And then of course, there is Forestville State Park (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/forestville_mystery_cave/index.html) that includes Mystery Cave and Historic Forestville Link to a video:
which is a reenactment of an 1880s Minnesota frontier town.
And if the link is broken, you can go to YouTube HERE:
For you deer hunters, I think you will enjoy this…
Trophy buck and turkey hunting!
For you turkey hunters who want to get a feel for the ground and see a lot of the turkey:
Morel mushrooms abound in the spring just as the Lilacs start to bloom! Tens of thousands of acres of hardwood forests make this sparsely populated area (Less than 40,000 people in two counties.) heaven for nature lovers. Just do a search on YouTube for southeast Minnesota whatever and I think you will be pleased at what you are going to find here. And yes, we have lots of golf courses too!
This area is rich with small town festivals with big appeal. Go here: http://www.bluffcountry.com/ for all of the events planned in Bluff Country during your stay. Bluffcountry.com will give you a wonderful overview of what recreational and tourism opportunities are available here, however, they are membership driven so that is why I am not sending you just there – they won’t have some of the things that I am telling you about. 😀
Are there members in your party who prefer urban life? Rochester, home of Mayo Clinic and IBM, is the hub of urban life in southeastern Minnesota (http://www.rochestercvb.org/). Ethnic diversity offers cuisine from around the world, art galleries, theaters, concerts at the Mayo Civic Center, beautiful and educational parks like Quarry Hill Nature Center and of course SHOPPING!
FREE Travel Guide from ExploreMinnesota.com
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This post will probably be constantly updated as I answer people’s questions
about what there is to do and see in Bluff Country, besides fossils. 🙂
And for you humor & music buffs…