Scenic Byway: Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway: Minnesota River Valley
Montevideo to Granite Falls

Discovery Sites
Montevideo to Granite Falls
Site 27: Canoeing the Minnesota River
Minnesota River
A gentle river seldom interrupted by rapids, the Minnesota River is one of the few canoe rivers in southwestern Minnesota and offers some of the most impressive landscapes in this part of the state. Call the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-285-2000 or 612-296-2316 in the metro area for a map of the river showing portages, campsites, rest areas, rapids and more. A canoe trail is open along the river mid-April to September 30 in Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The best canoeing is during high water time in the spring.

Traveling from Ortonville to Granite Falls, the canoeist will see a diversity of terrain, from steep granite bluffs to marshy lowlands. The Minnesota River, rich in natural beauty, flows through a wide valley carved out by the ancient River Warren. There are some Class I rapids and dams which need to be portaged or locked through.

The Minnesota from Granite Falls and State Highway 4 is a gentle river seldom interrupted by rapids and offers some of the most impressive landscapes in this part of the state. This stretch is rich in Minnesota history.

The Minnesota River from State Highway 4 to LeSueur is a gentle river, seldom interrupted by rapids and flows through the fertile farmland of the southwestern part of the state. The Minnesota River today is far removed from the powerful glacial River Warren that carved out its wide valley.

The Minnesota River was once a vital highway for Indians, explorers, traders and settlers, and is now a placid route for canoeists. This segment of the river gently curves up to Fort Snelling and does not have any rapids or dams to portage and therefore no special paddling skills are needed.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 800-285-2000 or 612-296-2316
Site 28:Milwaukee Railroad Heritage Center Depot (Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Depot)
South 1st St. at Park Ave., Montevideo.
This building is currently undergoing restoration by the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center and the Chippewa County Historical Society. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Site 29:Historic Chippewa City
Located at 151 Pioneer Drive, Jct of TH 59 & 7, Montevideo.
Chippewa City was "laid out" in 1868 by Daniel G. Wilkins on the west bank of the Chippewa River, a mile upstream from its confluence with the Minnesota River. Chippewa City was the first community in Chippewa County, serving as its first county seat. The Chippewa City post office was served by route from Ft. Ridgely.

In 1870, Montevideo was platted on the east bank of the Chippewa River. When a legislative order gave Montevideo the county seat in 1870, Chippewa City soon ceased to exist. Chippewa City's original location has since been incorporated into Montevideo's city limits and is now known as Smith Addition.

Historic Chippewa City was begun in 1965 with the preservation of a rural school house. Since that time, 23 buildings have been moved in from throughout the county or built on site to form this historic village.

Open Memorial Day - Labor Day., Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 1pm-5pm.

Site 30:Minnesota River Valley Trail
Montevideo to Wegdahl
This paved trail system begins with a well-developed system within the city of Montevideo and extends to the village of Wegdahl. The trail is planned to be extended into the city of Granite Falls. Call the Montevideo Chamber/CVB for a trail map


Site 31:Olof Swensson Farm Museum
From Montevideo go 6 miles east on Hwy. 7, turn right and go 5 miles south on County Road 6, turn left and go 1/4 mile on County Road 15.
Olof Swensson was born on May 19, 1843 in Ostmarken, in Kongvigers Parish, in Norway. He became deeply absorbed in Lutheran doctrine as a youth. He married Ingeborg Agnetta Pearson in 1869, and they immigrated to America three years later. They settled on a farm near Wegdahl in Chippewa County.

Swensson became known for his many talents - his building abilities which are portrayed throughout the farm. His religious beliefs. He conducted weekly religious services in the large room upstairs. His sermons, in Norwegian, have been preserved . his writing, which produced a book stating his convictions. His political activities. He proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and also ran unsuccessfully for Governor of the State of Minnesota

After Olof Swensson's death in 1923, the farmstead gradually fell into disrepair, although his son, John, and daughters, Emma and Christine, continued to occupy the premises. At John's death in 1967, the property was bequeathed to the Chippewa County Historical Society.

The large timber-framed 1890s barn rests on a one-story granite foundation cut from locally gathered boulders. The barn's elaborate system of wind-bracing and notching attest to Swensson's skills as a designer and builder.

The wood frame house was begun in 1901 and faced with a brick veneer in 1903. It was a monumental task to build the 22-room house, which Swensson set on a foundation of huge local granite stones, cut and laid in pattern by him and his daughter, Katerine (Katie).

A small grist mill was constructed near the barn. It was powered by horses and later by steam engine. Plans for the mill concept, found in the Swensson collection, show that it was of English origin. The burrs, or millstones, were made of local granite.

Olof Swensson fashioned concrete monuments for the family cemetery located on the farm. Nine of the family members are buried there. The wooden forms for the tombstones are displayed in the third floor of the house.

The Moehring building is a 40-foot x 82 1/2 foot pole barn, built with funds donated to the Chippewa County Historical Society by Ernest Moehring. This structure provides storage and display area for farm equipment used in the early days.

Some of the artifacts on display inside include a walking plow, a walk-behind cultivator, and a handseeder from the 1800s. Also on display are a corn picker, two corn shellers, a two-seater buggy, a fanning mill, corn binder, and a foot-operated jigsaw.
The building houses a number of early tractors. Highlighted are a 1936 John Deere Model D, a 1935 Allis Chalmers Model WC, and a 1935 Oliver Hart Parr 28-44.

In recent years, Swensson Farm has been the site of the annual threshing show sponsored by the Minnesota Valley Antique Farm Power & Machinery Association.

Visit the museum Sunday afternoons Memorial Day to Labor Day 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Site 32:Yellow Medicine County Historical Museum
At the intersection of TH 23 & 67 in Granite Falls.
The museum features pioneer and American Indian artifacts including 8,000-year-old bison bones. Contains useful county history information. A "museum in progress" due to the floods of '97 and '01. Oldest known exposed rock in the world dating back some 3,800,000,000 years!

It has a pioneer home and general store on site. The log pioneer home and church are located behind the museum.

Open May through October, Tuesday-Friday, 11am-3pm; Saturday-Sunday noon-4pm.
320-564-4479 or 320-564-4039

Site 33:Andrew J. Volstead House
Located at 163 9th Ave., Granite Falls.
The name of "Volstead" will forever be associated with an experiment that failed. It was, however called the "Noble Experiment" a characterization by Herbert Hoover and it was grounded on a sincere desire to rid society of the ills of alcohol. It was designed to improve health, cut crime, and relieve taxpayers of a portion of the burden of subsidizing prisons. The problem was: it failed to take into account human nature and the truism that things are apt to go wrong when the government tinkers too much with personal choices.

What the 18th Amendment did was to ban "the manufacture, sale, or distribution of intoxicating liquors." It went into effect July 1, 1920. The Volstead Act also known as the National Prohibition Act was enacted in October, 1919 to provide for enforcement mechanisms. It gave federal authorities the power to prosecute violations. Also, it defined intoxicating beverages as those containing more than .5 percent alcohol.

While the "Volstead Act" is remembered, the name of the architect of that legislation is not. He was Andrew John Volstead, a member of the House of Representatives for 10 terms.

Volstead was a representative from Minnesota. He was born in that state on October 31, 1860, the son of Norwegian immigrants.

He attended the public schools, then studied at St. Olaf's College, in Northfield, Minn., before transferring to Decorah Institute, in Decorah, Iowa. Volstead graduated from that institution in 1881. After studying law on his own (while employed as a schoolteacher), he was admitted to the bar in 1883, commencing practice in Lac qui Parle County, Minn. In 1894, he was married to a schoolteacher born in Scotland; and a daughter was born to the couple the following year.

After briefly residing in Wisconsin, the Volsteads moved to Granite Falls, in Yellow Medicine County, Minn., in 1886. Andrew Volstead served as the county's prosecuting attorney from 1887-93 and from 1895-1903, and as mayor of Granite Falls from 1900-1902; he also squeezed in terms during that period as a member of the board of education (including a stint as president) and city attorney of Granite Falls.
He was elected to Congress as a Republican, and remained at his post from March 4, 1903 to March 3, 1923. For four years, Volstead was chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. Among the unpopular stances he had the courage to take was arguing for enactment of federal legislation outlawing lynchings.

Before leaving Congress, he spearheaded passage of legislation less memorable than the Volstead Act, but of immense significance to his constituency, and to farmers nationally. The Capper-Volstead Act which is still in effect enabled farmers to form combines without fear of prosecution under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Volstead explained at the time: "Business men can combine by putting their money into corporations, but it is impractical for farmers to combine their farms into similar corporate forms. The object of this bill is to modify the laws under which business organizations are now formed, so that farmers may take advantage of the form of organization that is used by business concerns."

The loss of his congressional seat in 1922 was apparently more tied to low farm prices resulting in rejection of numerous incumbents by voters that year than to the Volstead Act.

Volstead resumed law practice in Minnesota, then was hired in 1924 as legal adviser to the chief of the National Prohibition Enforcement Bureau. He served in that capacity until 1933, then returned to Granite Falls, remaining active as a lawyer until the age of 83.

Visit the museum open year round by appointment.

Site 34: Minnesota's Machinery Museum
One and one-half blocks west of TH 23, Hanley Falls.
The good old days on the farm are depicted at Minnesota's Machinery Museum in Hanley Falls. You will see a re-creation of a farm kitchen where butter was churned and hungry threshing crews were fed; a parlor; bedroom and turn-of-the- century blacksmith shop; an excellent miniature and toy machinery collection; and several buildings housing pioneer farm machinery and tools.

Currently there are five buildings that house the collections. Most prominent is the two-story building built by the WPA in 1939. Agriculture's history unfolds in this six acre complex, home of one of the largest collections of farm machinery in Minnesota that is open to the public. See how this small Southwestern Minnesota community transformed the school into an agricultural learning center, devoting its 26,000 square feet into interpreting rural life-past, present and future. A delightful afternoon awaits as you explore the rooms of a farm home, general store, vintage automobiles, and railroad memorabilia along with farm toys, country art and a 'Made in Minnesota" gift shop. Three large buildings are filled with beautifully restored gas engines and tractors dating back to 1912. Facilities, picnic area, and parking are all handicapped accessible. A friendly smile and guided tour awaits you. You're invited to step into the past the first full weekend in August to be part of the Threshing Show and Oldtimer's Reunion.

The museum is open to the public May through September from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1:00 - 4:30 p.m. Sunday, and by appointment.
Laurie Johnson 507-768-3522

Site 35:Gneiss Outcrop Scientific and Natural Area
Located three miles SE of Granite Falls, 1.5 mi E, on MN Hwy 212 then S. on Co Rd 40 for 1 mi. Then .5 mile W. on gravel road. Park on shoulder.
The Gneiss outcrops, formed approximately 3.8 billion years ago, are among the oldest known rock on the earth's surface. This SNA's significance steadily increases as other outcrops along the Minnesota River are exploited for granite mining, housing, and recreational use. These pyramidal outcrops along the Glacial River Warren Valley rise to about 50 feet above the general level of the land, revealing parallel bands of gneisses. Granitic gneiss is light-colored, pink to red; the less common hornblende-pyroxene gneiss is darker, ranging from gray to black. Garnet-biotite gneiss appears in dark and light gray variations. In addition to these metamorphic rocks, the outcrops reveal igneous rock complexes, formed by heat and pressure below the earth's surface. A natural lake lies between the two major rock outcrops, providing a stunning contrast to the adjacent rock cliffs. The very rare Great Plains prickly pear and brittle cactus can be found on dry rock; the rare Carolina foxtail, rare little barley, and mousetail grow in shallow depressions among the outcrops.

Site 36:Blue Devil Valley Preserve
0.5 miles southwest of Granite Falls off of Hwy 23 on Co Hwy 39. Park in front of the SNA sign.
Blue Devil Valley contains a granite outcrop community within the Minnesota River Valley that supports one of the largest known populations of the rare five-lined skink. Normally occurring further east, this species of lizard occurs only in widely separated areas this far west. Open, sunny bedrock exposures with loose surface rock and little or no vegetation these features make up the preferred habitat of the five-lined skink. Summer visitors may see these little lizards basking on warm, sunny granite outcrops. Xeric prairie species, such as the brittle cactus, little bluestem, harebell, and pasque flowers, are common among the outcrops and scattered bur oak. Management at this site is focused on removal of eastern red cedar and other woody plant species that have encroached on the site in the absence of fire. Prescribed burns are also enhancing the prairie community through control of woody species. The Nature Conservancy gifted this site as an SNA to the State of Minnesota. Spring through fall is a good time to view the wildflowers.


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