This palisaded fur trading post was built in 1732 by a nephew and son of the French explorer Pierre La Verendrye. It was constructed on an island off the Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods.
In 1736, Jean Baptiste La Verendrye and 20 companions were attacked by a Dakota raiding party on a small island near the fort. The bodies of the Frenchmen were buried beneath the altar of the church within Fort St. Charles. The fort was abandoned soon after.
In 1950, the Knights of Columbus relocated the grave site and rebuilt a replica fort above it, although no professional archaeological excavations preceded the reconstruction. You can visit the reconstruction by taking a boat from the nearby town of Angle Inlet or come by boat across Lake of the Woods from Warroad. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.More information about the site: Fort St. Charles website
The most famous archaeological site in the park is the Itasca Bison site (21CE1) discovered during bridge construction in the Nicollet Creek valley in 1937. The University of Minnesota conducted excavations at the site in 1937 and returned to do additional work in 1963, 1964, and 1965. C. Thomas Shay's published report from 1971 is widely recognized as an excellent example of a multi-disciplinary study in environmental archaeology.
The site was located in a peat bog and contained the remains of at least 16 bison associated with small side-notched dart points. Radiocarbon dates suggest the site is 7,000 to 8,000 years old, from the very beginning of the Archaic Period. The Itasca area would have been prairie at the time, while it is currently pine forest. The site is interpreted with an overlook panel. The Itasca Bison site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Additional outdoor panels can be found at several Woodland age sites within the park including the Itasca Mounds (21CE16) and Chambers Creek (21CE3) sites. There are also archaeological exhibits in the Brower Visitor's Center.More information about the site: Itasca State Park web page
The 8.5 mile portage between the Pigeon River and Lake Superior was established by prehistoric Indians and then used by the Ojibwe and French fur traders in the late 1600s. In the late 1700s, British fur traders built a series of important fur posts on both ends of the Grand Portage. A major stockaded post was built on Grand Portage Bay on Lake Superior and this post became known as the Grand Portage post, while the principal interior portage post was known as Fort Charlotte.
The British abandoned Grand Portage by 1804, although the adjacent Ojibwe village remained. In the mid-1830s, American fur traders established a small outpost at Grand Portage, but it was mainly used for fishing and only lasted about a decade. The Ojibwe ceded northeastern Minnesota to the United States in 1854 and a small reservation was established at Grand Portage. Euro-American settlement soon followed, but due to its isolated location, Grand Portage basically remained an Ojibwe village into the 20th century.
In 1922, Grand Portage was "rediscovered" by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). That year Dewey Albinson mapped and photographed the visible features for MHS. In 1936 and 1937, MHS conducted archaeological excavations at the site of the main post. Between 1938 and 1940, MHS supervised the reconstruction of a stockade and grand hall on the original site.
In 1951, Grand Portage was designated a national historic site and the National Park Service (NPS) got involved in its management. In 1958, the historic site including the portage was purchased by the federal government and the site came under direct NPS administration. It was made a National Monument in 1960. MHS initiated new archaeological excavations at the site (21CK6) in 1961 and these continued throughout the 1960s. In the early 1970s, underwater archaeology was done in the Pigeon River at the west end of the portage (21CK7).
On July 19, 1969 lightning hit the reconstructed great hall and it burned to the ground. Many archaeological artifacts and Ojibwe materials were lost in the fire. Reconstruction of the great hall began in 1971 and a canoe warehouse was also reconstructed. In 2007, a new interpretive center opened at Grand Portage that highlights Ojibwe culture and the fur trade.More information about the site: Grant Portage web page
Proposed park developments in the early 1990s, led to an archaeological survey that discovered several sites in the development areas. Extensive testing at a proposed parking lot revealed 10,000 years of human history in only two feet of soil. Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland occupations yielded stone tools, copper artifacts, ceramic sherds, and the bones of elk and bison. The visitor's center has interpretive panels explaining the local archaeology and geology.More information about the site: McCarthy Beach State Park web page
On May 3, 1905, a violent spring storm sunk the wooden freighter Hesper just south of what is now the town of Silver Bay. The well-preserved remains of the ship lie in shallow waters adjacent to the Silver Bay breakwater. Divers can access the wreck by going to the Silver Bay Marina and entering the water on the north side of the breakwater. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.More information about the site: Hesper Shipwreck web page
One of the most violent storms ever to strike the North Shore occurred on November 28, 1905. The storm sunk 20 vessels. Madeira was a schooner-barge being towed by another vessel. Cut loose during the storm with 10 men on board, Madeira was dashed upon Gold Cliff just north of what is now Split Rock Lighthouse. A heroic effort by one of the crewman saved nine of the men. The wreck of the Madeira lies below Gold Cliff in depths varying from a few feet to 120 feet.
The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and is one of the most popular scuba diving sites in Minnesota. Just south of the wreck site is Split Rock Lighthouse that was built as a result of the 1905 storm. The Lighthouse has a visitor's center run by the Minnesota Historical Society that contains some shipwreck and other local historical interpretation.More information about the site: Madeira Shipwreck web page
Located between Two Harbors and Silver Bay on the shore of Lake Superior, this popular state park was established in 1933 on land that had been previously owned by lumberman Thomas Nestor. Nestor had several logging camps in the area and built a logging railroad through what is now the park. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built many of the park's facilities during the Great Depression. The foundations of CCC Camp 2713 are still visible and CCC activities are the subject of several interpretive panels.
The shipwreck of the Belle Cross is also featured. The steamer Belle Cross sank off the mouth of the Gooseberry River in a spring storm in 1903.More information about the site: Gooseberry Falls State Park web page
The Samuel Ely was a single deck, three-masted schooner built in 1869. In late October of 1896, the Ely was being used as a barge towed by the steamer Hesper. A violent storm parted the tow cable and Ely was driven against the Two Harbors breakwater. The shallow water wreck was well known to early sport divers in Lake Superior.
Army Corps of Engineers breakwater improvements in the early 1990s required a careful survey of the wreck's condition and led to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society has been involved in several projects to help preserve the wreck. Divers can access the wreck by boat.More information about the site: Samuel Ely Shipwreck web page
Designed by Donald McKay, one of the most famous American naval architects, the USS Essex started its career in 1874. The vessel was built during the turbulent U.S. Navy transition from sail to steam. Essex served on oceans worldwide and was ultimately transferred to the Minnesota Naval Reserve in Duluth to serve as a training vessel.
After it's useful life ended in 1931, Essex was towed off Park Point in Duluth and burned. The lower part of the vessel remains buried in the sand near the end of Park Point, where it is occasionally exposed by storms. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.More information about the site: U.S.S. Essex Shipwreck web page
Located just south of Duluth on Highway 210, the lands for this state park were donated to the state in 1915, but the park was not developed until 1933 with the help of the CCC.
One of the most impressive sets of rapids in Minnesota lies in the heart of the park on the St. Louis River. These rapids forced early traders to portage for about four miles north of the river. It was known as the Grand Portage of the St. Louis. The portage is marked with route signs and some interpretive panels. The Grand Portage of the St. Louis was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.More information about the site: Jay Cooke State Park web page
Located in northeastern Aitkin County, Savanna Portage State Park features a major portage trail that linked the St. Louis River drainage with the Mississippi River drainage. Several sites along the portage (21AK53) were tested by archaeologists from the University of Minnesota in the early 1980s (Gibbon 2006). The portage was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. There are interpretive panels in the visitor's center and along the portage trail.More information about the site: Savanna Portage State Park
In 1897, Jacob Brower mapped a number of large mound groups in what is now Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in central Aitkin County. Brower also noted village sites and wild rice harvesting areas. Rice Lake has long been a traditional Ojibwe ricing area and it has a thousand year pre-Ojibwe ricing history as well. The wildlife refuge was established in 1935.
Visit the refuge in September to observe a traditional wild rice harvest. One of the most intact mound groups in Minnesota is along the road west of the visitor's center (21AK57). No major archaeological excavations have been conducted in the refuge. There is limited archaeological interpretation in the visitor's center.More information about the site: Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge web page
In 1912, the United States government built a dam at the outlet of Gull Lake 10 miles west of Brainerd. Proposed campground construction in the vicinity of the dam in the late 1960s led to excavations by the University of Minnesota. The Gull Lake Dam site (21CA37) contained 12 to 15 burial mounds built over a prehistoric village site. Seven mounds were excavated by the University in 1969 and 1970.
This was first intensive excavation done in Minnesota as a result of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. In 1974, the University of Minnesota returned to the area to excavate the nearby Langer village site (21CA58). These sites have multi-component Woodland occupations and are the type sites for Brainerd ceramics. There is some archaeological interpretation in the Gull Lake Dam Recreation Area visitor's center.More information about the site: Gull Lake Recreation Area web page
Located south of Brainerd and north of Little Falls, Crow Wing State Park is at the junction of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers. Due to the strategic location, it was a major fur trading area and on the Woods Section of the Red River Trail.
Archaeological remains feature historic building depressions associated with the Crow Wing townsite (21CW15) including the house location of William Warren, the noted Ojibwe historian. There is also a Red River Trail segment. The Beaulieu House from the old townsite is a major attraction. Interpretive panels are scattered throughout the park. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.More information about the site: Crow Wing State Park web page
This state park is located just northeast of Sandstone on the Kettle River. The park was established in 1963, but no real development took place until 1967. The park was created in part to preserve the archaeological remains of the ghost town of Banning and its associated sandstone quarry.
Quarrying began when a railroad spur was built to the quarry in 1892. The area was severely damaged by the Hinckley fire of 1894, but quarrying operations did not cease until the early 20th century and the town was soon abandoned. The area is popular for canoeing and rock climbing. Interpretive panels in the state park describe the quarrying operations.
More information about the site: Banning State Park web page
This park on the southwest shore of Lake Mille Lacs became a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1964 and is the only exclusively archaeological NHL in Minnesota. The park contains numerous archaeological sites that were first explored by the University of Minnesota in the 1960s in conjunction with park development.
The Petaga Point site (21ML11) has yielded numerous copper tools and is one of the type sites for the Archaic Old Copper Complex in Minnesota as well as the type site for several Woodland Period ceramic types. The Cooper Mound and Village site (21ML9/16) has demonstrated clear early French contact with Dakota people in the mid- to late-17th century. The Wilford site (21ML12) featured a late prehistoric house very similar to the Dakota bark lodges depicted by mid-19th century artists in southern Minnesota. Wild ricing was important at almost all of the sites.
While the Lake Mille Lacs area was the original center of Dakota peoples, the Ojibwe forcibly took over the region in the mid-1700s. The state park has some of the most extensive public archaeological interpretation in Minnesota. Also visit the nearby Mille Lacs trading post and museum jointly run by the Minnesota Historical Society and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.More information about the site: Mille Lacs Kathio State Park web page
Located 15 miles east of Hinkley, St. Croix State Park is one of Minnesota's 23 National Historic Landmarks. It was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s and 1940s. Over 150 of the rustic log and stone structures still remain. An interpreted trail takes visitors through the ruins of the Yellow Banks CCC Camp. The visitor's center has exhibits featuring the fur trade, logging, and the Depression Era programs that established the park.More information about the site: St. Croix State Park web page
In late 1804, John Sayer built a trading post on the Snake River west of what is now the town of Pine City. The post was built with a wooden palisade and one large interior building. Sayer and his men spent the winter there trading for furs with nearby Ojibwe. He left the post in late April of 1805 and never returned, but did write a diary about his experiences.
Archaeologists from the Minnesota Historical Society excavated the site in the 1960s and the post was reconstructed in the 1970s using the archaeological findings and Sayer's diary. The Minnesota Historical Society runs the reconstructed post and nearby interpretive center. There is a well-marked exit on Interstate 35 leading to the site. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.More information about the site: North West Company Fur Post web page
Located on the St. Croix River in Marine on St. Croix, the Marine Sawmill was the first commercial sawmill in Minnesota. At the southern limit of the white pine forest, Marine cut its first lumber in August of 1839. Initially driven by waterpower, the sawmill was later converted to steam. The mill operated until 1895 and had an associated steamboat levee. The equipment was moved and the frame buildings torn down, but the impressive stone foundations remain.
The Minnesota Historical Society maintains a trail with interpretive signage at the site. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.More information about the site: Marine Mill Site web page
Uncovered by construction on Highway 59 in 1931 just north of Pelican Rapids, this site was first known as the Minnesota Man site. The workmen removed the skeleton along with an elk antler tool and a marine shell pendant. The skeletal remains and artifacts were sent to Albert Jenks, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota. In 1933 the University investigated the site and recovered additional human bones.
Jenks considered the skeleton to be of Paleoindian age and the find received widespread national publicity. Recent radiocarbon dating has shown that the site dates to the early Archaic Period and is about 8,500 years old. The skeleton is that of a young woman. The site is marked with a plaque in an adjacent highway rest area.More information about the site: Minnesota Woman web page
The area of Old Wadena is a rich historic district containing prehistoric Indian sites, fur posts, and the ghost town of Old Wadena. It is 15 miles east of the current city of Wadena. During its peak in the late 1850s, "old" Wadena had more than 100 inhabitants. The Woods segment of the Red River Trail ran through the town.
The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It is currently a county park and has some on-site interpretation.More information about the site: Wadena County Historical Society website
Located north of Alexandria, archaeological excavations by the University of Minnesota began in 1963 in conjunction with park development. More recent park developments have led to excavations conducted by the Minnesota Historical Society archaeologists for the Department of Natural Resources. The main site (21DL2) near the visitor's center is a habitation containing Paleoindian, Archaic, multi-component Woodland, and Late Prehistoric horizons. Interpretive panels inside and outside the visitor's center discuss the archaeology.More information about the site: Lake Carlos State Park web page
In 1933, a local artifact collector named William Jensen found five lanceolate projectile points in Browns Valley associated with a human skeleton eroding from a gravel pit wall. Jensen removed most of the skeleton and later contacted the University of Minnesota. The University investigated the site in 1934 and recovered additional skeletal fragments as well a one more projectile point.
The projectile points were made of a brown chalcedony known as Knife River Flint and clearly resembled points associated with extinct bison in the American Southwest. Following a careful examination of the points and skeleton by the University, they were returned to the private collector. The University retained one point.
The Jensen family subsequently mislaid their Brown's Valley materials and they were rediscovered in 1987. Radiocarbon dates on the bone confirmed the materials were just over 10,000 years old. The skeleton was reburied in South Dakota in 2000. The Jensen family's Browns Valley artifacts were sold to a private collector. The site is interpreted on a roadside marker along Highway 28 on the east edge of Browns Valley. The site was destroyed by gravel operations and there is no on-site interpretation.More information about the site: Browns Valley, MN website
Lac Qui Parle is a French translation of Dakota words that mean "lake that speaks." Located on a broadening of the Minnesota River that now is controlled by a Corps of Engineers dam, two important historic sites lie on the north side of the lake. Joseph Renville established a fur post (21CP24) there in 1826 and later invited Christian missionaries to build a church nearby. After Renville's death in 1846, the fur post and mission were abandoned.
The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) excavated the fur post site in 1940 and in 1968. Recent flooding has extensively damaged the site. An interpretive panel above the site can be found on County Road 32. The Lac Qui Parle Mission site (21CP28) features a reconstruction of the church and several interpretive panels that are maintained by MHS. Both sites were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.More information about the site: Lac qui Parle State Park web page
In early 1862, Joseph R. Brown, a well known trader and Indian agent, built a cut-granite house in the Minnesota River Valley south of the present-day town of Sacred Heart. In August 1862, the house was burned by a Dakota raiding party during the U.S.-Dakota War. Although the stone walls remained standing, the house was never rebuilt.
The land was purchased in 1937 for a state wayside. In 1938, archaeological investigations were carried out in conjunction with Works Progress Administration (WPA) work. MHS carried out additional archaeological investigations in 1968. The impressive ruins have been partially reconstructed and there is an on-site interpretive panel. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.More information about the site: State Park Waysides web page
Located southeast of Granite Falls, this state park was established in 1963 to preserve the site of the Upper Sioux Agency. Two U.S. government Indian agencies were located in western Minnesota in 1854 soon after the ratification of the Dakota treaty of 1851. Two reservations were delimited on the upper Minnesota River reservations and were called Upper Sioux and Lower Sioux. The Upper Sioux Reservation was for bands of the Wahpeton and Sisseton and consisted of a strip of land 10 miles wide on either side of the Minnesota River from Lake Traverse to the Yellow Medicine River.
Both agencies were attacked and destroyed by Dakota raiding parties in 1862 during the U.S.-Dakota War. The Minnesota Historical Society conducted archaeological excavations at the Upper Sioux Agency site (21YM25) in 1968, 1969, and 1971. The site is open to public and interpreted with panels and markers. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.More information about the site: Upper Sioux Agency State Park web page
This agency was established in 1854 and destroyed in the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862. The original Lower Sioux Reservation was for the Mdewakaton and Wahpekute bands of the Dakota and consisted of a strip of land 10 miles wide on either side of the Minnesota River from the Yellow Medicine River to Little Rock Creek near Fort Ridgley. The ruins of the Lower Sioux Agency stone warehouse were restored by a local farmer in 1881.
The site was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in 1967 and an interpretive center was built in the 1970s. Archaeological excavations were done by MHS in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The site is now run in cooperation with the Lower Sioux Dakota. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.More information about the site: Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site web page
In the spring of 1853, the steamboat West Newton left Fort Snelling and headed up the Minnesota River carrying soldiers assigned to build a fort at the edge of the Dakota reservation. Fort Ridgely was complete by 1855. Fort Ridgely developed into a self-sufficient community populated by 300 soldiers and civilians. The Fort played an important role in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 when Dakota Indians unsuccessfully attacked it.
After Fort Ridgely closed in 1872, local farmers used the buildings. The first purchase of land for the park occurred in 1896 as a war memorial to those who fought in the U.S.-Dakota War. Additional acres were purchased in 1911 when the site was designated a state park. A golf course was built within the park in 1929. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The first archaeological excavations were carried out in 1936 in association with Works Progress Administration (WPA) activities. The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) did additional exploratory excavations in 1972. In 2006 and 2007, proposed reconstruction of the golf course led to intensive archaeological investigations by MHS for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These investigations not only found extensive evidence for the U.S.-Dakota War battle and several building locations not previously known, but also found prehistoric components.
The site is interpreted with scattered outdoor panels and in the visitor's center. Extensive ruins of some of the fort's buildings are visible. The DNR, MHS, and Nicollet County Historical Society jointly run the site.More information about the site: Fort Ridgely State Park web page
Located in Brown County 17 miles southwest of New Ulm, Lake Hanska County Park contains a prehistoric Indian village, burial mounds, and the remains of Fort Hanska dating to 1863. The prehistoric site is known as the Synsteby site (21BW1). In the early 1950s, the University of Minnesota excavated two mounds and tested the village site. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. There is some interpretation of Fort Hanska and the prehistoric site within the park.More information about the site: Lake Hanska County Park web page
Just north of St. Peter is an ancient portage connecting the lower Minnesota River with the upper Minnesota River, bypassing the basal "v" of the Minnesota River at Mankato. In historic times it was used extensively by the Dakota or Sioux Indians. During the Contact Period, British posts and then American fur posts were established at the east end of the portage and a small Euro-American and Dakota community grew up around the posts.
A treaty was signed at the site in 1851 where the Dakota ceded their lands in Minnesota west of the Mississippi River. Once the area was open to Euro-American settlement, the town of Traverse des Sioux boomed and soon contained about 70 buildings. However, St. Peter was made the county seat in 1856 and within a decade Traverse des Sioux was largely abandoned.
A self-guided tour of the site winds through cellar depressions and interpretive panels that discuss the site's history and Dakota culture. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. You can also visit the adjacent Nicollet County Treaty Site History Center.More information about the site: Traverse des Sioux Historic Site web page
Located in northeastern Cottonwood County, the Jeffers site has one of the most impressive displays of aboriginal rock art in the world. Over 2,000 glyphs were pecked into an exposed shelf of hard Sioux Quartzite in the heart of the southwestern Minnesota tall grass prairie. The glyphs depict animals, people, weapons, and symbols. The earliest carving may have been made perhaps 8,000 years ago and the most recent by proto-historic Dakota.
The site is run by the Minnesota Historical Society and is open to visitors during the warm season. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.More information about the site: Jeffers Petroglyphs web page
This very important site is sacred to many Indian tribes and was well known to early Euro-American travelers through southwestern Minnesota. Archaeological evidence suggests that Siouan speakers known as the Oneota first intensively used the site for quarrying catlinite -a soft, red stone - about 1,000 years ago. Oneota peoples used it to make pipes and decorative plaques. The quarry has been continuously used for 1,000 years to obtain pipestone.
The Yankton Sioux sold the quarry to the United States government in 1928. Pipestone National Monument was established in 1937 to protect and interpret the site. It is located just north of the City of Pipestone.More information about the site: Pipestone National Monument web page
Spring Lake is an inter-valley lake in the Mississippi River just west of Hastings. Important archaeological sites have been explored along the south edge of the lake and on Grey Cloud Island. The St. Paul Science Museum (now the Science Museum of Minnesota) excavated the Sorg (21DK1) and Lee Mill Cave (21DK2) sites on the south shore in the mid-1950s. These sites revealed Woodland and Oneota occupations and are the type sites for Middle Woodland Sorg ceramics. Grey Cloud Island is the location of several prehistoric mound groups and village sites as well as historic Dakota villages and a mid-19th century ghost town. The mounds were tested by the University of Minnesota in 1947.
The Schilling village site was tested by the Science Museum of Minnesota in the late 1950s and yielded Early Woodland ceramics. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The sites on Grey Cloud Island are on private land and have no on-site interpretation. The south shore sites are within or adjacent to Spring Lake Regional Park, which has some archaeological interpretation in the visitor's center.More information about the site: Spring Lake Regional Park web page
The area around the mouth of the Cannon River at Red Wing contains one of the densest concentrations of prehistoric mounds and habitation sites in Minnesota. This concentration extends across the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. About a thousand years ago, the Red Wing area was the home of people linked to the great ceremonial center at Cahokia near present day St. Louis. The Red Wing people lived in large palisaded villages, made beautifully decorated shell-tempered ceramics, and were intensive maize farmers.
The first major professional excavations were by the University of Minnesota in 1947 at the Silvernale site (21GD3), now the location of Red Wing's industrial park. In the mid-20th century, the University undertook additional excavations at the Bryan site (21GD4) just upstream from Silvernale and at the Bartron Site (21GD2) on Prairie Island. The Institute for Minnesota Archaeology (IMA) conducted numerous excavations and surveys at Red Wing during the 1980s. Minnesota State University - Mankato is the most recent institution to take an interest in the Red Wing area.
Many of the Red Wing sites have been destroyed or severely damaged by agriculture and urbanization. There is some archaeological interpretation along the Cannon Valley Trail and at the Goodhue County Historical Society museum in Red Wing. Most of the sites are in private ownership.More information about the site: Goodhue County Historical Society website
At the eastern edge of the Prairie Lake Region, Myre Big Island State Park preserves a remnant of natural woods and a number of important archaeological sites. The park is located east of Albert Lea, just off Interstate 35. While no intensive archaeological excavations have been done in the park, the visitor's center has a large assemblage of artifacts donated by a prominent local collector. Some of the artifacts are on display in the center along with interpretation.More information about the site: Myre Big Island State Park web page
Located on the southwest shore of Lake Minnetonka just north of Highway 7, the visitor's center features the remains of a dugout canoe that was taken out of the lake during low water in the 1930s. There is also limited interpretation of the Indian history of Lake Minnetonka.More information about the site: Lake Minnetonka Regional Park web page
Euro-American settlers were first drawn to Minneapolis because of the water-power potential of St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. The east side of the river was opened to settlement in the late 1830s and the west side in the early 1850s following treaties with the Dakota Indians. Urbanization and industrialization were rapid and Minneapolis was soon one of the world leaders in lumber and flour production as well as a great city. The lumber industry crashed in the early 20th century as Minnesota's white pine forests were depleted. The flour industry began a gradual decline after World War I and abandoned the central Minneapolis riverfront in the late 20th century.
The surviving industrial and commercial buildings around St. Anthony Falls were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The Pillsbury A Mill became a National Historic Landmark in 1966 followed by the Washburn A Mill in 1983.
Archaeological work on the central Minneapolis riverfront began in the early 1980s in conjunction with development of West River Parkway along the western riverfront. The replacement of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in the late 1980s and the construction of the new Federal Reserve Bank in the mid-1990s also required extensive archaeology. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board incorporated archaeological interpretation into West River Parkway at the Mill Ruins Park location in the Mill District and at First Bridge Park below Hennepin Avenue.
At Mill Ruins Park you can see the exposed remains of some of the first flour mills to be built on the west side of St. Anthony Falls. The nearby Mill City Museum run by the Minnesota Historical Society tells the story of Minneapolis milling. At First Bridge Park, you can see the exposed remains of the first two Hennepin Avenue suspension bridges. The 1854 bridge was the first bridge ever built across the Mississippi River throughout its entire length from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. There are also scattered interpretive panels along trails on both sides of the river throughout the central Minneapolis riverfront.More information about the site: Mill Ruins Park web page and First Bridge Park web page
One of the best views of the Mississippi River Valley in the Twin Cities can be found at Mounds Park in St. Paul. The park also contains one of the most accessible and impressive views of prehistoric burial mounds in Minnesota. The mound group originally contained 18 mounds when first mapped in 1862 and now contains six mounds. Although all of the mounds have been excavated to some extent, none have been excavated by professional archaeologists.
The first recorded excavation in Minnesota took place at Mounds Park in 1856 by Edward Neill, a prominent minister and historian. The best-described excavations were those of Theodore Lewis in 1882 and 1883 which revealed rock lined tombs and burial ceremonialism similar to the Hopewell Complex of the eastern Midwest.
The park was purchased by the City of St. Paul in 1893. The mounds were fenced in 1990 to prevent additional vandalism. The park has limited interpretation of the mounds. Below Mounds Park are Carver's Cave that is visible but not enterable in the Vento Nature Area and the Dakota village of Kaposia, which has been largely destroyed by urban development.More information about the site: Mounds Park web page
In 1819, a troop of soldiers led by Colonel Henry Leavenworth established the first permanent Euro-American settlement in Minnesota on land ceded by the Dakota to Zebulon Pike in 1805. Leavenworth began building a fort at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, an area known to the Dakota as mendota (the junction of rivers). In 1820, Leavenworth was replaced with Colonel Josiah Snelling who finished the stone fort that today bears his name. Across the Minnesota River from Fort Snelling, a small group of traders led by Henry Sibley and Jean Faribault established a community known as St. Peters, later known as Mendota.
The military temporarily abandoned Fort Snelling in 1858, but reoccupied it at the beginning of the Civil war in 1861. By the late 1870s, a "new" fort began to sprawl to the south and the old stone fort was soon abandoned. The walls and some of the original buildings were torn down. By the early 20th century, only the round tower, the hexagonal battery, the officer's quarters, and the commandant's house remained.
When highway construction threatened the remains of old Fort Snelling in the early 1950s, the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) made a successful plea to save the site and began a 20-year reconstruction program to restore the fort to its 1820s look. The restoration was preceded with intensive archaeological excavations.
On the Mendota side of the river, the historic buildings were gradually abandoned after the Civil War. In 1910, the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the dilapidated Sibley House complex and began restoration. Today the complex includes the Sibley House and the Faribault House. The nearby Church of St. Peter dates to 1842, although a new church was built adjacent to the old one in 1974. Archaeological excavations were carried out for MHS in small areas of the Sibley complex in the 1980s and 1990s. MHS took over operation of the Sibley Historic Site in 2003.
The Fort Snelling Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, although it had been designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The Mendota District was listed in 1970. Both the Sibley House Complex and Old Fort Snelling are open to the public and contain some archaeological interpretation. The numerous late 19th century buildings in the area known as the "new fort" or Upper Bluff have fallen into disrepair, but efforts are being made to restore and re-use them.More information about the site: Fort Snelling and Sibley Historic Site web page