Minnesota River

  • River with a past

    On the lush Minnesota, beautiful scenery comes with harsh history.

    Around the world, people know Minnesota for its waters — source of the Mississippi, land of lakes. But those are not the waters for which it's named. Those waters belong to a river whose cloudiness led the Dakota to call it "waters reflecting the skies" — the Minnesota.

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  • Dancing on the Yellow Medicine

    In a history-filled valley, a wacipi celebrates Dakota culture.

    For many people, the Minnesota River Valley is full of shadows. But on the first weekend of August, people of indigenous and European descent alike come to Upper Sioux Agency State Park to have a good time. At a wacipi, or powwow, the tradition of welcoming outsiders has held steady for many generations.

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  • Where the Germans are

    In southern Minnesota, New Ulm hangs on to a colorful heritage.

    There are few towns more conspicuously American than New Ulm, Minn. Laid out by the town founders, its wide streets follow an orderly grid toward downtown, where cars park at an angle in front of boxy brick businesses and meat-and-potatoes cafes. There are softball games and Friday-night fish fries and many friendly people. It's the epitome of small-town America — and yet this is a town famous for being German.

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  • Mourning the summer of 1862

    150 years after a tragic conflict, a pilgrimage to the Minnesota River Valley yields facts but few answers.

    In 1858, as Europe creaked under the weight of its impoverished masses, Minnesota was a place of opportunity. It had plenty of land, and newcomers who worked hard could gain social standing as well as property, an impossibility in the old country. So the poor surged in, thankful for a future. "When I consider my children, I think their futures will be very good, yes, much better than if I had stayed in Norway,'' my great-great-grandfather Rolf wrote home after his arrival in 1862.

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  • The artistic Gags of New Ulm

    The author/illustrator of the children's book

    New Ulm hasn't always understood the kind of people who color outside the lines. That describes the entire family of Anton Gág, a German-Bohemian artist whose work can be seen at New Ulm's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the brewery of August Schell, who was his patron and sent him to art school in Chicago for six months. All seven children were creative, spending their days drawing, telling stories and building sets for plays.

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  • Mankato meander

    To see the best of this low-key river town, hop on a bike.

    Mankato is easy to overlook, even though it's home to a state university, gateway to the prairie and prominent in Minnesota history. Downtown is girdled by highways and train tracks, befitting Mankato's longtime status as a trade town. Its streets are quiet, except when the many bars throw a block party. Pipestone or the Black Hills use interstates.

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  • A German Mardi Gras

    At New Ulm's Bock Fest, the good times roll in on a tide of beer.

    Oh, the joy of being German. There's no question that Germans know how to have a good time. After all, they've given the world Oktoberfest, half-gallon steins and "The Little Chicken Dance.'' Hopfen und Malz, Gott erhalts'' roughly translates as "Malt and hops, to God, are tops.''

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