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September is Drive the Great River Road Month, celebrated annually in all ten Mississippi River states! The Great River Road is approximately 3,000 miles long and runs through ten states and more than 100 counties and parishes. Governor Dayton has proclaimed September as Great River Road Month in Minnesota, where the route spans 565 miles, 20 counties, 43 communities, 3 tribes and 6 unique destination areas.  Check back for posts throughout the month highlighting unique places to visit. 

While you’re planning your trip – enter the Drive the Great River Road Month Sweepstakes for a chance at $500, to use on your next adventure! 

Port of Saint Paul

A great place to see the Mississippi River’s impact on Minnesota’s economy and commerce is the Port of Saint Paul. Tucked below the city, the Port of Saint Paul boasts over four terminals, 30 businesses, and 1,200 jobs. 5 million tons of commodities go through those terminals annually, primarily grain, corn, soybeans, sand fertilizer, road salt and coal. A rich history of shipping throughout the 20th century matches the present-day drama of watching the port from the Great River Road. https://www.sppa.com  Saint Paul has more shoreline than any other city along the entire Mississippi River.  And www.visitsaintpaul.com will show you all the city has to offer for your next getaway…  Photo courtesy of Saint Paul Port Authority.

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Oliver Kelley Farm, Elk River

Heading south to Elk River, driving the Great River Road brings searchers for a Minnesota Sense of Place to the Oliver Kelley Farm, where the working river starts to take over. Agriculture has been at the heart of Minnesota’s economy for over 200 years and the Mississippi River has been at the heart of the state’s agriculture. At this newly renovated Minnesota Historical Site and newly designated Great River Road Interpretive Center, visitors can learn about farming practices then and now and the history of the cooperative movement started by Oliver Kelley. http://www.mnhs.org/kelleyfarm. For more information on the thriving community of Elk River, visit http://www.elkriverchamber.org/.  Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

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Grand Rapids - Forest History Center & UPM-Blandin

Following the Great River Road (and the river) west, we find one of the state’s great examples of how people have influenced the river and the river has influenced the people in Grand Rapids. Here the Mississippi, already known throughout North America as a great river feeding vast forest land in the mid 1800s, became a mecca for venture capitalists and journeymen immigrants riding the crest of a timber-driven westward American expansion. This mini-epicenter for the lure of logging offers glimpses of the past at Minnesota Historical Society’s Forest History Center http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/forest-history-center and UPM-Blandin’s state-of-the-art modern paper-making operations. http://www.upmpaper.com/about-upm-paper/upm-in-north-america/blandin-forestry/Pages/Default.aspx

Grand Rapids also has many other things to offer – whether outdoor adventure or in-town exploring – www.visitgrandrapids.com has details… Photos courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society and UPM-Blandin.

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Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

For members of many Ojibwe tribes, wild rice is not just a crop, it’s part of a ribbon of life. If you travel the Great River Road in its Northwoods section, you’ll find Leech Lake, where the harvest and processing are at the core of the community. If you stick around long enough to listen to the stories at the Ojibwe Fisheries Building in Cass Lake http://www.llojibwe.org/drm/fisheries/wildrice.html, you’ll be able to learn first-hand the differences in the grains, how it’s best cooked and why it’s so important to Native culture.  While you’re in the area, don’t miss other local attractions – visit www.casslake.com for information… Photo - courtesy of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

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Beltrami County History Center, Bemidji

To see a town that epitomizes the history of how the river’s flow shaped the land and the people, start your journey in Bemidji, where First Nations people trading intersected with explorers’ and trappers’ travels at the cross roads of the river and Lake Bemidji in the early 1800s. With deep roots in Native American heritage, Bemidji’s water nexus was transformed by a second-phase crossroads – railroads. Today, the Mississippi River and Lake Bemidji are at the heart of a third wave of transformation: one of arts, culture and recreation. The Beltrami County History Center is located in the restored 1912 Great Northern Depot in Bemidji. Visit http://beltramihistory.org for information or stop by Wednesday through Saturday from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.  For more ideas on what to see and do in Bemidji - www.visitbemidji.com. Photo - courtesy of Beltrami County Historical Society.

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Minnesota's National Great River Road Interpretive Centers have been specially designated for their remarkable presentation of Mississippi River stories. Here's a list - visit one, or several as part of your Mississippi River adventure...

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News & Events

St. Cloud Riverwalk Project Takes Shape (9/18/17)
Glenevis Historic Home Tour - La Crescent - September 23 (9/18/17)
Applefest - La Crescent, September 14 - 17 (9/7/17)
Little Falls Arts & Crafts Fair, September 9 - 10 (9/7/17)
Watermelon Festival - Kellogg, September 8 - 10 (9/7/17)
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Opening Music: "Take A Look" by Charlie McGuire. Used, gratefully, with permission by the National Park Service National Mississippi River & Recreation Area. Click here to listen to "Take a Look" in its entirety and to hear other great river tunes.
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