Mississippi helps define river townThe Mississippi River defines Red Wing — not only by shaping its northeastern boundary, but also in terms of industry, flora and fauna, recreation and tourism.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
The Mississippi River defines Red Wing — not only by shaping its northeastern boundary, but also in terms of industry, flora and fauna, recreation and tourism.
Red Wing is west and south of the Mighty Miss. This is one of the few places where the Mississippi River flows nearly west to east rather than north to south. This creates some initial confusion for visitors and newcomers, who sometimes wonder which way is north.
The Mississippi River Valley was cut deep into sandstone and limestone when melt-water from the Wisconsin Ice Age formed Lake Agassiz and began to drain south. Barn Bluff was then an island, the Highway 61 corridor a river channel.
The river, which once attracted fur traders, made it possible for Red Wing to become the largest wheat-shipping center in the world by the mid-1800s.
Today, local industries look to the Mississippi River for transportation. The city has a working riverfront. Up to 7,000 loaded barges transporting more than 10 million tons of products pass through U.S. Lock & Dam 3 just north of Red Wing every season.
Farm products account for at least half of that, followed by chemicals and crude materials. The shipping season typically runs from mid-March through late November. U.S. Lock & Dam 3 is among the busiest on the Upper Mississippi River.
In addition, it is a center for the tourism industry. Hunting, fishing and recreational boating on the Mississippi River are among the reasons tourists come to Red Wing. The river occasionally thrusts Red Wing and the Great River Road into the national spotlight.
Along the length of the river there are 1,100 state or national historic sites; 151 visitor centers, interpretive centers and museums; and 87 state and federal parks and refuges.
Today, the Mississippi River drains about 40 percent of the continental United States. It is the second-largest drainage basin in the world. The river itself runs 2,400 miles from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico.
Red Wing offers several prime overlooks including Barn Bluff, Sorin’s Bluff, College Hill, Fairview Red Medical Center and Goodhue County History Center.
You must climb Barn Bluff to reach the summit.
You can drive up Sorin’s Bluff to the Memorial Park overlook.
College Hill is off East Avenue and West Seventh Street.
The medical center’s lunch room has one of the best views in town.
The history center is at 1166 Oak St. If you walk behind the buildings, you will find a plaque describing the region’s geography. Look closely at Barn Bluff in the distance and you can see what glaciers and colliding continental plates left behind.
Also, there are no better places to walk and enjoy the river than at Bay Point Park and Colvill Park.