Bucket list: Find the historic markersThere’s plenty to see along highways 61 and 35 as they border Lake Pepin. Restaurants, bars, museums and shops — not to mention the gorgeous views of the lake itself — are enough to keep any road tripper occupied.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
There’s plenty to see along highways 61 and 35 as they border Lake Pepin. Restaurants, bars, museums and shops — not to mention the gorgeous views of the lake itself — are enough to keep any road tripper occupied.
But one thing that might get overlooked as travelers zip along from Maiden Rock to Stockholm and from Wabasha to Lake City is the series of historical markers that circle the lake.
There are eight of these roadside markers — five on Highway 35 and three on Highway 61 — that tell a story of what happened at that particular site hundreds of years ago.
“The site is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to history,” said Rick Bernstein, field services representative for the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Around Lake Pepin, the markers’ stories range from possible myth (like the story of the Native American girl who jumped off a cliff in Maiden Rock) to well-known history (like the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Pepin).
In some cases, the markers tell about a piece of history that is still visible, such as the “bow and arrow” rock formation. At other sites, such as the one at Fort Antoine, the marker is the only evidence that a historical event occurred there.
Because each state designed its own markers, Minnesota’s markers look different than Wisconsin’s. In Minnesota, the markers are black metal with gold lettering. The three along Lake Pepin are situated in stone surrounds that plaques say were built by the National Youth Administration in the 1930s.
In Wisconsin, the massive brown slabs are made of aluminum, though are designed to look like wood. At 300 pounds and 6 feet high, Bernstein said the markers’ size makes them unique.
“I don’t know any other states that have a marker that size,” he said.
Despite the differences, spotting the markers in both states is fairly easy. Keep an eye out for brown road signs advertising a historical marker in half-a-mile. Then, there will be a second brown sign just before the marker.
“In some places, people will develop travel itineraries based on where these markers are,” Bernstein said.
Last week, Katja Hernandez and her three children were “killing time” before son Marcos’ soccer game in Red Wing. The four jumped in the car, and starting in Bay City, made their way down Highway 35.
“It’s a road trip,” Hernandez said.
When they stopped at the “bow and arrow” marker just south of Bay City, the family piled out of the car to read the marker itself. Then they redirected their gaze to the ancient rock formation visible on the bluff in the distance, guessing it looked more like a bird or frog than a weapon.
Jim Kelstinske, St. Louis, was making his way through Wisconsin on his motorcycle and stopped at the Maiden Rock marker just north of Stockholm.
Kelstinske said that particular marker caught his attention because there’s another cliff in Missouri that’s also purported to be the site of a young Native American girl’s death after she was forbidden to marry the man she loved.
“It’s the exact same story,” he said.
Still, Kelstinske didn’t seem to care whether the maiden story is myth or fact – or whether it actually occurred in Wisconsin or Missouri.
“This is awesome,” he said of the drive and the markers. “This is beautiful.”