Salt Lake, Marietta, MN

I had read about this place numerous times and never figured I would ever be anywhere near it.  The truth is, its really in the middle of nowhere.  On the MN/SD border about halfway down the western edge Minnesota lies this geological anomaly.  This is Salt Lake.  It’s roughly 300 acres of shallow water sitting on the open prairie surrounded by fields and the occasional grove of trees.

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Kneeling Paul Bunyan, Akeley, MN

Akeley, Minnesota, pop. 432, claims to be the birthplace of mythical folk hero Paul Bunyan. There aren’t many who don’t know the tales of the giant northwoods lumberjack, and there are statues of Paul in almost every state in the US. Plenty of other towns and states claim to be his home, but Akeley has the crib too, parked right behind the giant kneeling statue of the big guy.  His outstretched hand is the perfect photo opportunity and there is a small park located here too. Paul is about 30 feet tall kneeling, and over 40′ if he was afoot.

Also behind the statue is the Paul Bunyan Historical Museum, which documents the history of the area.  Akeley once was home to the largest sawmill in the state and had a population of over 3,000 in the early 1900’s. Now it sits as a touristy small town between Park Rapids and Walker.

While in the area:  Akeley is located on the Lakes Country Scenic Byway, which spans through Minnesota’s lakes and pines, and through the Chippewa National Forest. It also sits on the Crow Wing chain of lakes, so there is no shortage of things to do. Or, jump on your bike and cruise down the Heartland Trail.

Bald Eagle, Remer, MN

Remer, MN is a small town in north-central Minnesota not really all that close to anything.  It’s home to about 370 people, a couple bars and stores, and one great roadside attraction.  This Bald Eagle sits right on the main street through town, and is impossible to miss.  It sits on a stone pedestal overlooking the town.  Although not the only eagle statue in the state, it does stand out due to its color and detail.   A painted sign next to it tells about how the eagle is a salute to people who served for the country in time of war. It’s about 10 feet tall.

While in the area: Bring your ‘squatch hunting gear!  Remer was recently in the news for an alleged bigfoot sighting, and my recent travels there ended up with pretty conclusive evidence. And by that I mean I didnt find anything that could be considered evidence. Nice, quiet area though with a lot of lakes and pine trees.

World’s Largest Prairie Chicken, Rothsay, MN

Rothsay is a town of about 500, and sits on the west central plains of Minnesota.  It is a little interstate town with a popular truck stop, between Fergus Falls and Moorhead on I-94. But it is known for its roadside attraction foremost. Rothsay is home to the World’s Largest Prairie Chicken, and it is found right off the interstate exit ramp.  Surrounded by a small park and a view of the surrounding plains, tourists can picnic here and learn about the history of the area a bit.

The plaques here describe the virgin prairie to have grasses 10 feet tall back in the day, and prairie chickens used to run rampant. The Red River Valley is known for its great topsoil which used to run pure black 10 feet deep.  Rothsay’s earliest roots are farming-related and when the railroad came through town in the late 1800’s, Rothsay flourished. There were actually bootleg joints here later too.  The town hosted the state plowing contest in the 50’s, and Rothsay has been a mainstay on I-94 to this day. The town cafe is pretty legit too, as I recall from taking refuge there while waiting out a blizzard once in my college days.

While in the area: Good waterfowl hunting, and state land is readily available.  Pelican Rapids, Fergus, and Moorhead are all just a stone’s throw, and Rothsay is right southwest of Lakes Country.