Minnesota’s most famous tall tale lumberman Paul Bunyan is found dotting the landscape in roadside attraction form. There are Bunyan statues in Akeley, Brainerd, Bemidji, and plenty of other towns, as well as his artifacts and representations of his blue ox sidekick, Babe. And in Hackensack, MN, is Paul’s other babe, Lucette Diana Kensack.
As with any great top ten list, the candidates were many and the final draft debatable. This list may never be accurate and I will probably change my mind next week, but it’s been determined that the following entries are the most interesting, unique, and definitive roadside attractions of the North Star State. Let’s get down to it!
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.