Minnesota’s Bluff Country Destination

OUR MISSION:  “To establish the Historic Bluff Country Region of Southeastern Minnesota as a desirable travel destination, as well as to strengthen and improve the economic base of the area.”

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Hwy 16 Byway Bluff Country’s Brown Tour

At La Crescent, drive north to I-90 West from La Crescent to visit the Dresbach Visitor Center and Lock & Dam #7.  Turn right on I-90 to Exit 266 for a visit to OL Kipp State Park (Great River Bluffs State Park) and return to La Crescent, Apple Capital of Minnesota, via the Apple Blossom State Scenic Byway. The hill taking you out of the valley to I- 90 was once paved in brick, and you bragged if your car could make it to the top without boiling over. Enjoy the annual Applefest celebration in September and many varieties of locally-grown apples.

If you drive south and west from La Crescent on Hwy 16, you enjoy the Root River bottom land.  At Hokah you can see Mt. Tom, the most geologically complete elevation in Minnesota. A natural waterfall can be seen on Fall St. south of Highway 44 that forms the main street (Mill Street) through town.  Scenic Como Park is a wonderful area for picnics and wedding receptions. You’ll find just about anything you’re looking for (and some things you aren’t!) at Hokah Hardware in downtown Hokah. The area surrounding Hokah was originally the home of the Winnebago Indians. Both town and river were named after their chief, Hokah (Indian for “root”). Your drive takes you through a portion of the Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest. Wildflowers such as bluebells, yellow lady slipper, large-flowered trilliums, and Dutchman’s breeches flourish, as well as bald eagles, hawks, and other species.  

Continue west on Hwy 16 to the City of Houston.  The sign on the bluff overlooking the city was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp as a landmark for aircraft. Notice the WWII Stuart tank in the City Park. Stop at the Houston Nature Center to meet Alice the Great Horned Owl and check out the displays. You can find out about local birds and hiking trails.  Kids of all ages will enjoy the new Natural Playground near the Center.  Drink in the nearly 100 prairie and wetland species planted in the park, and bring your bike for a spin or take a walk on the Root River Trail. The Wet Bark State Recreation Center, just outside of Houston (left on Poppe Rd from Hwy 16, then right on County Rd 13) is great for small group horseback riding, camping, hiking and picnics.  For another beautiful tour, drive west 6.2 miles on Hwy 16 from Houston and turn left on Chisholm Rd.

North of Houston and Money Creek on Hwy 76 you will find the Buffalo Gal Ranch, home of “Cody” the buffalo who starred in the movie Dances with Wolves.  This docile beast, 7 ft tall at his hump, died in 2006 at the age of 19 after entertaining visitors to the area for years.  His favorite snacks were Oreo cookies.  Call ahead ((507) 896-2345) for tours or to purchase buffalo products.  Deer herds are frequently seen in the fields along this highway.

Or go North from Houston on Hwy 76, and turn right on County Rd 9 through the winding roads of Looney Valley.  Drive around Money Creek, settled in 1853 for the most part by New Englanders.  You will see a tiny, very old Methodist Church that is still operational, with a Mason’s meeting room and a church museum upstairs, complete with KKK influence documentation.  There is also a non-denominational cemetery (Money Creek Cemetery) nearby.

More Driving Tours…

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