The geologyof the area brings you to the very edge of the giant glacier that once covered almost all of Minnesota from 12,000 to 25,000 years ago.
The southeast portion of the state remained untouched by glacial activity and is known as the "driftless area," meaning it is free of the glacial "drift" or deposits that glaciers leave behind. Watch for the sharp differences between the glacial area and the driftless area as you drive the byway.
To the west are the glacially smoothed flat prairies, full of fertile lands and to the east are older natural
landforms with unique biological systems and majestic bluffs created by thousands of years of outwash from the melting glacier.
The landscape is characterized by craggy limestone and sandstone valleys, steep hillsides and abundant cold water springs. More than 600 spring creeks interlace the 24,000 square-mile landscape and drain into the Mississippi River. The streams support populations of native brook trout and wild brown trout.
MN State Highway 16 88 Miles from Dexter to La Crescent
Just as Interstate 90 connects the northern part of the country from east to west today, Highway 16 was once part of a nationwide network of highways from New York to California.
Constructed in the 1920's, the road served as a vital link for large and small cities in the northern tier of the country. Today, although convenient to modern transportation routes, the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway is a long way from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
In 2002, Highway 16 was awarded the distinction of being designated a National Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Follow the panoramic Root River Valley to the Mississippi River for two thirds of this route. The scenery in the western third showcases Minnesota's rich and rolling farm land. The east end connects with the Great River Road and closely parallels the Root River, passing trout streams and spectacular tree-covered bluffs featuring limestone palisades and the rich hardwoods found in this area.
Day trips along and adjacent to Bluff Country Scenic Drive takes one back to days when horses and buggies dominated travel and nuggets of history can be found. With small communities located along the 88 mile stretch, a traveler can enjoy a slice of homemade pie and a cup of hot coffee at a local cafe, canoe the winding root rive, relax while listening to the gurgling streams or singing birds, bike or hike the Root River Trail State, attend professional theatre productions, browse the unique gift and antique shops and much more.
This valley was untouched by the last glacier and has weathered gradually over time to create a magnificent pastoral setting dotted with small towns, quaint and historic lodging places, and paved recreational biking and hiking trails.