Minnesota’s Bluff Country Destination

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Hwy 16 Byway Walking Tour  - Peterson

The Town that Peter Built

(Article published on the DNR Interpretive Signs found along the

Root River State Trail in Peterson, MN)


All Aboard!

Arrival of the railroad secured Peterson’s place as a rural manufacturing center. Norwegian immigrant, Peter Peterson Haselrud, founded Peterson in 1867.  The following year he gave the Southern Minnesota Railroad Company 15 acres to secure a train station.  The railroad sparked town development and Peterson became a thriving rural manufacturing center supplying goods to state and regional markets. Numerous freight and passenger trains moved through the station daily until it closed in 1965.  The depot has since been removed from its original site to its current location a few blocks away from the rail line, now the Root River State Trail.  The station currently serves as the city’s museum and tourist center.  Several buildings still stand as a reminder of Peterson’s bygone years as a thriving manufacturing center.


Peterson Station Museum

Nearly 100 years after Peterson Station opened to serve Southern Minnesota Railway customers, it welcomed the public again in 1974 – this time as a museum.  Today, visitors can explore the area’s past through historical memorabilia, photographs, and artifacts, or learn more about their family’s history in the area at the genealogy center.


The Meandering Root River

For as long as humans have been in southeastern Minnesota, the Root River has provided transportation, food, recreation, and natural beauty.  The main channel of the river runs through Peterson, and modern-day visitors continue to reap its benefits while enjoying the quiet charm of a small town founded as a railroad village in 1867.  To gain a sense of the timelessness of this relationship between people and the river, journey back over 100 years by visiting the Peterson Station Museum, a restored railroad depot that contains historical collections from the area.  From Peterson’s canoe access, consider a peaceful paddle down the river, which was used for travel before the arrival of the railroads


Something Fishy

Peterson’s trout hatcheries have provided trout to stock Minnesota lakes for over 100 years.  Haselrud established one of the first fish hatcheries in Minnesota.  By 1874, the hatchery supplied at least 100,000 yearling trout to stock waters for fishing.  The springhouse, one of the two remaining structures from the original Haselrus homestead, spanned the clean, cold water spring used for the trout hatchery.  After his death in 1880, Haselrud’s original ponds were filled in and the current fish hatchery operated by the Minnesota DNR is on a different site south of town.  Every year the Peterson hatchery produces between 100,000 – 150,000 lake trout for the Minnesota Inland Lake Trout Program, which stock cold lakes in Northern Minnesota.


Migration Corridor

The Blufflands region is one of the most important migratory bird corridors in Minnesota.  Roughly 350 species of birds either make their home for part or all of the year in the Blufflands, others just stop on their way up or down the Mississippi River flyway.  Look for bald eagles in the fall, winter, and spring, and various species of warblers in the spring and fall.




Prairie Openings

Although native prairie is becoming increasingly rare due to development, conversion to agriculture, and fire suppression, prairie is still present along this stretch of the Root River State Trail.  While traveling the trail, look for prairie openings on steep, bedrock bluffs.  Grasses of various heights dominate the prairie, shrubs are sparse and trees are rare.


More WALKING TOURS…