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 Walking Tour  - Rushford Rushford - A City Within a City Hoiland Mill North End Park

In May, 1853 E. K. Dyer arrived in what is now known as Rushford.  He states that as he viewed the area, he thought he had never seen a more beautiful place.  The next spring, Joseph Otis came on foot from La Crosse via Hokah and Houston, crossed the Root River near the mouth of Rush Creek, partly on ice and partly by wading through the frigid water, to found what is now known as “Brooklyn” between Rush Creek and “Vinegar Hill” to the east.  To follow were the Irish who settled along Vinegar Hill, in what would later be known as Irish Ridge.  A large group of Germans settled in the north, with Bohemians nearby, and Norwegians homesteaded along the Root River and in the prairies to the south and west.

Rushford was officially given its name on Christmas Day in 1854 during a chicken supper hosted by Capt. Dyer.  In 1868, Rushford was incorporated, and in 1885, fearing “urban sprawl” onto their treasured land, farmers incorporated the entire township surrounding Rushford and nearby Peterson into what is known today as the City of Rushford Village.  In 1905, Hiram Walker, a legislator and resident of Rushford, erroneously submitted Rushford for incorporation as a City instead of a Village.  The document was signed into law without noticing the error, and Rushford became the smallest “city” in Minnesota.

Rushford’s original trade center was established in the 2-block area that is now Rushford-Peterson School, but in January of 1867, when the “iron horse” terminal was established south of that area, shops sprang up near the railway along Mill, Jessie, Elm, Mari and Depot Streets.  Rushford experienced phenomenal growth, with 120 stores, warehouses, shops and dwellings all built in 1867, and boasted a population of 1600.  Some merchants stayed open 24 hours a day to accommodate their customers.  Farmers would bring in their produce in the evening, shop for supplies at night, and frequent one or more of the 17 saloons in the city, returning to their homes in the morning.

1973 was the site of the Central United States Ski Association Championship tournament.  It closed in 1988, having hosted a number of skiers who went on to become Olympic contenders.  

Today Magelssen’s Bluff towers 400 ft above the valley floor and is Rushford’s dominant landmark, with Stevens Avenue wrapped around its base and lined with mature trees and “substantial” homes of the once well-to-do.  “Silk Stocking Avenue,” as it is often called, is still lined with many stately, well-maintained homes, walks and boulevards.  

At a right angle to Stevens Avenue on the East runs another—Rushford Avenue.  In the early days, Rushford Avenue consisted of two tree-lined roadways with a wide boulevard between them.  It stretched for nearly a mile from Magelssen’s Bluff, across Rush Creek to Green’s Bluff (Vinegar Hill) in Brooklyn.  The original Rush Creek Bridge has since been rebuilt and relocated one block to the south on Park Street, but three parks remain along Rushford Avenue to reflect the incredible planning of our early city fathers.

Visitors and their children will enjoy Creekside Park just north and east of the Rush Creek Bridge.  Two years after being demolished by the flood of 2007, the children’s playground was reconstructed in 5 days by hundreds of volunteers throughout SE MN.  The play area is custom designed to replicate some of Rushford’s historic structures, and children will enjoy its towers, climbing walls and play spaces that nourish creativity.

The Root River Bike Trail bends through town with a Depot Museum and trailhead located just off of Elm Street. An offshoot of the trail, Rush Creek Trail, takes you north along the dike to Creekside Park and the Ben Niggle Sports Complex.  To the west of the nearby bridge you can camp at the North End Campground and relax with some trout fishing in Rush Creek, or stop inspect the Hoiland Mill, a refurbished

The streets were dusty in the summer and muddy in the spring until wood plank sidewalks were laid. But the nails had to be routinely secured so as not to catch on the fine dresses and trains of the ladies.  By the early 1900’s, plank sidewalks were replaced with concrete at a whopping 8 cents per square foot!  In 1910, a horse watering trough was placed in the middle of the intersection of Mill and Jessie Streets, just north of where the Historic Bluff Country Regional Visitor Center stands today. Continuing north on Elm Street was the site of the Wagon Works, famous for its quality-made “Rushford Wagon.”  During its early years, downtown Rushford was home to a popular opera house, a number of fine hotels and several movie theaters.     

In the mid to late 1900’s, the North face of Magelssen’s Bluff catered to thousands of ski enthusiasts with its 2 jumps and 2 slopes, and in

flour mill.  From there you can pick up a hiking trail that takes you to the top of Magelssen’s Bluff for a breathtaking view of the valley below and the Root River and Rush Creek as they converge SE of town.  Satisfy your appetite at any one of several restaurants downtown, visit a Norwegian lefse factory or shop for gifts or staples at several downtown merchants, then spend a restful night at the B&B or one of two downtown inns.  You’ll experience peace and serenity in a friendly rural setting.  

Welcome to Rushford!

Written by Valencia Gaddis,

With information taken from

“A View from Main Street, Volume VI” by Alden O. Droivold, D.V.M.

Rushford from Magelssen’s Bluff “Silk Stocking” Avenue Historic Depot Museum & Trailhead Creekside Park - Fun for Kids!