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Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

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Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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The state shutdown has ended, and regardless of what you think of the outcome, at least all the fun places that were closed are now open again, including state parks and the Minnesota Historical Society properties, including this fun stop near Grand Rapids.

fhs 1 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Forest History Center does an exemplary job of maintaining its historic property and making history come alive. As the sign says, it’s a living history museum, set in a specific period of time, with costumed guides explaining the way things were back then.

fhs 2 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

The choice of 1900 as the setting is not random. 1900 marks the epoch of the logging era in Minnesota, with over two billion board feet of white pine lumber harvested that year. It also marked the beginning of the end, as within a decade the lumber industry went into a decline in the Midwest and instead grew in the Pacific Northwest.

fhs 3 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Forest History Center offers several ways to learn (with the education firmly cloaked in fun). The visitor center is the first stop, staffed by friendly people who provide a brief overview of what to see and do. An interpretive center has all kinds of hands-on fun for kids along with a historical overview, complete with fun quotes (one of my favorites was from Willa Cather: “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”). Then it’s out to the recreated logging camp, where the costumed guides explain how people lived and worked a hundred years ago.

There are three nature trails to explore, taking visitors through old-growth white pine stands.

fhs 5 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

One of the trails winds down to the banks of the Mississippi, where you can view the city of Grand Rapids.

fhs 6 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

You can also explore a river “wanigan,” or the boat used to drive the logs along the river. Or you can visit the fire tower.

fhs 7 Wander Minnesota: A Forest Full Of History

(credit: Amy Rea)

The tower stands 100-feet tall, and in good weather, climbers are allowed to see the forest from a different perspective.

The Forest History Center is a great stop for visitors of any age. While I was there, a busload of preschoolers were happily romping along the grounds, while individual visitors explored the interpretive center, an elderly couple hiked along the trail to the Mississippi, and some impatient and adventurous teens waited for the fire tower to open to climbers.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO-TV newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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