Only Congress or a president can designate a National Monument. The first was Devil’s Tower in 1906 by President Teddy Roosevelt. Since then, Minnesota gained two such sites and Iowa got a site in the northwestern corner of that state. See all three described below.

You can also experience the history and culture of our country by visiting a National Historic Landmark, of which there are over 2,500 in the United States. Anyone can propose a National Historic Landmark and the decision is made by the Interior Secretary. Minnesota now has 25 Landmarks of roughly 2,500 throughout the US. Three of the most notable are highlighted below.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Grand Portage National Monument
170 Mile Creek Road
Grand Portage, Minnesota 55605
(218) 475-0123

Fur trading flourished in the 1700s between the French, English and Ojibwa. Grand Portage was perhaps the earliest focal point for this commerce. This National Monument, overlooking Lake Superior in splendid manner, depicts the history and culture of this important period of change in our continent’s history. Grand Portage hosts Rendezvous Days, Powwow and other special events as listed on the website calendar throughout the year. The Heritage Center is open year-round.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Pipestone National Monument
36 N Reservation Ave.
Pipestone, MN 56164
(507) 825-5464

Smoking a pipe is legend in American Indian ceremony and prayer. Throughout centuries, this quarry provided unique material needed to craft the pipes. Now, Pipestone National Monument preserves these sacred grounds for all to see and for American Indians access to pipestone. They continue to mine at this site with the same historic tools and methods. Visitors can observe the quarries, roam the native prairie and enjoy Winnewissa Falls. The highlight of any visit includes American Indians demonstrating pipe carving throughout the summer — see this at the Upper Midwest Indian Cultural Center.

Related: Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

Effigy Mounds National Monument
151 Highway 76
Harpers Ferry, Iowa 52146
(563) 873-3491

Enormous mounds in the shape of bears, birds, oblongs and circles constructed along the Mississippi River draw tourists year-round. Plan on rugged trails and steep terrain if you want to see more than 200 mounds, with 31 shaped like animals, along 14 miles of walkway. Park rangers provide informative guided tours and ancient Indian tool demonstrations. Children will appreciate the hands-on exhibits and activities geared to their age group.

historic, fort snelling

(credit: CBS)

Fort Snelling National Landmark
200 Tower Ave.
St Paul, MN 55111
(612) 726-1171

Fort Snelling’s significance arises from being at the intersection of so much of Minnesota’s early history. Learn about fur trade, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 the Civil War and World War II at this National Landmark. It was built in the early 1820s before Minnesota was even a state. The fort’s Round Tower is likely the oldest standing structure in Minnesota.

James J. Hill House
240 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 297-2555

This structure is an amazing example of Gilded Age architecture and the Richardsonian Romanesque style. When it was completed in 1891, it was the state’s largest and most lavish house. James J. Hill also made his mark on Minnesota history. He rose from a farm boy from Ontario to become an “empire builder” with a vast railroad network connecting Duluth to Seattle across the north, as well as Chicago going south to St. Louis and then west to Denver.

The Pillsbury A Mill Complex
704 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 341-7582

The mill is a true landmark to Minneapolis’ flour milling history and was once the largest and most advanced flour mill in the world. It was also the first mill to be designed by an architect rather than an engineer. The mill has been vacant since it closed in 2003, but the developer, Dominium, has been working to restore and preserve the existing historic building. It is set to reopen soon as an affordable housing for artists. You can learn about the Pillsbury A Mill on many of Mill City Museum’s tours, such as the historic Main Street walking tour.

Related: Best National Parks Near Minnesota

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at