Minnesota Great River Road – Bluffs Region


[woman] Once you go south from the Twin Cities you come into a very beautiful area where there’s high bluffs and a different landscape then what you see further up. [narr] Though ancient glaciers flattened most of Minnesota, the advancing wall of ice missed the state’s southeast corner. It left the landscape of soaring bluffs undisturbed and the clay soil was as good as gold for a group of German settlers that came in the mid 19th century. [man] And they discovered they had natural clay deposits here. And the German immigrants brought with them the salt glazed pottery making tradition. [narr] Scott Gillmer is the third generation owner of the Red Wing Pottery Company. By the 1900’s, Red Wing, Minnesota had the largest pottery businesses in the U.S. and it continued to dominate until after World War II, when foreign competition made it unprofitable. [man] We’re a much smaller scale then what we were during those boom eras, and we’ve actually gone back to our roots of craftsmen-era pottery. We again do everything by hand. It’s all hand turned, hand decorated by skilled craftsmen. We produce about 400 pieces per month, just enough to sell at a retail level here in our store. [man] It’s fermenting. When it starts fermentation all the grape skins float up on the top, you can see it. [narr] John Falconer waited years to watch grape skins float. [man] Planning an orchard or a winery a vineyard takes years in advance. It takes 5 years to mature the vines. [narr] Today he sells almost 20 different wines and does a brisk pizza business at his new vineyard bistro, nestled in a bluff valley just outside of Red Wing. [man] This is our wood fired pizza kiln. It only takes 90 seconds its very quick The pizzas are fired at 750 to 800 degrees. [narr] The wine making business has expanded every year, and it seems like a lot of work for a retired guy. [man] Well it is, but you got to do something. [narr] Red Wing lies just north of one of the river’s unique features. [man] Lake Pepin is unique among all the lakes on the Mississippi for two reasons. First off, it’s a natural lake, been here about 10,000 years. Second it’s the largest lake on the entire length of the Mississippi River. 22 miles long, 2 miles wide, average depth about 25 feet, deepest spot about 85 feet deep. [narr] Lake City, on the shores of Lake Pepin, first came to prominence as a grain port in 1864. In 1922, 18-year-old Ralph Samuelson invented water-skiing on the lake. Today, it’s known for fishing, festivals, pleasure boating, and it’s the home port of Pearl of the Lake. [man] Pearl of the Lake is an authentic paddle wheel boat. These 2 paddles in the back of the boat here are our only method of propulsion, we don’t have any propellers, we don’t have any thrusters, just 2 paddle wheels going round and round is what makes us go through the water. [narr] High on the bluffs overlooking the lake, workers are busy harvesting apples from one of Minnesota’s largest and most innovative apple growers, Pepin Heights Orchards. [man] Here at Pepin Heights we literally go all over the world looking for great new apple varieties, but some of the very best ones are developed here in our own backyard at the University of Minnesota. We’re standing here in the middle of what was the beta test for Honey Crisp. This 2 acres is the oldest commercial planting of Honey Crisp that we know of in the world. And Honey Crisp is a variety that has in no small way really rearranged the apple industry. This is now the most in demand apple variety for new trees for commercial growers in the country and they are now being planted all over the place. [narr] And while it’s possible to buy Pepin Heights products at your finer grocery stores, you would be remiss if you didn’t stop in and check out their charming retail shop when traveling through Lake City. It’s where it all began. [man] Pepin Heights in 1949 was actually a pickup, load of trees, a number 2 hand shovel, and a picnic table in the front yard of my parent’s house. We’ve grown a bit since then. We now grow maybe 20, 25% of the apples that are produced in Minnesota we ship them to retailers in 28 states at last count. But we still do a lot of fun things here at our little retail store in Lake City. We bring varieties in here to test, before we actually roll them out nationally on a commercial basis. So we hope that when you are in the Lake City area you stop by and see us. [woman] As you go farther down from Lake City, Reeds Landing has the historical museum for Wabasha. It was a thriving town during the old steam boat era with a lot of hotels, a red light district, and pearl factory. That particular bend where the Chippewa came into the Mississippi is very popular for our bald eagles because of the current that water stays open so that brings us to Wabasha, which is home of the National Eagle Center. [woman] In the winter months this particular stretch of the Mississippi River remains open and so bald eagles from all over the upper Midwest even up into Canada are going to push down this way to find that open water and food source all winter long. And we are also then home to 5 permanently injured eagles. So if you don’t get the chance to see the wild eagles, you’ll definitely get to meet those bald eagle ambassadors that we have here with us. [narr] Not far down river from the Eagle Center is a very interesting museum. [woman] We are at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona Minnesota, located right on the banks of the Mississippi River. We are an art museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art inspired by water. We have French Impressionism with works by Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Pissarro, a beautiful Cenac, and his companion Seurat. [music] The museum is built on 8 acres with over 80 thousand native prairie plants, so we have beautiful gardens. And of course we’re sitting right on the Mississippi, so we have a nice river-walk outside with tables and chairs you can have lunch and just relax. [narr] The Marine Art Museum is just one of several museums in Winona, a river town with two universities and abundant parks. [woman] It’s a really charming small community that has some wonderful attractions and festival events and recreation. So we welcome people and ask you to join us and enjoy our community. [narr] 20 miles south of Winona is the Great River Bluffs State Park. The views are breathtaking. And not 20 miles south of the park is La Crescent, just across the river from La Crosse, Wisconsin. La Crescent is the “apple capital” of Minnesota because the first apple trees in the midwest were planted here. There is so much more to learn about this area and the rest of the Great River Road. For more information, visit our website: mnmississippiriver.com

1 thought on “Minnesota Great River Road – Bluffs Region

  1. i drove up through minnesota on this road in the fall……very scenic…..now if they would just dunkin donuts up there…….

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