October 2006: Fort Snelling State Park


Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Dakota Indians considered this spot at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers the center of the world; European visitors recognized its strategic importance for trade and defense. On September 21, 1805 Zebulon Pike picked up 100,000 acres for $200 of trinkets, a keg of whiskey and the promise of a trading post. Colonel Josiah Snelling shaped the post into a military fort wheh he arrived in 1820 and so it operated as such through World War II. Fort Snelling was spared destruction when it was named as the first National Historic Landmark in Minnesota in 1960 and the park - now the state's most visited - opened two years later to conserve open space in the heart of the Twin Cities. 

Fort Snelling State Park is packed with canine hiking opportunities - 18 miles of foot trails, 18 miles of cross-country trails and 5 miles of multi-use trails. It is a day-use park only - no camping - so you'll need to return to do it all. This is easy, shady hiking in mature wood- lands. A good place to start is the 3.2-mile hiking-only trail that circles Pike Island, site of the treaties that allowed establishment of the first European settlement in Minnesota. The 5.8-mile gravel Medota Trail offers seclusion along the Minnesota River and connects to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge protects more than 10,000 acres of often marshy lands with 34 more miles of trails. Dogs are permitted throughout the refuge.

The story of Fort Snelling is the story of the development of the U.S. Northwest - a lonely symbol of American hopes and dreams in the wilderness of the frontier. By the 1950s the threat of a freeway through the old fort inspired public effort to save the remnants of Minnesota's oldest buildings. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated Fort Snelling as the state's first National Historic Landmark in 1960, and since then both public and private funds have been used to rebuild the fort. Within its impressive walls costumed guides present a vivid picture of early military, civilian and American Indian life in the region. 

From I-94 take Highway 55 south to Highway 5 and take the Post Road exit and follow the signs.