An 1800’s Ghost Town Sits in the Heart of Crow Wing State Park

Quarantine has been great for one reason, and that reason is getting me out of the house to see new things. With nothing on the schedule, I’ve had more time to see and do things that have been on my list for a long time. I got to cross off a big one this weekend, getting to go explore Crow Wing State Park.

The park is home to one of Minnesota’s many Ghost Towns. It was bypassed by the railway back in 1871, but before that the area boasted a rich history of battling Native American tribes, religious missions, fur traders, oxcart trains, and even a population of 600 at its height. In 2020 it is a gorgeous state park, and home to one of the oldest structures in the state.

That structure is the Clement H. Beaulieu Mansion. Built in 1849, this is the oldest standing structure in Minnesota, north of St. Anthony Falls. In 1880 two of Beaulieu’s nephews dismantled the house and moved the two sections (the original structure and a 1850 addition) to separate places in Morrison County. The most recent owners donated the original structure to the MN DNR in the 1980’s and it was moved back to its original location.

The home’s location is said to be symbolic of the home’s owner. 150 years ago the house looked over the village of Crow Wing, and still looks over the nearby Mississippi River.

Before the village of Crow Wing, the location on the banks of the river was home to a Sioux camp, prior to the 1788 ambush where the Sioux suffered a significant defeat in their long struggle to regain central Minnesota from the invading Chippewa.

The village was on an ox cart train trail, and a boardwalk ran through the commercial district. The boardwalk that stands there today is reminiscent of the one that was here when the town was in its prime. The soil on the banks of the river was hard to walk though, and a boardwalk was constructed through the the area of stores and warehouses to ease travel.

The site of an old warehouse and the town well can also be spotted on this self guided tour of the village. Just up the main road past the ranger station you can also see the sites of the original Catholic and Lutheran missions established in the area. Hiking trails, campsites and picnic areas round out the state park experience.

Crow Wing State Park makes for a great half day trip if you live in the area, and is worth the day trip if you have a ways to drive. It’s convenient central location in the state and entrance off of highway 10 makes it super accessible, and you’ll come out with a new knowledge and appreciation for Minnesota’s past.

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