Historical Road Trip

By Jill Wohnoutka

There is nothing better than getting into your car with your friends or family and heading out onto the open road for a drive. In the Willmar Lakes Area, you can drive through the beautiful countryside and watch the scenery pass you by while learning about the past. Who lived here first? What did this place look like over 100 years ago?

Painting of southern Kandiyohi County to help draw settlers to the area.

Did any famous people live here? Did any famous events happen here? We have an easy solution for this. We have a Historic Site system provided by the Kandiyohi County Historical Society that can take you back to the past. Grab a historic sites guide and get in your car and let us take you back in time.

The historic sites in Kandiyohi County have been marked since 1905. It was the intention of the first settlers to mark the places where important events happened. In 1962, the Kandiyohi County Historical Society printed its first Historic Site Map and Guide. The most recent guide and map was produced in 2011. It includes a map and detailed information on each historic marker and complete directions on where the marker is located. This guide is sold at the Kandiyohi County Historical Society in Willmar. There are a total of 51 markers in the Willmar Lakes Area that cover many different topics.

The Guri Endreson Cabin should definitely be on your list when visiting historical sites in the Willmar Lakes Area. Photo by Gregory Harp.

If you wanted to take a trip and learn about the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, there are 25 historic markers that help tell the story of this most important time in Minnesota History. The markers tell the story of the relationship of the Dakota and European Settlers prior to the War, the important events that happened during the war and what Kandiyohi County was like after the war. One of the most well-known historic places to visit that pertains to the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, is the Guri Endreson Cabin. This stop is located north of Willmar and nestled among trees close to Solomon Lake. This cabin is one of the few remaining buildings that survived the war.

Here’s an example of the historical marker at the Louis Larson Home in New London.

If you are more interested in the life and homes of the people who have lived in the Willmar Lakes Area, you can create a route just for that. If you want to focus on this, we would suggest you visit the Louis Larson historic marker in New London, MN. He was one of the first European settlers in the New London area and is known as the founding father of that town. Another great stop is the site marked for the Washburn Farm in the southern part of the county where Kandiyohi County had its only Bonanza farm.

How about a tour of the firsts in Kandiyohi County? You can find the first church, the first person buried and first home. Did you know that Kandiyohi County almost was the site of the Minnesota State Capitol? When you visit that marker, you are in one of the top scenic areas in Kandiyohi County. There are many ways one can enjoy the historic markers to learn about Kandiyohi County’s past while enjoying a very scenic drive through hills, lakes and farmland in the Willmar Lakes Area.

Fish our lakes

The possibilities are endless on our 30 recreational lakes…boating, swimming, fishing, water skiing, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, hydro biking, paddle boarding and so much more!

Fishing Report

Explore our Trails

Surrounded by beautiful lakes and scenery…who wouldn’t take a hike or a leisurely bike ride to enjoy the view? With miles of trials to choose from, you can always find new places to explore.

Trail Report