The City of Minneiska

Mississippi River Valley

Minneiska History

Minneiska was named by the Sioux Indians. The name Minneiska Means "Water White". The Whitewater and Zumbro joined the Mississippi causing turbulence that appeared white. The Indians loved the area for water travel, and the high bluffs above the river allowed a lookout for game and enemy tribes.

Nestled amont the bluffs and next to the Mississippi river, the City is located on Highway 61, 15 miles up-river from Winona, and 15 miles down river from Wabasha. It is also located close to the 2800 acre Whitewater Management Area and numerous State Forest Lands.

Minneiska is the City that was almost Wiped out by the new four lane Highway 61. Prior to the new road, Minneiska had seven gas stations, hotels, a lumber yard, two churches, stock yard, Post Office, a two story school, 30,000 bushel Elevator, saloons, blacksmith shop, brewery, Temperance Hall and many ice houses.

Today, Minneiska has a non-obstructed, 3-mile wide view of the Great Missisippi. Eagles nest in the summer here and can be seen fishing almost year round. High in the sky Pelicans can be seen soaring in the up-drafts. In the fall prior to freeze up, the Tundra Swans are feeding and resting near the highway. You can see a "Fish" weather vane located high on the bluff above Minneiska. The "Fish" was originally made of wood and was erected in the mid 1800's. It gave the Log Rafters a clue to wind direction as they maneuvered down the Mississippi. The wood fish was replaced with a tin fish which became riddled with bullet holes, so in 1985, a new fish was erected.

Puttman Gray built what is known as "Crazy Man's Castle" 1/2 mile south of Minneiska (by the large cottonwood trees, river side of Highway 61). It was built from driftwood, three stories high and decorated with tower, steeples, verandahs, and pagodas. A show place and tourist curosity, it was advertised in St. Louis and when steamboat lights flashed across the "Castle" at night, Gray's daughters would dance with white sheets covering themselves. Putman Gray invented a vertical amusement ride that was purchased by a man named Ferris and became the "Ferris Wheel" millions of people still engoy today.

The City now has claim to the most woodcarvers per capita. There are two shops open to the public, one busy carving carousel animals, trolls and gnomes and, next door a carver is working on Kubblstoles and Scandinavian Furniture. Another carver carves signs that can be seen throughout the city.

The City has two "Bars and Grills" where you can relax, enjoy your favorite drink and food, and observe the many species of birds going about there daily "rituals" on the Mississippi. Wild turkeys can be seen and heard in the early morning and it is not uncommon for deer to be seen strolling through the yards.

  • Taken from an article by M. Langseth posted in the "Mississippi Valley Guide Magazine"