After visiting the port of Duluth, we continued west on Rte. 2 for about a hundred miles to the town of Bemidji, located on the south shore of the lake of the same name. The sign below notes two things the city claims as significant. The first is the slogan “First City on the Mississippi.” Minnesota is filled with lakes, the state slogan “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, and most of them are connected by rivers and streams, so it is difficult to find the precise location of the beginning of the Mississippi. But most experts agree it begins in Lake Itasca, about 25 miles south of here. The river winds through a number of lakes before it enters, then exits Lake Bemidji. So this is the first populated area where the river flows.
The second point of interest here is the statue of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox. The statues were both built in 1937 as a tourist attraction for a Winter Carnival. The 18 foot Paul weights two and a half tons and stands above five tons of concrete footings. Babe was built to be mobile and for two years was trucked in parades throughout Minnesota.
Although not highlighted on the sign in the first picture, the third thing noted about Bemidji is that it is the U.S. curling capital (OK, everybody knows that). Inside the visitor center we found a member of the Olympic Curling Team checking out the rock on display (of course, you know that is the “thing” they push down the ice).
They still hold that ice festival each winter on Lake Bemidji and apparently a curling tournament is a big deal as the winners get their names engraved on a large trophy on display at the visitor center.
Setting along the wall of the visitor center was a pretty large chain saw. John saw it and, being an experienced woodsman, took it outside to do a bit of carving.
About an hour later he showed off his artwork!
Bemidji is also the home of a very nice college, Bemidji State University. The school has around 5,000 undergraduates and is known for its writing programs.
While in Bemidji we met up with fellow full-timers, Terry and LuAnn (Paint Your Landscape). They also enjoy biking so they joined us on a bike ride around Lake Bemidji.
We enjoyed a great 25 mile ride around the lake. Next to our starting point near the visitor center, we crossed a bridge over a half mile waterway that connects Lake Bemidji with nearby Lake Irving. The waterway is considered to be part of the Mississippi River.
Bemidji has a number of unique pieces of sculptor on display throughout the city. As we rode the bike path we came across an interesting example of, what else, a curler (is that what they are called?).
Half way around the lake the trail goes through Bemidji State Park. We stopped for lunch at a nice picnic area along the water.
Later that evening we met Terry and LuAnn at Brigid’s Cross Irish Pub and Restaurant for cold adult beverage and a great meal.
The next morning Terry and LuAnn left headed west to Devil’s Lake, ND where we will join them at the end of the week at Grahams Island State Park. We stayed here in Bemidji for another day exploring the area. One of the things we found interesting in our explorations is the local high school. Bemidji High School (1500 students) is located in a large, beautiful building on a campus about three miles outside the town. The high school received a bit of fame when it was featured on Larry the Cable Guy’s show, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy. The show put much emphasis on the fact that BHS is the only high school in the world to offer (you guessed it!) a Curling class.
As we road around the campus we noticed a building about a hundred yards from the high school building. You can just see it below the red arrow in the picture below.
We went back out on the main road, drove a short distance, and went into the entrance road to the building. Turns out it is the Bemidji Community Arena, owned and operated by the Bemidji Youth Hockey Association and is the home ice for the high school team.
Driving back around to the front of the high school we took a look at the football field. Turns out it has a small home seating area and no seats on the visitor side of the field. Guess which sport is more popular in Bemidji!
Bemidji is a very nice little city and is definitely worth a visit if you are in this part of Minnesota. Next up for us is Grand Forks, ND.
More on that later . . .