Bemidji, MN

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.

Paul Bunyon is the guy on the left (not the guy in the center)

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).

Olympic Curler (is that what they are called?)


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.

Main entrance to Bemidji State University

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 . . .

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28 Responses to Bemidji

  1. I like how the curling sculptures head is a beer keg!!!

    We saw a Paul Bunyon statue in Northern California a few months ago because the inventor of the legend moved out there for a while. That big guy sure got around!

    • placestheygo says:

      Kind of sums up the type tournament they have during the Winter Festival!!!

      I think there are a few “life size” Paul Bunyon’s around this country. We saw one somewhere else in our travels, also. Yes, he does get around:)

  2. RJRVtravels says:

    We passed through Bemidji several years ago. Thanks for the memories!

  3. Ingrid says:

    Boy, John sure is talented with that chainsaw. Looks like you enjoyed a fun tour with friends 🙂

  4. pmbweaver says:

    Well now I know the rest of the story.

    There is a statue in the Redwoods in California that looks very similar to your Paul Bunyan one.

    I can honestly say that this is the first year all and I watched several curling matches in the Olympics. Very interesting. Took us hours of watching to figure out how these for that game.

    Bemidji does look like a beautiful area. I am sure we will never get there so thanks for doing such a good job with the tour.

    I think Paul and John should take their carving on the road. We could travel together, get some rest and relaxation, while they go carve. How doses that sound?

    • placestheygo says:

      When I first became interested in curling during the Olympics eight years ago, I had to do a lot of research to understand the game and all the strange terms. It did take some time to “get it” for sure.

      I think I like that idea of the guys carving while we relax as we travel around the country showing off their talents:)

  5. jcgc50 says:

    We just finished watching season one of the new Fargo TV series, much of which took place in Bemidji. It didn’t look that nice, but we read that it was filmed in Canada.
    That bike trail looks very nice!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for that background on Fargo, Gayle. We didn’t watch that series but John said he had read about Bemidji being the town. He read what you shared, also. I, of course, knew none of this til your comment:)

      The trail was very nice and now stretches 120 miles with more planned for the future.

  6. Deb says:

    Gee, John, I had no idea of your prowess as a wood carver! Everything there looks so clear and clean.

  7. LuAnn says:

    We had a great time biking with you two. Now that is what I call the perfect photo of us, not to close, not too far, not too “hippy” (haha)! Did you ever find the curling center? I was hoping that you had and were able to watch a practice. John, until we spent a couple of days with you I had no idea of your talent. I’m sure Bemidji was honored to accept such a beautiful, gracious gift from you. 😉 Look forward to seeing you both on Friday.

    • placestheygo says:

      Haha! John’s is a man of many talents, LuAnn. You are only beginning to scratch the surface:)

      We did find the Curling Center but there wasn’t any one there…darn!

      • LuAnn says:

        I was hoping you were going to report that you were able to “suit up”; get out on the ice; and discover one of your many talents Pam. 🙂

      • placestheygo says:

        You don’t know how much I wanted there to be someone at the Curling Center!! I was ready to help the team if they needed me:)

  8. Gay says:

    I am impressed with the many talents you two seem to have! What a neat place…thanks for sharing! What a wonderful bike ride and lunch spot!

  9. Laurel says:

    Wow, John — you’re a Michelangelo with a chainsaw! 🙂 Looks like a great bike ride, made even better by the company of good friends. Pam, how much does that curling “thing” weigh?

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Laurel, the company most definitely made the bike ride and lunch great fun.

      A curling stone, also called the rock, weights between 38 and 44 pounds. The granite that they are made from all comes from two mines, one is on an island off the coast of Scotland and the other a mine in Wales.

  10. Nan says:

    How interesting that you are writing about this area. Just this morning I met a couple of fulltimers who had just been there and she encouraged us to visit good ole Paul Bunyon and Babe.

  11. PennSmiths says:

    There is a Paul Bunyan at Cook Shanty in Minocqua, Wisconsin (near the Dells), too! Sounds like a nice town you visited and yes, John, is amazing with a chainsaw!

  12. Sherry says:

    We too have visited Bemidji and had pictures taken with Paul and Babe. Another on of those “the world’s biggest”. I’d say Babe has to be the world’s biggest blue ox wouldn’t you? Looks like a great bike ride that we did not know about so now we’ll have to go back. But we’ll need the great company so perhaps the 4 of you could return?

  13. Jodee Gravel says:

    When I read the title I thought it was about those little brown dogs with “no bark” – that part of the country is a foreign to me as Curling!! You two must be master packers with the all the Olympic gear and chain saws in the rig……good job :-). Our high school was 300 kids in six grades…..middle of the desert so no ice rink (big, lighted football field though)…..small schools have a special place in my heart :-)))).

    • placestheygo says:

      That chain saw sure does take up a lot space, Jodee!!!

      Football sure isn’t a priority in this neck of the woods, even at the universities. But they sure have big, beautiful hockey arenas. I guess it tells us a little about the weather:)

  14. Thank you John, although I heard about curling,( not the one you do on your hair but the sport), I never heard of the town. Wow John, that is a masterpiece, maybe you should donate that Columbus, Indiana to add interest in the city…ha ha ha
    Glad you guys met up again, it sure is more fun biking 25 miles with friends.

  15. Nancy says:

    Soooooo Cool that You got to meet up with LuAnne and Terry!! and will again real soon! Neat… !!
    I never knew you could “Curl!!” 😉

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