Elk River Historical Walking Tour

Elk River is a city in Sherburne County, Minnesota, United States, about 34 miles northwest of Minneapolis. It is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Elk Rivers. The population was 25,798 according to the 2020 census. 

The village of Elk River, which included the City of Orono and "Lower Town", was platted in 1865, but it did not become incorporated until 1880. The city center has shifted since 1865 due to the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, along with highway construct. The hardwood-forested hills in which Elk River is situated, were pushed up by the last glacier that advanced across Minnesota. These hills are made up of coarse materials, which is the reason gravel mining is so prevalent in Elk River, and also the reason much of the area is not considered good farmland. 

While the City of Elk River offers many amenities today, there are a number of historic features that can still be seen throughout the city. Some interesting historical facts about Elk River include:

  • Elk River was home to the first national bank in Sherburne County in 1870, Houlton Bank, located in downtown Elk River.
  • W.H. Houlton, who owned the Houlton Farm, also co-founded the Union Congressional Church in Elk River located at 1118 4th St. NW.
  • One of the last executions by hanging in Minnesota took place in the City of Elk River on December 5, 1905 to CD Crawford for the "Box Car Murder".
  • Men who fought in the Civil War are buried in Orono Cemetery. The Box Car Murderer is buried in the St. Francis Cemetery.

Enjoy reading about local historic places down below and enjoy taking a self-guided walking tour.

1 Morton Avenue NW

At confluence of the Mississippi and Elk Rivers, Bailey Point Nature Preserve offers a 24.38 acre nature preserve with over 3,300 feet of natural, largely untouched shoreline. This is the historic site where the Elk River battle between the Ojibwe and Dakotah Native American Tribes took place in 1772 and 1773. The tribes met on the Mississippi River bank near the mouth of the Elk River.

This site has been the home to various activities over the years including a golf course, campground, and high school football field. Today the nature preserve along the Mississippi River offers a number of unpaved trails for hiking, cross country skiing, bird watching, and a number of outdoor activities to enjoy year-round. 

Click here to learn more.