The AreaOn your trip to the Prospect House & Civil War Museum, visit some of the area sites.
“The terrain between Interstate 94 and the Prospect House & Civil War Museum is some of the most beautiful in the state.”
Lakes and Land of West Central Minnesota
The Prospect House & Civil War Museum is located in Otter Tail County in West Central Minnesota, a land of lakes and rolling countryside. Formed by glacial action 75,000 years ago, the land is fertile and picturesque. The glacial action left behind depressions or “potholes,” many of which filled to become Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Otter Tail County has one-tenth of all the lakes in the state, more than 1,000. Native prairie and deciduous woodlands meet in this land of water and gently rolling hills. The terrain between Interstate 94 and the Prospect House & Civil War Museum is some of the most beautiful in the state.
“The Ojibway named the location of the last battle Ishquonedewnining (where few survived), the French called it Lac du Battaile, or in English, Battle Lake.”
Tradition has it that the town was named after Indian battles fought over coveted hunting and fishing territory during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Chippewa and Sioux sometimes shared, but often fought over land that offered fish and game for food, furs for clothing, fuel for winter camp fires, and building material for wigwams and canoes. Accounts of the last battle differ, and none are incontestable, but one thing is sure: The battle was bloody. The Ojibway named the location of the last battle Ishquonedewnining (where few survived), the French called it Lac du Battaile, or in English, Battle Lake.
Although the town was mostly established by the time “Cap” Colehour built the Prospect House in 1882, Battle Lake wasn’t officially incorporated until almost a decade later on April 28, 1891. Battle Lake’s populations is 747, but people living on West Battle Lake outside the City limits, on one of the dozens of other nearby lakes, or on farms surrounding the town, swell its ranks to nearly 3,000 area residents.
“The clear, sand-bottomed lake is one of the top lakes among the 1,200 located in Otter Tail County.”
West Battle Lake
Battle Lake is located along the shores of West Battle Lake. It is popular for water activities of all sorts, including fishing – summer and winter – boating, swimming, and water skiing. When “Cap” built Prospect House atop the hill overlooking the town, West Battle Lake and Silver Lake were visible from the stately mansion. Today, State Highway 78, trees, and houses built along the lakeshore obstruct much of the views.
A bike-walking trail runs along the western edge of the lake past a public dock and out to a grass-strip airport.
“Glendalough State Park, once a private game preserve, is one of Minnesota’s newest state parks.”
Glendalough State Park
Glendalough State Park, once a private game preserve, is one of Minnesota’s newest state parks. Located four miles north of Battle Lake, the park boasts almost 2,000 acres of hardwood forest and native prairie and five lakes located either entirely or partly within its borders. Hiking, fishing, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird watching are favorite activities in this quiet refuge. The original lodge, recently renovated, and the trail center are both available for rental, as are walk-in campsites. For more information, go to: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/glendalough/index.html
“[From Inspiration Peak, you’ll see] a glorious 20-mile circle of some 50 lakes scattered among fields and pastures, like sequins fallen on an old paisley shawl.” – Sinclair Lewis
Inspiration Peak, rising 1,750 feet or about 400 feet above the surrounding countryside, is located a few miles southeast of Battle Lake on County Road 38 between State Highways 78 and 235th Street. The highest point in the collection of glacial features known as the Leaf Hills, Inspiration Peak is the second highest point in the state of Minnesota. Sinclair Lewis wrote of the view:"There's to be seen a glorious 20-mile circle of some 50 lakes scattered among fields and pastures, like sequins fallen on an old paisley shawl." Prospect House guests sometimes traveled to Inspiration Peak by horse and wagon for picnics. Today, the park is a wayside rest with a trail from the base of the hill to the top, about a quarter-mile hike. For more, go to http://www.co.otter-tail.mn.us/inspirationpeak/
“Vining, a town of 68 people, boasts a unique sculpture garden.”
A unique sculpture garden created by artist Ken Nyberg is located east of Battle Lake on State Highway 210 in the town of Vining. Nyberg forms gigantic sculptures by shaping and welding pieces of scrap metal. The most well-known of his sculptures is The Foot, but there are a number of amazing sculptures to see in this town of 68 people. (Ken’s daughter is an astronaut.) To see some of Ken’s work, go to: http://thebigstuffproject.blogspot.com/2008/07/vining-sculpture-park.html
“Phelps Mill is one of Otter Tail County’s most picturesque sites”
One of Otter Tail County’s most picturesque sites is Phelps Mill located northwest of Battle Lake at 29035 County Highway 45. Phelps Mill, once a thriving flour mill where wheat, buckwheat and rye were ground, has been preserved as a symbol of rural life. The Phelps Mill Festival takes place the 2nd week in July every year on the banks of the Otter Tail River. “Cap’s” granddaughter, Kay Wilkins Johnson, was instrumental in starting the festival in 1984 as artist and member of Art of the Lakes (an art gallery in Battle Lake). Phelps Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For the story of Phelps Mill,
go to: http://www.co.otter-tail.mn.us/phelpsmill/
“In the fall, Maplewood Park is a tapestry of red and gold leaves.”
Maplewood State Park
Northwest of Battle Lake about a twenty-five minute drive is Maplewood State Park. Its 9,250 acres contains eight major lakes and numerous ponds that offer places to swim, fish, boat, and relax. Maplewood has an extensive trail system that attracts hikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers. The park is known for its hardwood trees including sugar maple, basswood, American elm and oak. In the fall, the park is a tapestry of red and gold leaves. For more information, go to: http://www.co.otter-tail.mn.us/maplewood/
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More information about Otter Tail County can be found at the Otter Tail County website.
Otter Tail County Historical Society
1110 W Lincoln Ave, Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Becker County Historical Society
714 Summit Avenue Detroit Lakes, MN
Find other Minnesota Museums at the Minnesota Historical Museums Guide.
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