Red River Oxcarts
Main Street, 1855-1856
courtesy James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library.
Red River Oxcart Trail audio tour
A family with their belongings on the Red River Oxcarts
credit: James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library
The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership, with support from the Anoka County Historical Society, has developed an audio tour to guide bicyclists along a twenty-mile section of the Red River Oxcart Trail, an important fur trade route that once ran through Northeast Minneapolis. The tour will tell the story of how one of the oldest transportation routes in our region – and the people who used it – shaped the development of the city and the state. The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership believes that the celebration of the story of the riverfront’s history is an intrinsic part of truly vibrant riverfront revitalization.
In the mid-1800s, traders used the Red River Oxcart Trail to transport furs and buffalo hides from Pembina, near the Canadian border in current-day North Dakota, to St. Paul, where they were shipped east. They returned north with market goods and food stores that sustained northern trading posts and growing settlements through the winters. Métis people were central to this trade, as hunters, drovers, clerks and entrepreneurs. The descendants of European traders and American Indian women, Métis people had the language skills, social ties and knowledge of the land that made a new “fur trade on wheels” possible. Others used the trail too, including statesmen, soldiers and eventually settlers seeking homesteads to the north.
The audio bike tour is hosted on Preserve Minneapolis’s minneapolishistorical.org website, which features tours of the Upper Riverfront and nearby neighborhoods. The tour will trace a portion of the “Woods Trail,” which followed the east side of the Mississippi River from the Rum River to St. Anthony Falls. The 20-mile tour includes stops at regional parks and stories about historic sites, and the people who inhabited them, at Anoka, Fridley, Northeast Minneapolis and St. Anthony Main. This portion of the project is being completed with support from the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.
This web tour was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board. The tour web site is hosted by Minneapolis Historical, a project of Preserve Minneapolis.