Above the soil, below the soil and the soil itself reveals the history of Historic Fort Snelling. With revitalized grounds and improved interpretation, even the plants present an opportunity for learning and connecting to the site of Dakota homeland. Highlights of the revitalized grounds include:
Native Plant Nations
Savanna, woodland, prairie and wet meadow landscapes featuring native plants surround the new visitor center, parking area and pathway to the fort. Interpretive panels throughout the locations present the Dakota and common English names for many plants, plus how Native Americans have used those plants for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. As these landscapes continue to grow and mature, visitors are encouraged to revisit and observe this living history.
New Collective Voices interpretive panels feature six individual historical portraits with stories of service, sacrifice, hope, identity, pride and perseverance. Look for history topics that include World War I and World War II soldiers, Native American veterans, Japanese Americans and the Military Intelligence Service Language School as well as the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad.
Upon entry to the site just past the Hale Welcome Plaza, a panel presents the 1805 Treaty and how it laid the groundwork for an uncertain future between settlers and the Dakota people. A timeline shares historic moments on the site from 1820 to the present.
Past the parking area, a panel presents the story of Whiskey, a horse who bedazzled soldiers with his intelligence. The U.S. Army buried the horse on the site in 1944 with full military honors. Visitors will see a unique birdhouse and its story, built by Eagle Scout Johnny Her in 2012.
As visitors walk down to the historic fort from the visitor center, interpretive panels describe Fort Snelling’s role in the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.
Historic Fort Snelling has been a gathering point for 10,000 years. The site continues to welcome people to linger, reflect, celebrate and contemplate. New overlooks along the Wakpa Tanjka/Mississippi River offer opportunities to view natural and built surroundings.
- Robert and Alexandra Klas Overlook: Built adjacent to the previous visitor center’s location, this overlook provides sweeping views of the Mississippi River and Minneapolis Skyline. Interpretive panels provide information about prairie plantings surrounding the area, as well as a chronological overview of the site’s history.
- Gale Family Foundation Terraces: Relax at the Klas Overlook and enjoy the restored prairie, scenic view, and special musical events that transform the terraces into the best seat in the house.
- Picnic Area: Located west of the Klas Overlook, this picnic area is a perfect place to enjoy a bite. The grave of Whiskey, Fort Snelling’s most famous horse is nearby along with Johnny Her’s birdhouse.
- A Place to Remember: All are welcome at this spot: to pay tribute to the many lives shaped by this place and the generations who lived, labored, and learned here; to recognize the pain, loss, and sacrifice of those connected to this place; and to honor Minnesota’s shared history, together.
- Barbara and Michel Nelson Family River Overlook: Nestled behind Building 17 which was constructed in 1904, this overlook presents a unique view of the Mississippi River and bustling Highway 5.
- Fort Snelling: The fort continues its tradition of cannon and musket demos, blacksmithing, and the Fife and Drum Corp. Visitors are invited to investigate the Commandant's House and South Battery. Climb the Round Tower or Half Moon Battery. See where Harriet and Dred Scott lived, and learn about the history of the many enslaved people at Fort Snelling. View exhibits on medicine and medical care and archaeology.
Unpaved and paved paths with improved directional signage provide greater access and better wayfinding to newly revitalized and existing portions of the site. Visitors can meander along the Ecolab River Walk and stroll along the bluff with panoramic views of the river.
As visitors enter the site from the parking lot, the Jim and Sharon Hale Welcome Plaza presents an artistic representation of the confluence between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers etched in the concrete.
About Historic Fort Snelling
Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark, resides on Dakota homeland known as Bdote, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The restored 1820s military fort and new visitor center present the stories of those who crossed paths here—from the Dakota, Ojibwe, and enslaved people, to fur traders, immigrants, soldiers and veterans.