Historic Fort Snelling

Visitors approach the gate of a historic stone fort.

Introduction

Historic Fort Snelling commands the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Visitors to the fort interact with re-enactors that describe the history and the lives of the people who lived, visited, and traded here. Watch drilling soldiers in period uniforms, talk to the sutter, and experience the thunder of cannon.

History

In September, 1805, Zebulon Pike arrived at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and negotiated a purchase of about 100,000 acres of land extending upriver to the St. Anthony Falls from the Dakota in exchange for $2000 worth of trade goods and the promise of a future trading post. In 1819 the purchase was completed with the delivery of trade goods. The construction of the fort began within a few months.

The fort established US sovereignty in the area, drove British traders from the area gaining control of the lucrative fur trade, and established trade relationships with the Native Americans in the area. The fort continued to be a dominating presence for both the native population, settlers, and the US government for another 125 years.

During the Civil War, Minnesota used the fort to train volunteers that wanted to join the Union Army. The fort was also used as a supply base for the Dakota Territory and a training center for soldiers assigned to the Indian Campaigns, the Spanish American War, and World Wars I and II.

During World War II, Fort Snelling processed over 300,000 inductees. The fort was decommissioned at the end of the war in 1945 and given to the Veterans Administration. A few years later freeway construction threatened the future of Fort Snelling. After many more years of debate, the fort was designated in 1960 as Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark. Since then, Historic Fort Snelling has been rebuilt and maintained by both private and public funding and is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Because the Mississippi and its tributaries offered a natural transportation route for movement of people and goods, the junctions of these rivers (confluences) were important strategic locations. To the Dakota, this sacred place was the center of the world. To Americans it was a strategic location capable of monitoring and controlling a majority of river traffic and trade in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed, and provided a projection of strength to solidify its ownership.

The fort is on the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about this historic location by reading its nomination documents. Learn more about early Native American life in the park in Chapter 2 of the Historic Resources Study. Chapter 3 of the Historic Resources Study details the European/American dispossession of native lands in the area.

Activities

Take a tour of the fort and look into Minnesota's past and discover the significance of this historic place. Explore on your own and ask questions of the re-enactors. Hike down the steep path to Fort Snelling State Park while watching for resident and migratory songbirds.

Family-Friendly, Hiking & Walks, History & Culture, Museum, NPS Passport Program, Tours, Visitor Centers

Hours, Directions, and Contact Information

  • 200 Tower Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55111

  • GPS: 44.893046, -93.185744

  • Historic Fort Snelling is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. and is a fee area.

  • Check Historic Fort Snelling's website for hours, entry fees, and other information.

Nearby Sites

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnehaha Regional Park, Crosby Farm Regional Park, Fort Snelling State Park, Hidden Falls Regional Park

Last updated: November 8, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone:

(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

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