This 16.5 acre park is near the northern end of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. It is a beautiful park-like rest stop with towering bur oaks and good views of the Mississippi River. The rest stop is located on the south side of US Highway 10 in Ramsey and may be accessed from either direction on Highway 10/169. It is sometimes also referred to as the Itasca Wayside, Weigh Station Highway Park, or the Highway 10 rest stop.
Southwest of the restroom building is a remnant of the historic Red River Trail system that connected Saint Paul--the northernmost port on the Mississippi River--to Pembina in the northwestern corner of the state and beyond to the Selkirk Settlements in the vicinity of what is now Winnipeg, Manitoba. The observant visitor can see this important trail as a grass-covered, slightly-depressed line running from northwest to southeast through the rest area.
At one time long lines of ox teams pulled large, two-wheeled carts loaded with furs along this trail connecting those distant points to Saint Paul and from there to the rest of the world. They carried trade goods north on the return trip.
The Red River Trails were in use starting in the 1820s, although most of the heaviest traffic occurred from about the 1840s through the early 1870s. For instance, about 300 oxcarts made this arduous journey in July of 1855 through this area. The Trail and its oxcarts formed an important trade corridor linking the Settlements to goods and services that were either difficult to get or too expensive when purchased from other sources. The Red River Trail played an important part in the economy of a large swath of North America, but fell into disuse as railroads, which could move large amounts of freight and people more efficiently, expanded westward.
A trading post was located in this vicinity in 1859 and traded with a Winnebago village, which was located approximately a half mile downstream.
This was also the site of the village of Itasca and a historical marker commemorates its one time existence. Named after the source of the Mississippi River, Itasca was the first settlement in the area and later competed with the village of Dayton across the river. The village slowly declined, however, when the Winnebago were moved to distant reservations and railroads replaced the Red River Trail. The last vestiges of Itasca, the local post office, closed in 1879 sealing the fate of the community.
Access to the rest area is available from both directions off from Highway 10. Visitors can find short hikes and great views of the Mississippi River. There are also picnic tables, grills, vending machines, historical markers, and shelters at this park-like rest stop. The grounds has one of the best stands of majestic bur oak trees in the Twin Cities area.
Hours, Directions, and Contact Information
Last updated: February 28, 2020