Minneiska was named by the Sioux Indians. The name Minneiska means “Water White”. The Whitewater and Zumbro joined the Mississippi, causing turbulence that appeared white. The Indians loved the area for water travel, and the high bluffs above the river allowed a lookout for game and enemy tribes.
Nestled among the bluffs and next to the Mississippi River, the city is located on Hwy 61, 15 miles up river from Winona, and 15 miles down river from Wabasha. It is also located close to the 2800 acre Whitewater Management Area and numerous state forest lands.
Minneiska is the city that was almost wiped out by the new four lane Hwy 61. Prior to the new road, Minneiska had seven gas stations, hotels, a lumber yard, two churches, stock yard, post office, a two-story school, 30,000 bushel elevator, saloons, blacksmith shop, brewery Temperance hall and many ice houses.
Today, Minneiska has an unobstructed 3-mile wide view of the great Mississippi. Eagles next in the summer here and can be seen fishing almost year-round. High in the sky, pelicans can be seen soaring in the up-drafts. In the fall prior to freeze up, the tundra swans feed and rest near the highway.
A fish weather vane located high on the bluff above Minneiska was originally made of wood and erected in the mid-1800’s. It gave log rafters a clue to wind directions and has since been replaced with a tin fish.
Putman Gray built what is known as “Crazy Man’s Castle” 1/2 mile south of Minneiska. It was built from driftwood, three stories high and decorated with tower, steeples, virandas, and pagoda. A show place and tourist curiosity, it was advertised in St. Louis and when steamboat lights flashed across the castle as night, Gray’s daughters would dance with white sheets covering themselves. Putman Gray invented a vertical amusement ride that was purchased by a man named Ferris and became the “Ferris Wheel” millions pf people still enjoy today.
The city now has claim to the most woodcarvers per capita. There are two shops open to the public; one busy carving carousel animals, trolls and gnomes and , next door, a carver is working on Kubblstoles and Scandinavian furniture. Another carver carves signs that can be seen throughout the city.
The city has two bars and grills, where you can relax, enjoy your favorite drink and food, and observe the many species of birds going about their daily rituals on the Mississippi. Wild turkeys can be seen and heard in the early morning and it’s not uncommon for deer to be seen strolling through the yards.