Minneiska, meaning “Water White,” was named by the Sioux Indians. 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.
Close to the 2,800-acre Whitewater Management Area and numerous state forest lands, Minneiska has a great 3-mile wide view of the great Mississippi. Eagles nest in the summer and can be seen fishing almost year-round, pelicans are seen soaring, and In the fall, tundra swans feed and rest.
A fish weather vane high on the bluff above Minneiska was originally made of wood and erected in the mid-1800s, giving log rafters a clue to wind direction, and is now replaced with a tin fish.
Just south of town, on the river, Putman Gray built from driftwood what is known as “Crazy Man’s Castle.” Decorated with a tower, steeples, verandas, and pagodas, it was advertised in St. Louis and when steamboat lights flashed across the castle at night, Gray’s daughters danced with white sheets covering themselves. Putman also invented an amusement ride that was purchased by a man named Ferris, becoming the Ferris Wheel that is still enjoyed today.
With the most woodcarvers per capita, two shops are open to the public; one carving carousel animals, trolls and gnomes and, next door, a carver works on Kubblstoles and Scandinavian furniture. A third carver makes signs that are seen throughout the city.