Rushford, rooted in a convergence of valleys etched along the Root River and Rush Creek waters, protected by towering bluffs, is an outdoor mecca. The landscape, sacred to indigenous Native American tribes, was recognized by early settlers for its life-sustaining splendor. The Southern Minnesota Railroad fueled the growth and progress of the city, forming an essential link to the area. A Legacy award recipient for its efforts to continue the historical and cultural heritage, the city is a bustling center for outdoor enthusiasts, art and history aficionados, families, and those looking for tranquility amid awe-inspiring natural wonders.
Running through the heart of town, the Root River is one of the top 10 trout waters in Minnesota. Restored and protected by The Conservancy, the river and the cold-water streams that feed it are known for exceptional brown, rainbow, and native brook trout, smallmouth and rock bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish offerings. Rushford also offers fishing in the Rush Creek tributary, a designated stream of the meandering coulee, which flows through the city and merges with the Root. Up to 300 participants of all ages flock to the river’s edge on a Saturday in April for the annual Lipmasters Fishing Tournament. A shotgun start signals the anglers to start reeling in the redhorse, white sucker, and carp running in the Root River, and prizes are given in adult and kids divisions.
Off the beaten path, the Rushford Sand Barrens, part of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest, provides an array of rare plants and animals. Among the restored oak savanna is native prairie that is home to at least 13 unique species of flora, untold numbers of birds, and record whitetail deer. With recently improved access, the area is primed for photography, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Ferndale Ridge, off the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, is a local wildlife management area with abundant deer, turkey, pheasant, and small game.
The city’s crown jewel is Magelssen Bluff Park, soaring above the valley floor and bearing the city name in stone anchored on its south slope. Featuring prominent limestone outcroppings and three scenic overlooks, the bluff offers an open panorama of the area in several miles. The winding road traversing the hillside to the summit invites visitors to tour the recently developed hiking trails, several picnic areas, long-standing apple trees, and the Rushford Burr Oak tree. The massive, stout-limbed tree is estimated to be nearly 200 years old and is one of the largest trees in Minnesota.
Visitors can also enjoy the Root River State Trail, a 60-mile paved trail, ranked among the best trail systems in Minnesota. At Rushford’s trailhead, the 1867 Southern Minnesota Railway Depot, now a museum, visitor center, and seat of the Rushford Area Historical Society, beckons you to step into the past. The Hanson cabin, under restoration, 1890 Grinde Schoolhouse, 1867 Episcopal Chapel, and 1913 Jail House complete the attractive grounds. Joining the state trail, east of the former railway bridge crossing is the newly developed Rush Creek Trail. The paved trail runs along the eastern side of the creek to Creekside Park.
The park is the pride of the city, featuring the Veteran’s Memorial, paved walking trails, three pavilions, a gazebo, tennis courts, basketball court, and skating rink and warming house in the winter. In its center is the custom and community-built playground structure, designed by renowned New York firm, Leathers and Associates, emulating the surrounding landscape and able to captivate the interest of children and adults. It is adjacent to the modern Ben Niggle Sports Complex, owned by Rushford-Peterson Schools, which boasts a state-of-the-art running track and several ball fields. Visitors can follow Rush Creek Trail to either the city’s Northend Campground or continue on, looping back to the Magelssen Bluff Hiking Trails.
A stone’s throw from the latter, visitors will love the completely remodeled 1875 Hoiland Mill – representing the days of Minnesota’s wheat and flour production. Other historic sites in town include the 1870 Hanson Hardware Store (now an Italian restaurant), 1872 Rushford Wagon and Carriage Company, and 1859 Walker & 1861 Valentine House, part of the Minnesota Pioneer House Project. The 1922 brick Tew Memorial Library is home to city hall and public library.
A full-service community, Rushford maintains many recreational possibilities. Take a dip at the Rushford Aquatic Center or golf a round—the challenging and scenic 9-hole course just east of town features 6,648 yards from the longest tees for a par of 36, for a course rating of 71.4. Bowl a few frames or delight in the ultimate healing and relaxation of massage or infrared saunas, both in town. Flying in? Rushford Municipal Airport (55Y) is considered one of the best in the area with on-site fuel, aircraft parking, hangar leasing and sales, flight training passenger terminal and lounge, and courtesy transportation. It serves as the backdrop for countless events throughout the year. Other citywide festivals throughout the year include Rushford Days, a week-long celebration the third week of July, and Taste of the Trail, the third Saturday after Labor Day in September.
With all there is to do, you’re bound to work up quite an appetite. Luckily, there’s no shortage of superb dining destinations Rushford. Unique to the area, a lefse factory noted in Food Network’s compilation of Great Food Gifts from 50 States offers an opportunity to view a handful of workers transform the potato dough to Norse delight, then enjoy the fresh-made lefse in addition to offering a number of other Scandinavian goodies and gifts, as well as offering a full menu in their café.
When it’s time to rest, Rushford’s accommodations are equally plentiful: a new motel built in 2014, an inn, campgrounds or a B&B are just the place to stay and enjoy the area.