By Jim Umhoefer
Nicollet and Renville counties. 6 miles south of Fairfax along Highway 4; park entrance is off County 29. Highway map index: G-18.
Fort Ridgely was built in 1853 as a garrison on the Minnesota frontier, as pioneers were settling lands purchased by the government from the Dakota Indians. In 1862, some of the Dakota, frustrated by government injustices, a crop failure and late payment for their land, waged war in a futile attempt to drive the settlers out of their traditional lands. One of the major battles of this six-week war was fought at Fort Ridgely.
You can trace the events of the fierce battle at Fort Ridgely by following a self-guided trail that connects the exposed foundations of the original garrison buildings. In the restored commissary, a scale model shows how the fort looked in 1862, and video explains the causes and effects of the U.S. Dakota Conflict. Both the interpretive center (in the commissary) and the trail are administered by the Minnesota Historical Society. Read more: