Your Highway 12 tour begins at Ortonville, Minn., located on the southern tip of Big Stone Lake, on the border of South Dakota. Like all the Glacial Lakes, it’s a haven for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts. Visit the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, Big Stone County Historical Museum and the parks and historical monuments. Favorite walks include the trails at Hartford Beach State Park, which lead to the rocky shore of Big Stone Lake (considered the lowest elevation in South Dakota). Travel west and as you approach Milbank, you may wonder about the winged structure on the horizon; soon you’ll see it’s a 44-foot English Grist Mill! Enjoy history at the Grant County Historical Society Museum and see Lake Farley Park before heading to nearby Marvin and The Abbey of the Hills Inn & Retreat Center. The former monastery is a non-profit retreat, event center and lodging facility. Consider renting a Hermitage Cabin overlooking the Abbey Lakes and Whetstone Valley. It’s perfect for writers, artists or anyone seeking quiet reflection.
Continue your journey on Hwy 12 to Waubay where birdwatchers and amateur botanists will find an oasis of 250 winged species at the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge. Climb a tall observation tower and hike a 1.5 mile trail; park officials even loan binoculars if you forget your pair. Explorer Blue Dog Fish Hatchery and Bitter Lake. A short distance north, Enemy Swim Lake welcomes guests at NeSoDak Bible Camp, a Lutheran retreat that grew from a 1918 hotel and fishing resort (a stone fireplace features grindstones and arrowheads). The nature tour continues as you make your way to the Museum of Wildlife, Science and Industry known as Webster’s own little Smithsonian and the best kept secret in the northeast. Exhibits include ag, hunting, fishing, railroads and pioneer life. For more history, visit the Day County Museum in the basement of the courthouse.
Looking for a different “taste” on your tour? Take a short detour north to Roslyn and visit the International Vinegar Museum where they host the annual Vinegar Festival in June. Fill up with fuel and food in Groton before heading off to find the yellow brick road in Aberdeen. Families will find so many activities here that you will need to spend extra time to explore Storybook Land, Wylie Park & Campgrounds, Dacotah Prairie Museum, Centennial Village, Allevity Entertainment and Thunder Road Family Fun just to name a few. The final leg of the northeast tour ends in Ipswich where the idea for the Yellowstone Trail transcontinental route was conceived in 1912 by J.W. Parmley. We thank him for the nationwide push to improve roads! Visit the Parmley Museum, the Memorial Arch, the Ipswich Pioneer Village and view numerous historic stone buildings located in the community.