History of Wabasha

Long on history and rich in heritage:
Bald Eagles, Native America, Hollywood and More!

Wabasha is the oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River and has been occupied continuously since 1826. U.S. Government records and “The 2nd Treaty of Prairie du Chien” (1830) conclusively establish Wabasha to be the oldest town in Minnesota, established 1830. The city is named in honor of an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation, Chief Wa-pa-shaw.

Wabasha’s historic district has more than 50 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take our historic walking tour and discover the stories that have made this town so unique.

Hospitality has always been a Wabasha trait, dishing up generous hospitality to guests all four seasons. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities, artistic experiences, unique shopping, fine dining and lodging to fit every taste and budget.

Eagles are of abundance during the winter months, and they nest here year round. The National Eagle Center in downtown Wabasha houses live bald eagles and is open for programs and special groups. Visitors come from all over the world to for a unique ”Nose to Beak” experience with America’s National Symbol of Freedom – the Bald Eagle.

America became enamored with Wabasha as a result of the very popular movies “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men,” starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, written by a young man whose grandfather lived here and thought our historic river town was perfect for the story of the two retired widowers, Max and John, competing for the affections of Ariel (Ann-Margret). Wabasha celebrates the “Grumpy Old Men Festival” on the last Saturday of February each year, and visitors enjoy dining at Slippery’s Bar & Grill all year long.

Other attractions for visitors and groups are the Historic Anderson House “cat” hotel, Arrowhead Bluffs Museum, and Wabasha County History Museum. Art, history and culture are just a few miles away at LARK Toys, which has a hand carved carousel and antique toys displayed throughout. Other entertainment you may perhaps find during your stay with us are free outdoor concerts downtown Wabasha under the bridge on Friday evenings in the summer which is sponsored by River Junction Arts Council.

We invite you to join us and step back into yesteryear in Wabasha and enjoy the natural beauty of our bluffs, our river, and historic downtown atmosphere. Once you visit Wabasha, you’ll want to return for a day, a week, or a lifetime.

All photos below courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

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Big Jo Flour Mill demolition photos courtesy of  McGhie & Betts.

Big Jo Flour

Big Jo Flour

Big Jo Flour Demolition

Big Jo Flour Demolition