By Guido Ebert
Detroit Lakes, located approx. 205 miles northwest of the Twin Cities and 40 minutes east of Fargo, boasts more than 400 lakes within a 25 miles radius. This is a 100-mile excursion. Discover the “412 lakes” region as you roll past lakeside stops from rustic to modern, between fields of beans and corn, and through hardwood forest.
This route traverses county highways curving around lakes, lonely four-way stops and quick straights through fields. Smooth but cracked asphalt typical of “B” roads. Watch for blind turnouts, tar snakes, soft shoulders, slow-moving tourists, ag equipment and wildlife.
Closest area motorcycle specialists include Seaberg Yamaha Ski-Doo, DL Bike Shop, Foster Cycle and Full Throttle Cycle & Machine of Detroit Lakes, Hi-10 Sports Center of Hawley, and Harley-Davidson of Fargo, Indian Triumph of Fargo and Wheels Inc. of Fargo.
The community was founded by Colonel George Johnston in 1871, became the Becker County Seat in 1877, and by 1884 had hotels, a bank, newspaper, opera house and a county courthouse. The city currently has a population of about 8,600 inhabitants but swells considerably in the summer months, when the economy is driven largely by tourism.
Numerous works of architecture and engineering in Detroit Lakes have been added to the National Register of Historic Places – the Detroit Lakes Carnegie Library, Amtrak Depot, the Homer E. Sargent House on Lake Avenue, The Edgewater Beach Cottages, and the Holmes Block (also known as the Opera House Block) that includes multiple downtown commercial buildings.
Among the summer highlights are an Independence Day celebration on the mile-long public beach and the WE Fest music festival in August.
Located at the junction of Hwy 4, Hwy 17, and State Highway 228, Vergas (pop. 330) claims it is home to the World’s Largest Loon, actually a 20-foot-high sculpture that overlooks Long Lake. The community was platted in 1903 as Altona, but the name was changed to appease the Soo Line railroad. The Vergas community motto: “We are small enough to know you, but big enough to serve you!”
Dent named after a variety of corn called Northwestern Dent Corn, was platted in 1903 and incorporated in 1904. However, because of its location on the Soo Line railroad, the community’s post office was established in 1900. Population: 193
Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park, established in 1963, is located 7 miles east of Pelican Rapids on Hwy 108.
Amid the farmlands that surround the park, Maplewood encompasses approx. 10,300 acres atop a series of high tree-covered hills near the eastern edge of the Red River Valley. The highest hills in the park approach 1,600 feet, with changes of about 300 feet in less than a mile.
Visitors are rewarded with striking vistas of eight major lakes, hardwood forest, and an abundance of wildflowers and grasses. Enjoy the sandy beach and picnic area at Lake Lida, set up camp at one of 71 sites, or enjoy a drive along the one-way scenic route to observe wildlife.
Divded by the Pelican River, the city of Pelican Rapids (pop. 2,465) is home to Pete, the “world’s largest pelican.” Pete is located in the center of town at the base of the Mill Pond Dam. Hop off of your bike for a photo op, walk the nearby pedestrian suspension bridge, and check out the historic city hall built in 1900.
The first settlers arrived in the Pelican Rapids area in 1867 to locate and establish trading posts for the British Northwest Company, which was interested in trading with Chippewa Indians living in the area. Two years later, the first cabins were built on the Pelican River, one near each of the two rapids that are about a half-mile apart. By 1872, the village was platted, a dam had been built on the Pelican River and water power was running a saw mill and flour mill.
Pioneer expansion westward brought professionals (doctors, blacksmiths, businessmen) to the town by 1881, the railroad arrived in 1882 and the city was incorporated in 1883.