Chaska to the Valley of
the Jolly Green Giant
For this ride, travel southeast out of Chaska on Chaska Blvd./CR-61, veer left onto CR-40, travel through the community of Carver, turn left on Jonathan Carver Pkwy (which transforms into Co. Hwy-6) and follow the road through Henderson
This route closely follows the Minnesota River, with the road undulating from hilltop farm fields through hardwood forests lining the river.
The route has a few hills, wide open but rather brief straights, lots of long, sweeping corners and some slightly tighter twists and turns. Roads can be tricky in the springtime, depending on Minnesota River flooding and related reconstruction, but are generally well paved.
Closest motorcycle dealerships include Cities Edge in Shakopee, Wild Prairie H-D in Eden Prairie and All Powersports Racing in Victoria. Looking for parts & accessories? Sport Wheels, off of US-169 in Jordan, is worth a stop.
Chaska’s history reflects the influence of the Native American culture. The first inhabitants are believed to be the Mound Builders, whose ancient communities are marked by mounds in City Square. Later, the Dakota (commonly known as the Sioux) were the primary nation in this region known as the Big Woods.
In 1776, Jonathan Carver explored the area on behalf of the British Empire, and made maps as he searched for a western water route that flowed across North America to the Pacific Ocean. French Canadian fur traders traveled the waterways, trading with the Dakota in the early 19th century. During this time, fur trader Jean-Baptiste Faribault established the Little Rapids Trading Post in what is now known as Chaska. The post, built on behalf of the Northwest Fur Company, was visited by Voyageurs, Coureur des bois, Dakota Indians and Christian missionaries.
In 1851, following the signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, speculators moved into the new territory. Among the earliest was Thomas Andrew Holmes, who claimed a 20-acre clearing as the Chaska townsite.
Coming from out of town and in search of overnight stay? Try the new Best Western on the banks of the Minnesota River. Visit the hotel’s adjacent Tommy’s Malt Shop, pick up some jerky at Von Hansons Meats, or simply stop to take a breather and check out the mounds in the charming, centrally located City Square.
Explorer Jonathan Carver named a small branch flowing into the Minnesota River “Carver’s River”.
A half-century later, the town of Carver was platted in 1857 with 35 buildings. Also at this time, the steamboat “The Antelope” was making daily round trips between Carver and St. Paul, a one-way river run of 32 miles. Steamboats, which at the time could only travel south from the Twin Cities to the Minnesota River’s Carver Rapids, brought passengers who quickly settled the surrounding area by paying the U. S. government $1.25 per acre.
Top off your fuel tank at Casey’s General Store at the eastern entrance to town, then go take a photo with your bike in front of Witt’s historic canopy style gas station on the south end of Broadway. A former Minnesota Valley Oil Company gas station turned Mobil station in the 1940s, this beautifully restored structure is part of a vanishing American landscape.
For a meal, friendly small town atmosphere and patio seating, stop at the motorcycle-friendly Lisa’s Place Bar & Grill across the street from the Mobil station. The establishment is housed in a building constructed in 1887 and on the National Register of Historic Places. Having served as a saloon for more than 100 years, the building also holds a more dubious distinction: being the location of a murder that precipitated the only legal hanging ever to occur in Carver County.
Tucked up against the Minnesota River, the community of Henderson is protected from river flooding by a levee that wraps around the east side of town and a concrete wall that slides across Co. Hwy 6 on the south side of town.Henderson is home to Sauerkraut Days, a three-day event that takes place during the last full weekend of June. Events include a Kraut Car Cruise, 5K Kraut Run, tractor ride, kiddie parade, grand parade, Minnesota State Arm Wrestling Championships, car show, Miss Henderson Coronation, Sauerkraut Idol, and the World Champion Sauerkraut Eating Contest.
Le Sueur is perhaps best known as home of the Jolly Green Giant. In fact, the sugar snap pea variety was developed there by an Ag scientist. A large billboard, with the caption “Welcome to the Valley” and Green Giant logo (now owned by MN-based General Mills), remains even after the company and Green Giant label were bought by Pillsbury in 1979. The old canning processing plant in Le Sueur was used until 1995, but the facilities are still implemented for Ag related research.
The Mayo Clinic also can be linked to Le Sueur. William Worrall Mayo was an early resident who began his practice in town. He, with his sons William and Charles, eventually founded the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. His old home, the Dr. William W. Mayo House, has been restored to its mid-1800 appearance and turned into a museum; it, along with several other buildi ngs in Le Sueur, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Be sure to visit the Le Sueur Museum (yeah, that’s its formal name), the Mayo House, the Friendly Confines Cheese Shoppe for some of the 200,000 lbs. of cheese produced in town daily, and/or The Bar (yeah, that’s its formal name) for food and refreshments.