The river has played an important transportation role from the time that Native Americans lived in the area (now occupied by downtown) and hunted and fished in the river and its backwaters. In the 19th century, Red Wing businessmen erected a low dam across the Wisconsin Channel because early commercial river traffic bypassed Red Wing preferring the shorter Wisconsin Channel to the longer Red Wing one. Although the dam is not visible, it successfully established the Red Wing Channel as the only channel and led to the growth of Red Wing as an important port city in Minnesota.
Historic River Asset
In the 19th century, steamboats brought white settlers, travelers, and cargo to Minnesota. They stopped in Red Wing for firewood, other supplies, and local products while letting off and picking up passengers. Red Wing was one time the world’s largest wheat port.