Day 11 - Furrower at Prairie Homestead
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Spanning over 800 miles, the Wilder Trail spans across several Midwestern States and can be completed in 5 days, if you're ambitious traveler. The Wilder Trail is for more than just Laura Ingalls Wilder fans — it also provides a glimpse into frontier life on the plan and woods of the USA during the 19th century.
About Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on the USA frontier in Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7th, 1867. She lived the rough life of a frontier family in several towns. This included suffering the hardships and misfortunes that most people had in those conditions, including deaths, illness and terrible winters. After founding several failing farms, Laura and her husband settled in Missouri. This final farm finally took off and they raised one daughter.
Starting in 1911, she became a journalist for several local publications adding to her already diverse career path. In 1930, after talking to her daughter, who was also a writer, she decided to write about her story growing up on the prairie. With the help of her daughter, she published several books that have entered the American cannon as classics that most children read. The Wilder mania grew throughout the years and the trail was created so people can experience and see where she lived and thrived. She died on February 10th, 1957, in Mansfield Missouri a very famous writer.
Destinations along the Trail
There are several different ways to do the trail. Listed below is basic information on each town and what it has to offer. It also has time and distances to the next nearest town on the trail. Other places relating to Laura but not on the trail are listed below. Directions to the towns are given from the nearest interstate. For routes it is best to use Google maps or a similar mapping program.
Day 6 - Manlove Homestead, East Helena, Montana
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- Location of Which Book(s): Little House in the Big Woods
- Festivals and Events: Laura Ingalls Wilder Days is an annual celebration held usually during the second weekend of September.
- How to Get There: located on Highway 35 the easiest way to get there would be to take Interstate 94 to Eau Claire and take Wisconsin Trunk 85 South to Highway 25 South to 35 East.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: Considered the Start of the Trail it s 211 Miles, 5 hours 20 minutes, to Walnut Grove the next stop.
- Official Town Website: http://www.pepinwisconsin.com/
Pepin, Wisconsin, was the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder and many people consider this the start of the trail. The town itself has several Ingalls sites and features a festival held every September. During the festival there are contests on Ingalls knowledge that children can enter, an essay contest, fiddle contest, 19th century crafts and frontier games for children.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Museum and Memorial Society is a small museum located at 306 3rd Street (Hwy 35), Pepin, WI. Phone: 715-442-2142. Open: May 15th to October 15th 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Wayside is a historically accurate reconstruction of the Ingalls small log cabin where Laura was born. The Cabin features information on the family and has a hand pump well. Open year round and located at N3238 County Road CC.
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Day 11 - Sod House at Prairie Homestead
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- Location of Which Book(s): On the Banks of Plum Creek
- Festivals and Events: The Wilder Pageant is held for three weekends starting in Mid July, for tickets call 888-859-3102
- How to Get There: Take Interstate 90 to Highway 71 north and then take Highway 14 west to Walnut Grove.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: 110 miles, 3 hours to De Smet along the official Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway.
- Official Town Website: http://www.walnutgrove.org/
Walnut Grove, Minnesota was the childhood home of Laura and the setting of the book “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” It is possible to visit a nice museum and a reconstruction of the dugout home. Every summer a pageant is held that features great reenactments that any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan can enjoy.
- Laurua Ingalls Wilder Museum is a nice small museum. Part of the charm of this museum is that its collection is housed in buildings that date back to late 19th century. The museum also features the Kelton Doll Collection, which has over 250 dolls dating from the 1870s.
- Ingalls Dugout Site is the location of the Ingalls dugout home and is a must for any Wilder enthusiast.
De Smet, South Dakota
Sunflowers, South Dakota
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- Location of Which Book(s): By the Shores of Silver Lake, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, These Happy Golden Years
- Festivals and Events: Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant is held every year during the last three weekends in July.
- How to Get There:
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: 613 Miles, 11 hours to Independence, KS
- Official Town Website: http://www.desmetsd.com/
De Smet, South Dakota was the location of four of the novels and the town has taken great pride in it. They hold a stellar pageant every year starring the local towns people playing the roles of different people from the novels. The locals take it very seriously and have memorized lots of information on the Wilders and the 19th century and will recite it for tourists.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has a great collection of Laura memorabilia and facts about the time. They can also organize tours on other things to visit in the area.
- Ingalls Homestead, Laura’s Living Prairie is where the Ingalls family quartered in 1880. This attraction features covered wagon rides, 1880’s school session, Ma’s Little House, ponies and horses, prairie exhibit, pioneering activities and camping. It is open daily Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend 9 am to 7 pm, activities end at 6 pm. Call for Spring and Autumn hours. Phone: 800-776-3594.
Day 7 - Tinsley Blacksmith Shop
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- Location of Which Book(s): Little House on the Prairie
- Festivals and Events: Prairie Days Festival is held mid June from 10 am to 3 pm a features live music, food, wagon rides and other prairie orientated activities.
- How to Get There: exit interstate 35 at highway 160 and follow it to Independence.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: 613 Miles, 11 hours to De Smet, South Dakota.
- Official Town Website: http://www.independenceks.gov/
Independence, Kansas is small town located on the Wilder Trail. The town has a very accurate reconstruction on the original site of the house from the “Little House on the Prairie” built by local volunteers. The town also has a reconstruction of the one room schoolhouse and Dr Tann’s headstone.
- The Official Site of the Little House on the Prairie is considered the actual location of the house where Laura lived during the novel “Little House on the Prairie.” There are also trails to the Indian Camp along Onion Creek and the high prairie where the girls played.
- Dr Tann’s Headstone
Other Wilder Destinations
- Location of Which Book(s): None. This is where the books were written.
- Festivals and Events: At the present time there are not regular festivals or events.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: 195 Miles, 4.5 hours to Independence, KS.
- How to Get There: exit Interstate 44 at Springfield, Missouri, and go east on highway 60 to Mansfield.
- Official Town Website: http://mansfieldcityhall.org/
Mansfield, Missouri is were the Wilders ended up settling in the end and where Laura wrote all her books. This is where the family finally made some money and worked their way out of struggling poverty. This is also where they raised their only daughter who encouraged her mother to write her life story.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Home, also known as Rocky Ridge Farm, was the final home of the Wilders and is now a museum. It is also where Laura wrote her famous “Little House” books with the help of her daughter.
Burr Oak, Iowa
- Location of Which Book(s): None of the books took place here.
- Festivals and Events: At the present there are no regular festivals or events.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: is a logical stopping point between Pepin WI and Walnut Grove MN.
- How to Get There: Exit Interstate 90 at Marion and take Highway 52 south to Burr Oak.
- Official Town Website: http://www.laurasprairiehouse.com/sites/burroak.html
Burr Oak, Iowa, is the location of the Masters Hotel which has been fully restored and where the Ingalls lived in 1876. The time in Burr Oak was a painful for the family and therefore wasn’t written about.
Malone, New York
- Location of Which Book(s): Farmer Boy.
- Festivals and Events: Several times a year local events will be held at the boyhood home of Almanzo, best to check the website.
- Time and Distance to Next Stop on the Trail: Is nowhere near the trail located in northern New York and is best done on its own trip.
- How to Get There: Exit Interstate 87 at Champlain, NY and go west on Highway 11 to Malone.
- Official Town Website: http://visitmalone.com/
Malone, New York is a small town where Almanzo Wilder, eventual husband to Laura Ingalls, grew up. It was also the setting for the novel Farmer Boy. The town also has several other activities to offer although due to its distance from the rest of trial this place would have to be a destination on its own.
- Boyhood home of Almanzo who was Laura's husband. It is the only original structure at its original place in all of the books. Phone: 1-866-438-FARM (3276).
Driving is the only really logical option. Trying to get around by other means would be very difficult and time consuming. Planning a route can be a bit complicated because of a starting point and ending point. Some of these places can be visited as part of a large trip, especially De Smet which is near Mount Rushmore. It is best to arrange your trip around a festival, or two, in one of the destinations.
While driving the only places to eat at will be local restaurants and the major chains.
Most of these places are small towns and local bars will be the only places.
Along the trail is the usual assortment of hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. Many of the town home pages have links to local hotels including locally owned places that might be hard to find.