Updated: Feb 10, 2022
In an early morning haze I set off across the golf course at Kennedy Park Campground, angling for a north-south gravel road along the Des Moines River. Early enough to avoid golfers, I did have to keep an eye out for the sprinklers seeking to saturate the greens and fairways throughout. I arrived at National Avenue as the sun began to break over the eastern horizon.
Far enough from the Des Moines to lose sightline, I knew that the waters were meandering toward the East and West Fork confluence at Frank Gotch State Park. Frank Gotch, a significant early professional wrestler and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, grew up on a farm three miles south of Humboldt. Today, aside from the state park, Gotch finds memorialization in downtown Humboldt in a park along the West Fork of the Des Moines River.
Aside from hosting the confluence of the Des Moines River's east and west forks, the area contained in today's 67-acre Frank A. Gotch State Park once served as the location of an early American trading post during the mid-1800s. Fort Confederation appears in documents dating to 1825, served as an important place of meeting between Europeans, Americans, and native peoples in the area. Restored prairie, as well as many wooded areas, make the park a nice place to spend an evening along the Des Moines.
Able to see the trees lining the river in the distance to the west, I continued up National Avenue toward the Three Rivers Trail. Established in 1991, the converted railbed served as my pathway across Humboldt County to toward Rose Mill. As the temperature climbed steadily to near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I gladly ambled along the shaded trail toward Dakota City.
Standing on the eastern side of the larger city of Humboldt, Dakota City recorded over 800 residents at the time of the 2010 census. The city, named for the Dakota people who once lived numerously throughout the area, was initially laid out in 1855. The first post office, established in 1856, listed the town as Dakhota, a more traditional spelling more consistent with the Siouan language spoken by the area original inhabitants.
Humboldt, a town of over 4,000 residents, was laid out in 1867 by Stephen Harris and called Springvale. The combined towns of Dakota City and Humboldt collectively contain both forks of the Des Moines River, and many scenic views greet visitors moving through the area on the Three Rivers Trail. A portion of the trail passes through the more industrial northside of Humboldt before crossing over U.S. Highway 169 on the way west out of town.
The temperature continued to climb as my progress slowed over the last few miles from Humboldt to Rose Mill Park in Rutland. The small town of 126 people sat quietly in the early afternoon sun as I meandered into town. A bench commemorating the long-demolished railway depot sits along the trail, and as I continued through the streets toward Rose Mill I noticed many memorial benches. In the park itself, dozens of such benches, threatening to outnumber the population of the small community, sit along pathways.
The mill itself, nestled among limestone outcroppings, provides a beautiful site. I sat along the shore, watching the water flow over the spillway and thought back on the 275 miles I had walked since starting at Montrose.