The History of Sugar Loaf
Sugar Loaf towers about 580 feet over Lake Winona, a former channel of the Mississippi River. It was once called Wapasha’s Cap after the hat a local Dakota chief of the same name wore. The bluff was well-known to the Dakota, early explorers, traders, tourists and river boat pilots. It looked much different then however, resembling the other rocky domed bluffs along the river valley.
Dakota culture tells of He Mni Can/Barn Bluff in Red Wing, Minnesota, and Sugar loaf as once being one. They split long ago before European contact. These sister bluffs are sacred places for the Bdewakantuwan Dakota and are part of their homeland.
Euro-Americans noticed the bluff resembled a loaf of sugar that one could buy at the local general store, thus its name was changed to Sugar Loaf. Quarrying operations began soon after Winona was founded in 1851, but it was during the 1880s when John O’Dea removed most of the limestone which was used as city sidewalks and building trim. Quarry operations were shut down around 1895 and what was left of the bluff is what we know Sugar Loaf as today.
After several land owners and failed attempts to make something of the unique bluff, the Wenonah Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution arranged, through a fundraiser, to have Sugar Loaf transferred to the City of Winona in 1950. Today, it is a landmark and you can hike up to Sugar Loaf and guided climbing is offered.
Sugar Loaf bluff offers outdoor adventures for all seasons! Check out trails, guided climbs and even ice climbing...