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Winona isn't an island, but it's close

Dear Answer Man, is Winona really an "island city"? They call it that in their visitors guide, but when I look at the map (and drive around the city), I don't really see how it's an island. — Samuel

"Not really," said a helpful employee at the Winona Visitors Center, who referred me to the Winona County Historical Society , where executive director Mark Peterson said, "That's a pretty good question, and today? No."

But back in the days of Mark Twain , it was a genuine island in the Mississippi — at least during the spring floods, when the river channel that's now called Lake Winona was deep enough to accommodate steamboats. Over the years, the channel was filled in on the west and east sides, creating the lake. Huff Street now runs through the middle of it.

"If you look at the city from Garvin Heights, you can see where the main channel runs on the north side and where the channel was filled in on the south," says Mark, who's worked for the historical society in one of Minnesota's most historic cities for 28 years — long enough to be considered a historical artifact himself.

So, why is Winona called the "historic island city"? Well, at one time in history it was. And Mark says his organization doesn't use that tag, just the convention and visitors bureau .


It does have a nice ring to it, though.

One last question: Did Mark Twain ever visit Winona? Probably a bunch of times, and I didn't want to bother Mark with one more phone call to get all the dates, but I know for a fact that Mr. Twain appeared at Winona's Philharmonic Hall on Jan. 26, 1885. Twain was always on the move, chatted up audiences in every city that would host him, including Duluth in 1895, and it made him outrageously rich, but I see no evidence that he ever made it to Rochester.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I can take it.

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