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It might look like it's an unassuming gravel road in the middle of nowhere, but this gravel road is actually a state highway here in Minnesota.

A little over 30 miles northeast of Rochester, you'll find the only unpaved state highway in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. And that unpaved stretch was actually even extended not that long ago.

One of the bonuses of living in greater Minnesota (or 'outstate' if you're not from around here) is not having to deal with all the trappings that come with living in a major metropolitan area, like the Twin Cities.

Commute times in greater Minnesota aren't as long as those in the Cities, and traffic on highways, while increasing, still isn't as bad as in the Twin Cities metro. And, for the most part, crime is generally lower, while the general quality of life is often higher in rural Minnesota.

READ MORE: What Is The Longest Road in Minnesota?

Of course, there are some downsides to living 'in the sticks,' as my grandpa used to say. Like, for instance, having the only state highway in Minnesota that isn't paved. And  just a few years ago, that stretch of unpaved state highway increased, as well.

In case you didn't know, Minnesota state highway-74, which runs between St. Charles in Winona County north to Weaver in Wabasha County, already featured a 7-mile stretch that is unpaved. It's the only state highway in all of Minnesota that's still made of gravel. The unpaved stretch currently starts at Winona County Rd 30 and runs north through Whitewater State Park and the park management area.

Google Street View
Google Street View

However, in August of 2021 the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) says another stretch of Highway-74, a 4-mile stretch starting just north of Elba, converted another stretch of that highway from pavement to gravel. So what's with turning a paved road into a gravel road? Usually, it works the other way around-- MnDOT will pave a road that was gravel, right?

Well, not this time. And a lack of money is the reason why. According to a MnDOT release:

The gravel work was done because the maintenance crews are unable keep up with how the road is deteriorating and there is not sufficient funding to do reconstruct and pave the road.

MPR says another reason is that the highway is not traveled very often, noting that, on average, it only sees about 75 cars a day. Compare that to nearby Highway-61, which sees several thousand vehicles a day or highways in the Twin Cities metro that often see well over 100,00 a day and you start to get the picture.

So, southeast Minnesota will retain the honor of having the only state highway-- out of 11,000 miles of state highways MnDOT says are here in Minnesota-- that's still made of gravel.

A gravel state highway might be something that would surprise visitors to Minnesota. But it's not the ONLY thing... keep scrolling to check out some other items that might surprise first-time visitors to the North Star State!

Listen to Curt St. John in the Morning
Weekdays from 6 to 10 on Quick 
Country 96.5

Things That Might Surprise First Time Minnesota Visitors

Gallery Credit: Steve Tanko

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