The idea of SWELL began in 1995 with a group of teachers from the Morris Area and Cyrus School Districts. The original grant was through the Humphrey Institute School of Change. Through the years, grants, 4-H groups, scout troops, youth serve and other service learning projects have enabled the creation of a very inclusive facility that is flexible to the needs of the audience using it. The SWELL site is located in the first township to be settled in Stevens County. Linda & Karl Retzlaff own and lease the land and a log cabin built in 1874 by Adolph and August Trantow, originally in Swan Lake Township was donated to the Stevens County Historical Society.
It has been moved to the site, refurbished and furnished. Experiencing the life of homesteaders at SWELL allows students to “make history come alive.” Over the past decade, students have enjoyed learning about historic music, cooking, chores, homemade fun, storytelling, quilting, dance, pioneer games, dyeing, spinning and other facets of everyday pioneer life.
Scandia and Round Lakes are an integral part of SWELL. The two lakes are separated by an esker that was formed by a retreating glacier.
There are several miles of trails to explore at SWELL. The trails go around Round Lake and up onto the esker. From that vantage point you can see both lakes. SWELL is not wheelchair accessible.
The bridges at SWELL are a great place to view SWELL’s many natural biomes. Pond, forest, swamp and open prairie provide a host of animals, pond life, insects and birds in an undisturbed and natural habitat.
This log cabin is but one example of the habitats that are found on the prairie at SWELL. Many lessons end at the log cabin and help students of all ages appreciate the lives of those who came to West Central Minnesota before us.
The outdoor classroom houses telescopes, microscopes, magnifying glasses, resource materials, insect and butterfly cases, and many other educational resources.
Our environmental & historical expert is Ranger Randee. She teaches learners of all ages about the history of the area as well as the natural wonders that surround them. Seasonally on staff for over a decade, Ranger Randee offers lessons and co-teaching opportunities for local and out-of-county groups.
How to get to SWELL:
Take Hwy 28 to 430th Ave (County Rd 3), turn NORTH.
Go Approx 3 miles, turn right (EAST) at County Rd 70 W sign.
Go NE around Bjork Lake. This is a minimum maintenance road.
Keep an eye out for the SWELL sign!