Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A trip to view the fall colors detours in Zumbro Falls October 11, 2010


On Sunday afternoon my husband and I headed east on Minnesota Highway 60 to enjoy the fall colors. We intended to drive to Wabasha, then aim north toward Lake City and maybe Red Wing before returning home to Faribault.

Along the way, we stopped at Holden Lutheran Church near Kenyon so I could snap a few photos. We both appreciate old churches and would have lingered longer except the pastor was in the middle of his sermon and we didn’t want to enter the sanctuary and interrupt.



The Rev. Bernt Julius Muus, the founder of St. Olaf College in Northfield, was a pastor at Holden Lutheran Church near Kenyon. The congregation was organized in 1856 and this church was built in 1924.


From there, we drove to Zumbrota for a picnic lunch at the historic covered bridge.



The covered bridge in Zumbrota dates to 1869 and is promoted in Zumbrota as the only covered bridge in Minnesota. However, I am aware of another covered bridge, that one in Mantorville.


Then we resumed our Sunday afternoon drive, traveling briefly on U.S. Highway 52 before exiting onto Highway 60.

After passing through the town of Mazeppa, we reached Zumbro Falls, a community of less than 200 that was, just 2 ½ weeks ago, ravaged by the floodwaters of the Zumbro River.

We pulled our car a block off main street and parked. I grabbed my camera and notebook. And that was the beginning of the end of our planned afternoon to view the fall colors. Instead, we viewed homes and businesses extensively damaged by the flood. And we spoke to some of the people of Zumbro Falls before driving about five miles further to Hammond.

I am sharing their stories in a series of posts that I hope will help you better understand the devastation from a personal perspective. I could have spent many more hours talking to flood victims. I could have dug deeper. I could have taken more photos.

But I think my stories are emotional enough, deep enough, to convey the frustration, the anger, the resilience, the gratefulness of a community that is suffering.

Typically, I would publish these posts over a several-day span. However, these stories need to be told now. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. But today.

So, please, take time to walk with me through portions of Zumbro Falls and Hammond, where you’ll meet Tracy and Jackie and Susie and Katie. They are strong, opinionated women. I have no doubt they will overcome this present obstacle in their lives.

Yet, even though they are tough as nails, they still need our help, our prayers, our support.

Of all the questions I asked of them, I failed to ask the most important: “Is there anything I can do for you?”


PLEASE WATCH FOR these posts as I begin publishing them this afternoon. If you have thoughts to share, share them.

Although my Sunday afternoon did not go as I envisioned, I am thankful for the detour from the planned route. My eyes and heart were opened. I saw destruction and beauty—that beauty being the irrepressible strength of the human spirit.



Beautiful fall colors provided the backdrop for this pile of destroyed appliances and other debris in Hammond.


© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


4 Responses to “A trip to view the fall colors detours in Zumbro Falls”

  1. Judy Says:

    I too lived in Hammond, my home was affected by the flood and still after 5 months I am unable to live in my house. I was fortunate in that I had a daughter in Rochester which is where I am currently staying.
    I feel I am one of many individuals that were left to fend for ourselves or one might say fell through the cracks. I guess I earn a dollar too much to receive any financial help and am not on the high priority list to receive help from community, county, state or federal government. I have applied in hopes to get a buy-out for my house but that process can take up to another 2 years to go through all the red tape and even then I may not be offered the buy-out option. Like many other people affected by this flood, I feel like my life has been put on hold, uncertain how, when or if it will return to some kind of normalcy?
    I do want to say I am grateful for those who have been able return to their homes and say thank you to those who helped.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Judy, I cannot imagine being in your situation with the frustration and helplessness you feel. Is there anything the average Minnesotan can do right now to help you or other Hammond residents affected by the September 2010 flood?

      • Judy Says:

        I don’t know how the average Mn can help and maybe they are and it’s not being funneled down to the people who it was intended for. I don’t expect the average Mn to hand me over money or come rebuild my house for me free of charge but I know that there was a lot of money donated since all this began and I wonder where it all went? I did receive a couple of gas and Walmart cards totaling about $300, but besides that, that is pretty much it. I have not been able to receive any type of assistance for a place to stay, rent anything. Thank you for your concerns and for posting information of the flooding on your website, I know Katie (Shones), she is a very nice person.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Can anyone out there answer Judy’s question: What has happened to the monies donated for survivors of the floods in southeastern Minnesota?

        Where can Judy get financial help?

        I get the sense, in my communication with flood survivors in the Hammond and Zumbro Falls areas, that they feel forgotten. That is why I am specifically making an effort to tell their stories. I am in the process of pulling together an installment of stories from one survivor, Tina Marlowe. Watch for the first article soon.

        In the meantime, I encourage Minnesotans not to forget about these fellow Minnesotans who are still in need of our help. And I thank those of you who have already assisted.

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