Our love and pride for the over-sized, burly lumberjack is apparent in towering statues found along roadsides and in the businesses, trails and byways that bear his iconic name.
Across America and Canada, the folk hero’s renown is as large as he was. Paul Bunyan was said to be so huge that it took five giant storks to deliver him as a baby. And as he grew into the larger-than-life figure that we all know, wagon wheels were used for buttons on his clothing.
But of course, the most popular detail of his tall tale recalls the legend that Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes were created by his footprints — as well as those belonging to his trusty sidekick Babe the Blue Ox — which filled with water as they explored the state.
Nowadays, the height of logging days may well be over, but the legend of the colossal lumberjack lives on each year, particularly on June 28, which is National Paul Bunyan Day.
In honor of the occasion this Sunday, here are a few spots around Minnesota, which showcase America’s favorite folk hero.
The iconic Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji, Minn. (Jillian Gandsey/The Bemidji Pioneer)
Plenty of cities claim to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, but ask any Bemidjian, and they’ll tell you their town is the real deal.
Located near the shores of Lake Bemidji is the world-renowned figures of Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Throughout the year, tourists come from all over to snap a picture with the iconic duo; and although the lumberjack’s stature of 18-feet isn’t the tallest around, his statue is one of the oldest.
Built in 1937 for a winter carnival, the logger’s proportions were modeled after Bemidji’s six-foot-tall mayor, which designers then tripled in size. A 10-foot statue of Babe was added by Bunyan’s side two years later, and the pair have been a huge sensation ever since.
During Paul Bunyan Days in Akeley, groups of families and friends gather to snap a photo with the American folklore hero. Photo by Forum News Service
In the tiny town of Akeley, the world’s largest Paul Bunyan lives. Said to be nearly 60-feet tall if he were standing, the statue can be seen kneeling with an outstretched palm low to the ground.
For many eager visitors, the statue of the legendary logger offers a unique experience to climb into his hand for a photo op.
The town also claims to be Bunyan’s birthplace, and it celebrates the folk hero with its annual event, Paul Bunyan Days. If visiting, folks should also check out Akeley’s Paul Bunyan Historical Museum to see pictures and artifacts from the community.
The Paul Bunyan statue at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd is animatronic and greets visitors by name. Photo courtesy by Paul Bunyan Land
If you’re looking for a bit more interaction with your favorite lumberjack, Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd has you covered. The amusement park and museum features a 26-foot tall, 5,000-pound animatronic Bunyan that greets visitors by name.
The figure, which has been interacting with guests since 1954, also has a moving head, arms and eyes. Along with saying hello, he’ll also happily answer guests’ questions.
A family friendly park, Paul Bunyan Land has grown to feature 40 rides and attractions, a petting barn, and a pioneer village that showcases relics from life as it was in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
A statue of Paul Bunyan can also be found at the Brainerd Welcome Center in Minnesota. (Meg Martin | MPR News)
A second Paul Bunyan can also be found in Brainerd at the city’s welcome center. Built in 2006 by a local artist, the statue is about 12-feet-tall and displayed in a seated position. According to Roadside America, it was restored in 2019.
Explore Minnesota lists “other nods” to Paul Bunyan around the state, including his boat anchor in Ortonville, a trophy walleye that weighs in at 1,199 pounds in Rush Lake and his gravestone in Kelliher. Nickelodeon Universe inside Mall of America also pays homage to the giant by featuring him on the Log Chute ride.
Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart Lucette Diana Kensack is located in Hackensack, Minn. (Meg Martin | MPR News)
Additionally, you can get a glimpse of Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart, Lucette Diana Kensack, in Hackensack. Standing at 17-feet tall, Kensack towers over folks just like her man.
Named after the fabled woodsman, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is a 54-mile state and national scenic byway, which features a variety of opportunities to get out and explore Paul Bunyan’s home state.
Perfect for those looking for an outdoor excursion, the byway includes hiking and walking trails, recreational parks, gardens, beaches, wildlife management areas, museums and historical artifacts.
However, it’s also great for day-trippers looking to explore the boutiques, galleries and gift shops of Pequot Lakes, Pine River and Crosslake.
Additionally, visitors looking to take a photo with Paul Bunyan along the byway should be sure to stop for a meal at A-Pine Restaurant in Pequot Lakes, where a statue of the lumberjack is found nearby. Also, keep an eye out for the town’s water tower, which is painted to look like his fishing bobber.
The Paul Bunyan Trail is the longest Minnesota bike trail at 120-miles, and it connects the Heartland Trail, the Blue Ox Trail and the Cuyuna State Trail. It’s perfect for hiking and biking in the warmer months and snowmobiling in the chillier ones.