Look for yourself
To see remnants of the city's past, venture into the Cass County Museum in Walker, which has a large collection of American Indian artifacts: tiny beaded moccasins, a 7,000-year-old bison skull and hand-hewn tools that predate matches. The museum also sells books such as "Murder & Mayhem: True Crime Accounts: Cass County 1897-1938" by Renee Geving and Cecelia McKeig, which details a number of grisly crimes. Among the tales is how Homer Van Meter, a member of the John Dillinger gang, hid out at a resort near Walker before getting shot by police in St. Paul.
The staff can let you have a look inside the authentic pioneer school next door, in which kids can sit in antique desks and imagine what it was like to attend a country school in the early 1900s. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 1-218-547-7251; www.casscountymuseum.org; $4; $9 for families.)
Chase on the Lake
Chase on the Lake (1-218-547-7777; www.chaseonthelake.com) and the city of Walker have an inseparable history. Since the late 1800s when the Lewis Chase family moved to Walker and got into the business of housing and feeding lumberjacks and fishermen, the hotel has been a destination in itself and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. The patio of the hotel's 502 Restaurant offers a magnificent view of Leech Lake and is a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine or a bloody mary made with Referent horseradish-infused vodka, a rib rub, salami and olives.
Fishing and water sports
Scads of people are drawn to Leech Lake for fishing and water sports. As autumn approaches and the water temperature drops, the fishing picks up. Before venturing to the lake, fishing enthusiasts may want to stop at Reeds Sporting Goods (1-800-346-0019; www.reedssports.com). For those in need of a fishing guide for Leech Lake, check the Chamber of Commerce for a list of member businesses (www.leech-lake.com or 1-800-833-1118).
Other ways to get active
Walker sits at the epicenter of the extensive Heartland and Paul Bunyan trail systems, which are both multi-use trails on former railroad grade. At this time of year the trails -- most of which are paved -- are great for biking, inline skating, hiking or running. Once the snow hits, the snowmobilers stake their claim to them. The Chamber of Commerce is happy to provide trail maps.
Also for nature lovers, Itasca State Park, where you can stand at the headwaters of the Mississippi, is worth the 34-mile drive from Walker. (218-699-7251; www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca/index.html).
Golfers will find several courses in Walker. Many locals recommend the 18-hole courses at Tianna Country Club (1-218-547-1712; www.tianna.com) and Long Bow Golf Club (1-218-547-4121; www. longbowgolfclub.com). Wedgewood Golf Course (1-218-547-2666) offers a wooded executive length nine-hole course built on rolling hills.
Music and more
The area attracts thousands of visitors year-round for events such as the Moondance country and rock music festivals (held in June and July, respectively), the famous International Eelpout Festival held every February and the Walker North Country Marathon (www.walker northcountrymarathon.com) to be held Sept. 18 -- with routes in the beautiful Chippewa National Forest, home to the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states (1-218-335-8600; www.fs.fed.us/r9/chippewa/).
Wild rice harvest time
Leech Lake Indian Reservation tribal members harvest wild rice from Leech and other area lakes from late August through mid-September, producing more wild rice than any other reservation in the state. If you're out on the lake during this time, you might get to see the Ojibwe knocking the crop into their canoes.
The Ojibwe's Northern Lights Casino on the edge of Walker (1-877-LIGHTS-9; www.northernlights casino.com) is a popular stop for many visitors. Many make a trip for the Friday night steak buffet.
Christina DesMarais is a freelance writer based in Buffalo, Minn.