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Off a quiet rural route on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, curious road-trippers find themselves lingering much longer than expected at Kinstone — a Midwestern homage to Great Britain's ancient stone circles such as Stonehenge.

Visitors study interpretive signs as they curve through the spirals of a labyrinth, search for the natural question mark on a rock in the Circle of Mystery, pause and reflect in the shaded space beneath a dolmen, and stand in the long shadows cast by the columns of the Great Stone Circle.

Kinstone today goes above and beyond that singular rock circle originally envisioned by creator Kristine Beck. As she did research with her sisters in England and connected with experts, their efforts filled the 30-acre property with more than a dozen megalithic-style rock installations.

This tract of Driftless Area land near the village of Fountain City, Wis., 5 miles from Winona, Minn., used to be her family's small dairy farm. Beck, who later founded and sold a software technology business, remembers needing to pick rocks that sprung up from the soil each spring and thinking they were almost like plants emerging from the earth.

She also remembers her father pulling out a large rock with his tractor and discovering remnants of fossilized coral.

"My father was very in tune to nature. He knew so many things about trees and rocks, flowers and plants," said Beck, who purchased the 30 acres of her family's farm in 1994 to preserve a steep, north-facing hillside.

"Stones and I have had a relationship since I was little," she said. "There's something here I feel very connected to."

Her idea to create a stone circle was sparked by longtime fascination with stone structures worldwide, including European stone circles and dolmens, Middle Eastern pyramids, South American temples and Asian shrines. They're all places so ancient with rocks so large that no one can fully explain how they were quarried and moved by early civilizations­. They're often aligned to astrological events, as well.

"I love the mystery of that," she said.

The Three Witnesses rock sculpture’s windows frame the sunrise during the spring and fall equinoxes at Kinstone in Wisconsin.
The Three Witnesses rock sculpture’s windows frame the sunrise during the spring and fall equinoxes at Kinstone in Wisconsin.

Lisa Meyers McClintick, Special to the Star Tribune

Sensing an energy

She tapped the expertise of the late Ivan McBeth, a practicing Druid who lived in Vermont; permaculture designer Wayne Weiseman; and granite specialists who helped her find and choose rock pieces mostly from the St. Cloud and Rockville, Minn., area. Flatbed trailers delivered 21 loads of stones, with pieces weighing from 6,000 to 52,000 pounds and towering 7 to 27 feet. It took a 90-ton rough-terrain crane to put them all in place in 2011.

"I really wanted granite. It's a paramagnetic stone," said Beck, who studied chemistry as well as computer science. Granite can align itself to the magnetic pull of the Earth, and it is composed largely of quartz, which is used in timepieces because it has a measurable frequency.

"I think this is what people feel," she said, explaining the sense of energy some people describe at stone circles.

In the decade since the original stone installations, the landscape has been restored to native prairie and planted with oaks, and Beck has coordinated hands-on workshops that built a cabin and oven from straw and clay, created raised-bed gardens and a food forest, and assembled a dry-stacked limestone sculpture that frames the spring and autumn equinox sunrises in its round windows.

The small Chapel of Creation is built from cross-sections of cordwood and 450 glass bottles glow with colorful light, while thatching made with locally harvested invasive water reeds keeps it dry inside.

Visitors arriving by 5:15 a.m. on the summer solstice, June 20, can watch the sun rise through a corridor in the Great Stone Circle on the longest day of the year. Kinstone also hosts spring and autumn open houses (the next is set for Oct. 6).

The most frequent comment from visitors echoes Beck's own impression of what happened when she was able to bring together a diverse group of experts.

"It's bigger and more magnificent than they imagined," she said.

Kinstone stays open through Oct. 31 and costs $10 per person. Find more information at

Where to eat in Fountain City

Located where the Mississippi, railroad tracks and the Great River Road come together, Monarch Public House claims to be the oldest continually operating tavern in Wisconsin. Look for Irish specialties including Irish stew, corned beef plate, Galway pot pie and bangers and mash (

Golden Frog Restaurant & Saloon serves broasted chicken, burgers, pizza and frog legs. Across the road, its seasonal, counter-service Lily Pad cranks out woodfired pizzas on weekends. It includes a playground and sandbox, a sand volleyball court and river views (

Where to stay

Fountain City's Hawk's View Cottages, Lodges & Suites rents bluffside accommodations, along with suites above a remodeled downtown printing shop, and offers wine tastings at nearby Seven Hawks Vineyard (

Other attractions

This area along the Mississippi has long been known for collectors and artists with unexpected passions.

Fountain City's wealth of pedal cars and 20,000 childhood treasures at Elmer's Antiques and Toys closed in 2022, but travelers can still stop to see the work of self-taught folk artists at the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden and Museum. Herman Rusch created more than three dozen eclectic outdoor sculptures from concrete and shards of crockery, mirrors and other glass. Fred Schlosstein made a model of the town of Cochrane, Wis., and some of his own sculptures (

About 20 miles north on Hwy. 35, Gary Schlosstein's historic arms-and-armor collection, organized by era, can be viewed at the Castlerock Museum in Alma, Wis.

St. Cloud-based freelance writer Lisa Meyers McClintick's new edition of "Day Trips From the Twin Cities" comes out June 4.