mn state parks – fort snelling and nerstrand

mn state parks – fort snelling and nerstrand

i took friday off to head down to rochester for my mom’s work fundraiser, and i left early in the morning so i could hit up a couple state parks, meet jenee for lunch and fun, and then get to the evening fancy event. i left about 8 and made it down to fort snelling state park, which is on the south side of the cities next to the airport, around 9:15.

fort snelling

the fort snelling state park encloses the confluence of the mississippi and minnesota rivers, and this time of year, all but one of the trails are closed because of the rivers overflowing their banks, plumb with spring runoff from the northern parts of the state. that the two rivers meet in the most populous part of the state is no surprise, but it is a surprise that someone had the foresight to protect the surrounding land in a state park, given the sprawl that cities and towns tend to do.

after spending some time in the interpretive center, i took a short walk down the open trail, which meandered underneath the mendota bridge. imagining all the cars zipping overhead oblivious to the state park lands underneath made me feel really small for a moment. it’s surprising to be in a natural area, laden with trees and birdsong, only to have the constant hum of highway noise and airplane traffic drone in the background. (one reason i like living where i do: the most-of-the-time absence of human-made noise.)

it’s drab visiting state parks in the spring, when the snow has melted and the greenery has yet to burst. the weather was a near-perfect low 60s, but since it’d been so cold in the state for so long, it felt like the trees were holding back. hope springs eternal.

on a more depressing note, in the interpretive center, there was a lot of information on how this spot was a perfect spot for the dakota american indians, and then they were rounded up into concentration camps in the mid-1800s before being pushed to southeastern south dakota. the text accompanying this information said that SE SD was drought-stricken and many dakota died. can you imagine living in this bountiful area where two great rivers meet and then being shipped off to south dakota?

spending time in fort snelling was nice. lake snelling had its ice out and i saw my first loon of the season. i would go back to fort snelling.

nerstrand big woods

i zipped down to nerstrand big woods before heading over to rochester for the rest of the day. my plan was to also stop by rice lake, but that would have added another hour to my trip, and i had a timeline.

the nerstrand big woods is a large park, and it provides a wide expanse of uninterrupted woods for animals and birds like the scarlet tanager, which needs a lot of woodland for protection. each year, fewer and fewer tanagers come to minnesota due to the dwindling amount of consistent woodland. (i have a feeling the more interpretive centers i visit, the more depressed i will get.) i hiked down a short trail – half a mile or so – to the hidden falls, which was a boisterous waterfall due to the high water this time of year.

the woods are hardwoods, and the trail was nicely groomed. i was about halfway down the trail when i realized how silent it was compared to fort snelling, as nerstrand is really off the beaten path – right between I-35 and highway 52. it was nice to be able to hear the wildlife without the hum of traffic.

i was hiking pretty quickly on my way back, trying to get back to my car so i could stick to my timetable, but something caught my eye in the underbrush on my way back up the planked stairs.

hepatica! surely spring will show up here in the central part of the state as well.

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