Our first camping trip as adults was at St. Croix State Park in 2006. One of the most popular state parks in Minnesota, it was a favorite camping destination for my family when I was a kid. A relatively short drive from home with lots of hiking, bike and canoe rentals, and interpretive activities, they also had a little store in case you forgot anything. We decided this was the perfect location to test our camping skills and eagerly hit the road for the weekend with our borrowed gear.
Nestled in the trees along a quiet section of Minnehaha Parkway is a beautiful memorial that is such a natural part of the landscape, it’s easy to miss. I finally noticed this big rock as I drove by on my scooter several months ago and pulled over to investigate thoroughly stumped. How could I have missed this memorial for so long? It turned out to be a tragic story with a fairly recent history.
Tucked in fragrant pine trees on the Minnesota-Canadian border in Voyageurs National Park, the Kettle Falls Hotel is only accessible by boat – just as it was for its earliest visitors a hundred years ago.
“For a full quarter of a century, her useful life has been spent in a labor of love…” Theodore Wirth, Former Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park System
My visit to the Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary had me wondering, who was Eloise Butler? It turned out that she was originally from rural Maine. Born in 1851 near Appleton, it’s theorized that her interest in botany began due to her family’s knowledge of local plants and herbal remedies.
Hidden in Minnesota’s north woods is a quiet, little state park named for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. While Schoolcraft wasn’t a Minnesota resident, he gained fame in the state for being the first white explorer to officially locate the source of the Mississippi River after the Ojibwa showed him its origins. Based on his journals, it is believed that Schoolcraft camped in this area near Grand Rapids on that famous expedition in 1832.
Over Schoolcraft’s life, he documented the history of Indian tribes in the United States and managed to collect hundreds of Indian legends. Less well-known in Schoolcraft’s famed history, however, is the role that his first wife Jane Johnston Schoolcraft played in his success.
I would venture a guess that most Minnesotans have a photo in their collection that looks like this:
But how much do you know about the man behind the myth?
When standing on the shores of this popular lake in South Minneapolis, it’s hard to believe that it was once a swamp called Mud Lake.
Sakatah Lake State Park is located on rolling hills 14 miles west of Faribault, Minnesota; its uneven terrain the result of glacial activity 14,000 years ago. Originally inhabited by the Wahpekute (Wapacoota) band of Dakota Sioux, they called the area “singing hills” and some of their burial mounds still exist in the park today.
Located on the Minnesota shoreline of Lake Superior, Tettegouche State Park is home to High Falls, Shovel Point, historic campgrounds, and stunning vistas. We were there on a warm spring day and hiked along the Baptism River, across the old suspension bridge, and down to the bottom of High Falls – the second highest waterfall in Minnesota. With the roar of the rapidly moving water and the sun on our faces, we stopped often along the trail to breath in the heavy smells of pine trees.
I remember as a kid being told that if my chin turned yellow when rubbed with a dandelion, that meant I liked butter. My chin was turned yellow more times than I care to admit before I realized that dandelions turned everything yellow. I can also remember blowing hard on dandelions gone to seed and making wishes, and I can remember counting the seeds to see how many boyfriends I would have one day.
I spent my college years living in a small, rural town in western Minnesota. Not only did this city girl learn the hard realities of life on the prairie where blowing wind could snow the town in for weeks at a time, but I also found Minnesota’s very own mountain range.
Minnehaha Creek and its accompanying thoroughfare Minnehaha Parkway have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have a very vivid memory of my first exhausting bike ride to Minnehaha Falls for a picnic. Trailing behind The Mother on the path beside the creek, I wished my short, chubby legs could make the trip more effortlessly. That bike ride became more spirited as a teenager as I raced down the path; I knew every hole, bump and shortcut along the way. And I remember graduating to a car, still following the creek but on Minnehaha Parkway. Driving up and down for hours because I had nowhere else to go.