The temperature hit 70F (Obviously that is not today as a howling blizzard is going on outside the hotel window), I decided that I would start the day with a hike at William O’Brien State Park located along the St Croix River. Then follow the St Croix River to Hastings, Minnesota where the river finally enters the Mississippi River. I would find a couple of new treasures along the way.
William O’Brien is one of my favorites in the area. I had seen migrating birds for the last two weeks and knew that I could experience a nice hike. In fact there was a trail I had not done before and started off on the two-mile loop in a section of the park that gets little use.
The trail was dry and I saw cardinals and other small songbirds fluttering in the brush and grassland. A hawk glided over the meadow looking for a meal and then out of sight. The trail alternated between meadow and mature hardwood oak forest. Then dipped into a small marsh area.
I scared up a grouse at this really neat looking fallen tree.
After walking this trail 2.5 mile loop I headed down Highway 95 to Stillwater, MN.
The St Croix all along the way was overflowing its banks. Islands that are visible during other times of the year are now only trees sticking out from the flowing river.
Stillwater had sandbagged the entire river front. I stopped and had coffee at a local bookstore I always stop at when I the area and drank coffee on their deck overlooking the river. I observed a flock of pelicans (15) flying the river valley. Loons were fishing on the river water. Higher up along the river valley ridge I counted several eagles soaring on the updrafts.
After coffee I continued down the highway following the river. The urban expansion of the Twin Cities increasingly encroaching the once large farms of corn and hay fields.
The next stop was Afton State Park. I took a fly fishing tie class there three years ago and wanted to hike down to the river front.
When I got to the trail next to the river I found a disturbing discovery in the flooded debris, plastic! I am very anti plastic bags as I pull many from the waterways that I paddle while kayaking. This discovery was even more upsetting to me as it seemed that the water contained more than simple bags. Styrofoam discarded from fishermen, water bottles, fishing bobbers, part of a frisbee and all sorts of unidentifiable very small pieces of plastic.
I pulled the items from the river and carried them to a trash can at the picnic site. I wondered if anyone else was concerned about river health? It was shocking to see the such large amounts in such a small area and in a place I always thought to be cleaner than other areas in the world.
What are we leaving to our children and future generations?
When I headed back to my car I saw three deer (a doe and two of last year’s fawns) eating the green grass peeking up out of the ground near the picnic area. The one yearling looked at me and then hid under the picnic table.
I started back down Highway 95 and came to a Washington County Park – St Croix Bluffs that had access to the St Croix River.
The boat ramp is currently flooded but looks to be a great launching opportunity for canoe or kayak.
The sun finally pushed the clouds away as I completed the last part of my drive. The St Croix enters the Mississippi River at Hastings, MN.
I had never visited Hastings and was surprised by the old historical downtown area and river front. It looked bright and colorful against the blue clear sky.
The fast flowing Mississippi River was heading down river to the Louisiana delta. The Spring flood waters had started to recede but still had the local veterans memorial underwater.
This was a wonderful way to spend a nice warm day in Minnesota.
Now, I sit in the hotel and look out at the snow and wind of the blizzard. I am even more thankful for the experiences earlier in the week along the St Croix River.
©️ The Cedar Journal, 2019, all rights reserved.
Love the shot of the deer, I think plastic is a problem everywhere. I was picking up rubbish today and there was a bin 5meter away. Lazy people
Thanks for the compliment. I have seen so much on micro plastics in our water, but seeing in person here in MN was a bit shocking.
Quite the day! Good smattering of birds and you can’t beat a walk in the woods in 70F weather. Pretty sure you are getting the white version of our downpour tonight – not exactly thrilled with the water as my trail race season starts tomorrow and it’s gonna be a mess – guess shouldn’t complain too much, word has it MN is supposed to get slammed. Stay warm!
Great photo essay! It seems that in spite the warm temperature spring is still far off in Minnesota. Have a great weekend! Peter
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It sure is. We got 8 inches of snow where we are staying. Always fun scraping snow and ice in April.
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I love these Mississippi River towns and never tire of revisiting them. The historic buildings always hold such visual appeal for me. And the water, oh, the water.
I had no idea loons ventured this far south.
That garbage may have been left atop the frozen river by ice fisherman. That’s a perennial problem in Minnesota. I would feel the same as you. Mad. Thank you for picking up the trash of those inconsiderate people. I just picked up litter in my yard last week. I live along a busy street and lots of garbage lands on my property. Sigh.
Audrey- your comments are always inspiring.
The loons migrate each year from Texas and the Gulf coast to Northern Minnesota and Canada. They stop along the open waterways waiting for ice out further North. Scientists are not even sure how they know when to move on. The ones I saw in Stillwater and Pine City were I am sure waiting to move on to lakes further North.
I usually carry a trash bag while paddling and pick crap out of the water if I find it floating. Beer cans, water bottles, and fishing line and lures are what I pick up most of the time. But, plastic bags are what I find more than anything. To do my part I just refuse to use them anymore. I carry my own bag to the store or carry out my items without a bag. I can’t change the world but doing what I can.
Even in the deepest parts in the ocean scientists have found plastic bags! It’s awful stuff. I try to avoid the stuff when shopping. Convenience is what a lot of people go for.
Hastings isn’t that where the Normans landed in 1066? Wrong country, I think?
Yup! 😂 Wrong country. Yes, darn plastic! I am so glad you Dutch do better than most countries but…Unilever should do better!
[…] views and hikes of this Minnesota State Park many times in the recent years. ( you can read more here and here). On this day, I wanted to explore a trail along the […]
[…] that the St Croix linked with the Mississippi River around Hastings, Minnesota. I had been there earlier in the Spring and had marked my map on the route I would […]