From Fort Ridgely, we traveled southeast along the Minnesota River on Highway 21 to New Ulm and Flandrau State Park. Our automobile’s GPS then took us on a tour of the town (the old part of which is quite charming) before conceding that we really WANTED TO GO TO THE STATE PARK on the town’s outskirts and directing us there. Just a little reminder that one shouldn’t put unwavering faith in technology, particularly when navigating…🙄
Casting a jaundiced eye at the GPS, we found our OWN WAY to the huge parking lots at the southeast end of the park. Due to staffing shortages, the sand-bottomed swimming pool – apparently one of the park’s most popular features – was closed today. So we were one of only two cars in these expansive lots. But we were here to hike, so no worries if there was no pool and no crowds. 😉
We missed where the 2.8 mile (4.5 km) Hiking Club loop starts from the parking lot but reconnected with it soon after circling around the deserted swimming pond. Once reconnected, we followed the Cottonwood, Oxbow, Grassland, Ridge, and Woodland Trails clockwise around the park’s perimeter. As their names suggest, these trails took us through all of the various ecosystems contained within the park. Highlights were the times the trails gave us a view of the wide and placid Cottonwood River sliding along past the park’s southern border.
After the hike, we learned that this state park was named for Charles E. Flandreau, who helped draft the first Minnesota constitution and was a member of the first Minnesota Supreme Court. Both laudable achievements. He was, however, also prominent, as a captain in the Union Army, in the successful defense of settlers in New Ulm during the Dakota War of 1862. That probably seemed like a good idea in his time. Today his role – and that of many others – in this war is, at a minimum, controversial. Certainly an uncomfortable bit of history. But good to know nonetheless. Because to learn from history (not that humans are particularly good at doing so) you have to know and explore it, not pretend it never happened or, worse, willfully expunge it.
The day had been somewhat cool when we arrived at the park but had heated-up considerably while we were out hiking. This heat discouraged the flying insects but encouraged us to finish the loop and seek cool sustenance in New Ulm. Which we did…and it was good. 🐟🌮🍺 Then, suitably sustained, we continued southeast to our last park of the day: Minneopa.