After lunch in New Ulm, we continued southeast to Minneopa State Park, with visions of bison and waterfalls animating our thoughts. It was now afternoon and the day was approaching hot (89℉ / 32℃), so it was just as well that the Hiking Club trail at this park is a short one. There are two key features here: waterfalls and bison. Our willful GPS took us to the waterfalls first. 🙄
Sandstone ledges seem to what create waterfalls in this part of Minnesota. Such is the case with the double waterfall on Minneopa Creek, which has been a popular tourist destination since 1870 (and a state park since 1905). The upper falls drop 7 to 10 feet (2.1 to 3 m) and the lower falls drop another 40 feet (12.2 m) into a large pool in the creek. On a hot day like today it was cooling just to watch the water fall. 😃 The lower falls reminded us of Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis.
After admiring the Falls for a bit, it was time to look for bison. In this we were unsuccessful, mainly because the driving road through the bison enclosure is closed on Wednesdays. 😕 We figured we might see some from the Minnesota River Bluff Trail (which doubles as the Hiking Club trail here) but all we saw were expanses of Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), commonly referred to as ailanthus, a woody invasive the park is trying (with great difficulty) to eradicate. There was little chance of us seeing any bison that might (or might not) be in these dense thickets of ailanthus. We did, at one point, over-optimistically mistake a large rock for a bison. But, no, it was just a rock. 🙁 So, bisonless, we hiked out to find the password, then hiked back to the trailhead.
The Hiking Club route here came to an official, and essentially flat, 2.7 miles (4.3 km). The heat had now reached oppressive, so it was quite a relief to sit in the car’s A/C for the hour plus drive home. Today’s state park trifecta proved to be an excellent adventure: some hiking, a tough history lesson, a river, two waterfalls, a charming small town, a few wildflowers, and lunch. 😁 Too bad about the bison though. I guess we’ll have to return when the drive through viewing road is open. 😉