Spring Lake Park Reserve (Dakota County, MN) 24-Jul-2022

We could have taken a break from hiking after our eight state park extravaganza. A break from hiking? That’s silly talk. Plus the weather – which had turned sunny 😎, cooler, storm-free (for the moment), and much less humid – practically begged us to get out and enjoy it. So we sought counsel from our bulging 60 Hikes guide (stuffed as it now is with extra maps and notes). It offered up Hike #41 – a walk along Schaar’s Bluff above Spring Lake on the Mississippi River. Done and done and off we went to the Schaar’s Bluff Trailhead on the east side of the Spring Lake Park Reserve.

This being a semi-urban hike, the first thing we saw after reaching the trailhead was the towboat, Bruce L. Hahn, maneuvering a tow downstream through what looked (to us) like some pretty closely spaced channel markers. It reminded us of watching tows on the Columbia River when we hiked in the Columbia Gorge.

The Bruce L Hahn proceeds down river
And turns in the narrow channel, with the Pine Bend Refinery on the horizon

After that it was: “Where’s the lake?” Well, gone – at least as a distinct puddle of water. An information panel told us it was situated just below Schaar’s Bluff prior to 1930. That year, the completion of Dam and Lock #2 at Hastings just downstream raised the level of the Mississippi to the point where the lake became part of the river. The lake’s name is now shown on some USGS maps as just a large eddy in the Mississippi.

With this topographic conundrum safely behind us, we commenced to wander the paved and unpaved trails south from parking lot. Not only was the weather perfect for this sauntering, there were NO flying, biting insects! None! Just a lot of bumblebees, butterflies, and a stray beetle or two. No DEET was deployed! {Note: On the advice of Raven & Chickadee, we’ll likely be switching to a picaridin-based repellent, which is supposed to deter flies better and also not melt your plastic gear.}

Going south on a dirt trail
Leaves
A prairie undergoing restoration (But will Dakota County defeat the Ailanthus?)
The prairie blooms
Walking one of the mowed trails across the prairie
Partridge Pea
A bumblebee and a beetle fail to social distance on a Rattlesnake Master flower cluster
More wildflowers!
Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower
A Monarch Butterfly lands on the Coneflower
Monarch Butterfly

After enjoying the open prairie lands on the south side of Schaar’s Bluff, we went back across the parking lot and on to the dirt trails in the forest on the park’s north side. We went out along the bluff edge and came back on a trail / old road that wound back and forth through the forest.

Back across the lawn below the parking lot
And through the forest…
Leaves
An artful little stone bridge
Heading back
Leaf

We ended-up doing essentially three loops for a total of 3.9 miles (6.2 km). Having gotten an early start – cool of the morning and all that – we were done in time for a restorative lunch at Inver Grove Brewing Company. Their good food and libations πŸ”πŸΊπŸ˜‹ fully restored us for the drive home. On the way, we considered one of the possibly overlooked “hazards” of urban and semi-urban hikes – their proximity to eateries whose tasty offerings can easily (too easily?) replenish what few calories you expended on the hike. Ah, well, that’s one “hazard” we can deal with… πŸ˜‰πŸ˜

Our wanderings at Spring Lake
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4 thoughts on “Spring Lake Park Reserve (Dakota County, MN) 24-Jul-2022

  1. Thanks! We’re getting used to the humidity here and thinking about winter coming, but these weather features still seem a better deal than baking in 100+℉ heat. πŸ˜…

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  2. You are really capturing the essence of the upper Midwest. We were there many years and it does tug at my heart a bit…especially with the heat wave out here in Oregon!

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