The four state parks in the far northwest corner of Minnesota aren’t that big, so we figured we could visit and hike in all of them in one day. We did so but it was a long day. What helped us along was the absolutely gorgeous Fall weather we experienced for this entire quest – no rain, high winds, hail, or snow. Just one clear, crisp, sunny day after another 😎 – the memory of which will undoubtedly return to torment us in the depths of the coming winter. 🥶

We started the day at Old Mill State Park near Argyle, Minnesota. As its name suggests, it was created to commemorate the history of the Larson Mill on the banks of the Middle River and also preserve pieces of riverine forest, oak savanna, dry prairie, and wet prairie that covered this area prior to European settlement. The trees along the river were glowing with Fall colors in the early morning light! 🍂🍁 Maybe not 100% colorful yet but more than enough to keep us mesmerized. 😀

The Hiking Club route here is only 1.3 miles (2.1 km) and is the Agassiz Self-guided Trail Loop. Not a long hike but a beautiful and informative one. This is a mostly forested loop, with a viewpoint over the river it its middle, and some open prairie at its end (if done counter-clockwise). We learned a new term – gallery forest – which describes trees that follow a river corridor out into areas – like prairie in this case – that typically do not host trees.

Agassiz Trail Loop, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Starting on the Agassiz Loop
Colors, then compost
Agassiz Trail Loop, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
On the trail
A blaze of color before closing-up for the year
Agassiz Trail Loop, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Through a piece of oak savanna
From an old oak
The Middle River from the overlook on the Agassiz Trail Loop, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
The Middle River from the overlook on the Agassiz Trail Loop
Morning light on the trail
Sunlight pierces the aspens
Gold amidst the greenery
A curve of aspens
Across the prairie
Tree over prairie

After doing the loop, we visited the Stone Bridge, the old mill dam site, and (of course) the Larson Mill and Pioneer Cabin. The steam-powered mill we saw today is the last in a line of water and wind-powered mills that operated in or near the park between 1886 and 1937. Today’s mill is fired-up once a year for park special events and interpretive programs.

The swimming beach at Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
The swimming beach at Old Mill
The Stone Bridge at Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Stone Bridge
Looking upstream along the Middle River from the Stone Bridge, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Looking upstream along the Middle River from the Stone Bridge
Looking downstream along the Middle River from the Stone Bridge, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Looking downstream along the Middle River from the Stone Bridge
The old dam site on the Middle River
Pioneer Cabin across from the Larson Mill, Old Mill State Park, Minnesota
Pioneer Cabin across from the Larson Mill
Window detail, Pioneer Cabin
Yes, but better than sitting out in the snow or the rain, eh? 🙄
The (newish) steam-powered Larson Mill
Middle River near the mill
One last burst of color before we headed out

From here, we headed farther north to Lake Bronson, which is not quite within sight of Canada. 🇨🇦 Along the way, we saw more aspen trees than we ever thought possible! Way more than the patches of them we’d seen in California and Colorado. Who knew?

Our route at Old Mill State Park
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