Quarry Park & Nature Preserve (Stearns County, MN) 14-May-2023

In late April, we had planned to continue with our State Park Quest by visiting 5 parks directly west of Minneapolis. This plan had to be revised when the Minnesota River flooded the Hiking Club trail at 2 of the parks. So we did a long day trip to visit just 2 of them: Glacial Lakes and Monson Lake. This was a great trip but we wanted more!

Time passed. The weather brightened (mostly). The rivers fell and the floods receded. Word came from the parks that the Hiking Club trails were now (mostly) open. The quest was back on! πŸ˜„

Our new plan was to stay in Morris, then go southeast along the Minnesota River visiting Big Stone Lake, Lac qui Parle, and Upper Sioux Agency. Enroute to Morris the day before, we would visit Quarry Park & Nature Preserve in Stearns County.

It was pouring rain when we left the house. But by the time we reached Maple Grove 20 minutes later, it had stopped. By the time we reached Quarry Park, about 45 minutes after that, blue sky was peaking through parting clouds and shafts of sunshine began to appear. The day continued to brighten. Our time at Quarry Park was spent under warm, blue skies swept with artistic clouds. 😎

Entrance to Quarry Park

Quarry Park, as its name suggests, encompasses a number of open pits (now water filled) from which Saint Cloud Red Granite was quarried for about 100 years, ceasing only in the mid-1950s. The Landmark Center and the James J. Hill House in St. Paul both contain Saint Cloud Red Granite in their structures. After changes in ownership, this area opened as a county park in 1998.

From the parking lot, we went south past the Liberty Derrick at Quarry 18 (Benzie 14 – some of the quarries have names as well as numbers; the names relate to who owned that particular quarry), then past Quarry 13 to Quarry 11, one of the quarries organized for swimming. It even has a small sandy beach!

Leaving the parking lot
Liberty Derrick at Quarry 18
Quarry 18
Quarry 13
Reflections at Quarry 13
One of the many grout (discarded rock) piles forming small hills throughout the park
Quarry 11

At Quarry 11, we turned east past Quarries 9 and 8 (Trebtoske), climbed to the overlook atop a massive grout pile, descended past Quarry 7 (Thielman), and turned south into the state natural area.

On to Quarry 9
Quarry 9
View eastward from the overlook
At the base of the overlook
New life emerges from the depths
Quarry 7

The trails in the natural area are the remnants of old two-track farm roads. They are easy to follow (there are numbered signs as major junctions) but were more uneven and muddier than those in the park itself.

Into the natural area
Dryad’s Saddle fungus
Great-spurred Violet
Under the power lines that bisect the natural area πŸ™„
Along the edge of open ground
And back into the forest
We passed a quarry in the natural area

We exited the natural area at its western entrance, then went east past the large meadow in the center of the park, and on around past Quarries 4 (Oberg), 2 (Melrose Deep 7), and 1 (Red Six), before crossing the floating boardwalk, and returning to the parking lot.

Along the big meadow in the center of the park
Quarry 2
Quarry 1
On the boardwalk

Our double loop at Quarry Park came to 5.4 miles (8.7 km) on a day that was made for hiking. Stearns County has done a great job of turning what once was a ravaged industrial area into a very pleasant and interesting park. It gave us a taste for rock rimmed lakes without having to go to the North Shore. πŸ˜‰

After a quick lunch in nearby Waite Park, we made our way out to Morris in far western Minnesota. It being Sunday and all, not many places to eat were open. Fortunately, the Old No. 1 Bar & Grill was and it was good. πŸ”πŸΊπŸ˜‹

We’d had a great day exploring the quarry and the adjacent natural area, but were now more than ready to get on with our quest – flood or no flood! 😁

Our double loop at Quarry Parks (numbers = quarries, “O” = overlook, “Q” = quarry in the natural area, “P” = parking lot)

4 thoughts on “Quarry Park & Nature Preserve (Stearns County, MN) 14-May-2023

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  1. They also show up in various murder mysteries, as good places to dump cars or corpses. The only one I’d seen before had been used as a toxic waste dump and was then a Superfund site – nothing like putting toxic waste right into the groundwater. πŸ˜’ The ones here at Quarry Park didn’t share that fate and are amazingly nice to walk past. πŸ˜„


  2. Thanks! Yes, Morris, not Morrison – fixed this. The prison is just east of the quarry, across the Mississippi River – so not too far to haul heavy stone. Although I don’t have any personal experience with that prison (or any for that matter) the picture of its solid stone main building does indeed make it look formidable. πŸ₯Ί


  3. Quite a collection of water filled quarries. I have frequently seen them in movies, where the teenagers go to to drink, swim, and commit crimes, but I’ve never actually seen one.


  4. What a beautiful day to explore the quarry. I’ve read about these quarries, in books of fiction, mystery specifically, but never seen them. However, when my father-in-law lived near the prison in St. Cloud, I would see that quarried stone used to build the formidable state prison.

    Just a note, I think you mean “Morris” and not “Morrison.”


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