After a restful night in Morris, we continued west to Big Stone Lake State Park. This park is divided into 3 areas on the eastern shore of Big Stone Lake (source of the Minnesota River) and the Hiking Club route is located in the northernmost Bonanza Area.
The establishment of this park in 1961 was driven primarily by local concerns about lake shore development. While the park did prevent development (at least within its confines), it also managed to preserve some small slivers of the habitats that existed here prior to the start of extensive farming in the 1850s.
This became obvious to us when we saw the huge aerial photograph in the Educational Center showing the park surrounded by miles and miles and miles of farms.
From the trailhead and (small) boat ramp parking lot at the south end of the Bonanza Area, we followed the trail north to the Bonanza Education Center, stopped in there to see the exhibits, then walked back to the parking lot.
Although the trail here runs along the shore of Big Stone Lake, it is situated high enough so as not to have been impacted by this Spring’s high water in the lake.
The Bonanza Area includes more than 80 acres (32 ha) of native oak savanna and glacial till prairie habitat, plus 50 acres (20 ha) of oak basswood forest and spring-fed ephemeral streams. The Hiking Club route rolls up and down through these habitats as it crosses drainages that empty into the lake.
The trail came down to the lake shore at a picnic site signed “Hendricks Crossing” – we couldn’t tell if this was just a local name or the site of an historic ford across the river back in the day.
The lake was created in 1937, so any such ford would have been submerged before the first small-scale USGS map for this area became available in 1953. We also couldn’t find any antique maps for this area that might have shown a crossing.
The Hiking Club route here is just 2.2 miles (3.5 km) but it was a very pleasant walk on a very good day for such. Lots of birds – or at least a lot of bird sounds – plus reptiles and amphibians. 🐸😁
We were again graced with no humidity and few biting bugs – but the reprieve from blood thirsty insects would end abruptly when we reached our next hike for the day at Lac qui Parle. 🦟🦟😢
The aerial photo at the Educational Center had been blown-up to almost wall size – but it did help put this small state park in perspective with all the surrounding farm lands. You can get aerial photos for just about any place in the U.S. using the NAIP or Global Imagery base layer in CalTopo (free) or with Google Earth (also free). This is like the 5th or 6th snake we’ve seen since the weather warmed – all beautiful (at a distance). 😉
I love it when parks offer aerial photography , it’s so neat to see how everything is situated. And wow I haven’t seen a garter snake in a very long time!
If you don’t bother them they normally won’t bother you. We had one walk past our campsite in the Grand Canyon when we were eating dinner one time. It just waved and went on its business!
Hmmm. 🤔 Makes you think twice about wandering around your camp at night. Back in Oregon, we always wondered what was making noises in the backyard on summer evenings. So we put out our trail cam out and – yes – the noises were coming from a skunk. One who had made our backyard part of their regular foraging route. 🦨
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Just another park employee trying to be helpful! 😃
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Another quick story…we camped at this park and I put my trail cam out at night like I often do. We had a skunk walk through the campsite in the middle of the night. Without the camera out we would never have known we had a night time visitor.
Funny story about this park. My son and I hiked the hiking club trail in the late afternoon and we saw a raccoon on the trail. It ran ahead of us down the trail and climbed a tree which was right next to the password. It was like it was showing us where the password was!