Prairie Camping

Two years ago on the way back home from a wedding road trip to St. Louis, Catherine humored me enough to acquiesce when I turned off the highway to do a quick drive through of Myre-Big Island State Park. (It was, frankly, a testament of C’s flexibility given that St. Louis is something like a twelve hour drive. At the end of such a long haul, a state park stopover wasn’t my brightest moment. Then you also have to factor in some cold temperatures and winds and you can ask, just like she did, what I was thinking. Answer: scope-out the place for a future camping trip.)

This weekend we went back there for real with the family. Scope-out successful!

kettle moraine pond

Idyllic Evening in the Moraine

It was a short one-night stay but two days in the out-of-doors was just the right amount for our two kids.

We had a blast, all the more so thanks to the great company of some family friends who came down with us for the fun.

Some highlights:

  • Wildlife up the wazoo (grey herons, pelicans (!), ground squirrels, deer (!), toads, frogs, snakes (the safe kind: garter variety) and more.
  • Down at the border with Iowa, the park lies at the edge of Minnesota’s former glacial coverage area. So when the ice receded as the last Ice Age began to wane, it received a lot of the melt. The resulting water and gravel deposits are responsible for the area’s moraine topography. (The place looks a LOT like Glacial Lakes State Park or even Buffalo River State Park because of this.)
  • When the temperatures are right, prairie trails are the place to be with kids under five: You can see them most of the time regardless of how far off they’ve clomped.

    Prairie Hike

    An After-Dinner Stroll

  • The exception to the moraine is Big Island. Cross that bridge and you end up in northern hardwood forest. Deep, dark and thick. Great example of the stark differences in climes that are possible in Minnesota.
  • For whatever reason–(ironically) proximity to highway, high temperatures, lack of a beach WITHIN the park (awesome swimming at Fountain Lake was only a few minutes’ drive away), low awareness, other (?)–the park was nowhere near capacity. It made for a quiet stay–quiet, that is, until the kids wailed about something. 🙂
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