Nature Notes

The Waters That Connect Us

COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum reopened in a limited capacity on Friday, May 1. As a key part of the University of Minnesota’s research and outreach missions, we have been working with University leadership on a phased approach to ensure visitor and employee safety as we welcome you back. Find updates and information here.

Editor’s Note: We know that staying connected to nature is important, especially as we cope with a global pandemic. Our Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers are finding ways to share their observations of the natural world beyond the Arboretum grounds.

By Holly Einess

The Arboretum is still closed to walkers, and while I miss spending time there, I’m happy to head out with binoculars and camera to some of my favorite natural areas closer to home.

Minnehaha Creek flows by just a few blocks from my house, and every spring I eagerly watch for the progression of flowers that bloom along its banks. The Siberian squill blossoms have come and gone, but now there are carpets of violets, as well as a lovely patch of Virginia bluebells.

Virginia bluebells

My dog Birkie often accompanies me on walks along the creek, but her favorite destination is the Minnehaha off-leash dog park along the Mississippi River. We discover all kinds of things in bloom there, including large-flowered bellwort, false rue anemone, marsh marigold, dutchman’s breeches, early meadow rue, wood anemone, and nodding trillium. These plants all take advantage of the abundant sunlight available to them before the trees overhead leaf out.

Spring wildflowers

After dropping Birkie off at home I meet a friend at Nine-Mile Creek in Bloomington, where there are many patches of wild ginger, their small flowers resting near the forest floor. Bloodroot leaves are large and abundant, their flowers already gone, though I do find one plant still in bloom.

Wild ginger and bloodroot

The trail takes us to a backwater of the Minnesota River, where a family appears fascinated by something in the water. A northern water snake is swimming along, just its head above water, until it comes to rest on a sandbar, seeming to soak up the sun’s warmth.

Northern water snake

Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but it also boasts two significant rivers–the Minnesota and Mississippi. Nine-Mile Creek drains into the former, and Minnehaha Creek into the latter. Given that the two rivers converge at the tip of Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park*, it feels somehow appropriate that I pay a visit there as well. On my drive through the park I pass a group of photographers, their long-lensed cameras all pointing in the same direction. I get out to investigate and am rewarded with a view of a beautiful barred owl. Not long after, her two fledglings make an appearance.

Barred owl
Barred owl fledglings

After walking the perimeter of Pike Island and sitting for a time at the confluence of the two rivers, I return home, feeling grateful for all the natural areas within a 15-minute drive of my home, and the many more to be explored throughout our state.

*How lucky we Twin Citians are to have a State Park right in our metro area! We have a National Park here as well– Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

4 comments on “The Waters That Connect Us

  1. I love how easy it is to get to nature areas to walk and enjoy the wild life. Thanks for these quick notes about what is around us.

    • Holly Einess

      Yes, we’re fortunate to have so much nature nearby! And spring is such a nice time to get out, with all this new life bursting forth. Thanks for your note 🙂

  2. Sheila

    Thank you for inviting me to join you on your spring wild flower walk on our beautiful local trails so close to home. Indeed we are fortunate to live in this area!
    I enjoyed your great photos, informative notes
    and naming the flowers I can never remember the names of!

    • Holly Einess

      Thanks, Sheila! I find that every spring I have to dust off my memory re: all the plants that bloom here. It’s a fleeting time, which makes it all the more precious!

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