When the River Recedes

Photo of a sandy beach with the Minnesota River on the left of the image and the Mississippi River on the right side of the river. The center of the image is looking toward Pike Island which is covered in trees. The sky is cloudy with a grey cast. There is an orange triangular warning sign at the place where the sand meets the trees.

#20hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Pike Island Trail, Fort Snelling State Park

Trash Collected: 10.7 pounds

I want to acknowledge this took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux).

Fort Snelling State Park is one of my favorite parks in Minnesota for a hike. I’ve written about it several times before, look into the post Archives and you’ll see it peppered throughout. I feel at home in this park. I feel connected to the earth on its trails in a way that I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s a spiritual place. I’m not the first that’s felt this way. Indigenous peoples like the Dakota felt connected to it because of its waters. Being a state park so close to the city adds to the desire and ease for many to visit.

Each year though, when the spring snow melt, spring rain or combination of both the park often floods making access to the trails – and sometimes even the park entrance itself – impossible. This spring has been no exception. While the park entrance road wasn’t flooded, Pike Island via a small bridge, was unreachable for several weeks. It’s a time each year that I typically drive to other parks that don’t sit at river level while I wait for the river water to recede.

Thankfully this year’s flooding was minor and relatively quick in comparison to 2019 which went on for months. For this hike I’d checked the status of the trail and was excited to find it open. In the hopes of finding smaller crowds, I opted to go over the dinner hour. The trail typically takes me an hour or so to hike so I knew I could easily get my hike in before dark.

Seeing the park after the recent flooding was really interesting. Every bit of the ground was covered in a film of river silt. Grey and dusty. Clinging to every surface up to the high point of the water. The crust makes seeing the tracks of the resident herd of deer easy. Dark prints trail toward the receding water along the banks where the deer have gone to drink. Here and there if you look hard, glimpses of a picnic spot with a grill and table can be seen. As the waters have risen and the island eroded they sit deep in water on the edges of the island.

Each time I hike the island there is a new surprise as well as familiar landmarks. On the south side of the island there has been extensive work that is re-routing the trail inland. The path has been graded and awaits the next step of laying crushed rock and then mulch. It will be a wider path that will be allow everyone space as they walk. The placement should also help move the path from the eroding river bank. While it’s impossible to put off the inevitable loss of island shoreline, the effort is there to minimize the impact that visitors have on the trail.

My recent Microadventures have me taking a slower approach to my hikes. I tend to stop more often and take more pictures. I’ve been experimenting with taking videos too. I don’t have any to share yet, but future posts may include one! I continue to notice new details each time. From rotting trees to the various plants to the abundant birds. This spring I’ve definitely been noticing the birds everywhere. Even more so in the places where the sounds of the city are more muted like at the park.

Keeping the Trail Trash-Free

As always, I can’t walk by trash on the trails. I’ve been extra careful lately about what I pick up and I make sure that I’m only doing it with my grabber or gloved hands. In this past, the shoreline on the north side of the island has been covered in garbage. This time there was so much less. I considered the reasons. Most likely the fewer people out and about has impacted the amount of garbage making its way into the river. I hope that’s true. I also hope that the lack of trash doesn’t change.

Not to say that I didn’t find anything. From a weight perspective I hit the jackpot. A section of docking material that weighed in over seven pounds. An additional three pounds was made up mostly of packaging discarded long ago, revealed by the receding waters. Luckily the park has the large dumpster in the lot still. Some parks have removed trash receptacles completely as there isn’t staff to empty them. I’ve started keeping bags in my car so if I need to bring trash home, I can do that. I keep hoping the day will come that I don’t need to do this, but until it does I’ll keep picking up what I find.

If you’re curious about what you can do to help, let me know. And if you want to see the work that’s being done by others like me all over the country search the hashtag #weareallgroundskeepers on your favorite social media channel.

Next Post Preview: A recent return visit to the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge filled with blooming flowers, flooded paths and a low key approach shows why you don’t really have to go far to get away from it all.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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