Saint Paul, MN Oct. 15
Our trip finished by driving through South Dakota and Minnesota agricultural areas. To us, the difference was obvious. The MN soil was a deep black color. MN had more trees than South Dakota. MN had more towns and a larger population in those towns. Not huge populations, mind you, but the range of the populations was definitely higher. As we expected, we also saw more fall color in Minnesota, with the greatest abundance in the Twin Cities area where the hardwood forest topography provided more trees with a greater variety of species.
Thursday, after we left the Redlin Art Museum, we drove to Big Stone Lake State Park. This state park is on the border between South Dakota and Minnesota. The lake is 26 miles long and is notable for being the headwaters of the Minnesota River. In this area is a sub-continental divide, where waters north of here flow into Hudson’s Bay; south of here they flow into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. The Minnesota River flows almost in a “V” direction, heading SE and then NE until it joins the Mississippi River at St. Paul, less than two miles from our house. Glacial Lake Agassiz covered portions of western Ontario, northwest Minnesota, northern North Dakota, and much of Manitoba and Saskatchewan 10,000-12,000 years ago. At various times during its existence, Glacial Lake Agassiz was fed by melting glaciers and portions of the lake drained southward into what is now the Minnesota River. This ancient river was much larger than the current Minnesota River.
Big Stone Lake is well-known for fishing and waterfowl. The lake is on the pathway for numerous migratory birds but our time here was not propitious for viewing any great numbers of birds. After a hike in the park, we left for the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. We attempted to have lunch in Odessa, a small town of 150 people but the one person cafe was not interested in scrounging up a meal at 1:30 PM. Instead we had a granola bar and drove the wildlife loops. This refuge has rock outcroppings like Blue Mounds Park and a series of marshlands, pools and streams where fish and waterfowl congregate. Again, no major flocks of birds were present but the views were enjoyable.
Our next stop on Thursday was at Lac Qui Parle State Park. Lac Qui Parle is a French translation of the name given by Dakota Indians to this lake, meaning “lake that speaks”. The lake is also on the migratory path for Canada Geese and other waterfowl. Again, we saw, and heard, very little. We had stopped at these locations hoping we might be at the correct time for migrations but our timing was off. One of the earliest mission settlements along the river was located at Lac Qui Parle. In 1835, the first church in Minnesota was built here by missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. During their time here, the missionaries devised their own alphabet for the Dakota language. The mission was part of the effort to assimilate American Indians into the culture and ways of the European immigrants. It had only partial “success”. In 1854, when one home burnt, the mission moved farther south to Yellow Medicine Agency.
We spent the night in Montevideo MN and Friday visited our last state park on the journey home, Upper Sioux Agency State Park and historic site. The Upper Sioux Agency was also known as the Yellow Medicine Agency where the Dakota, also known as Sioux, people dug for medicinal herbs. The Upper Sioux Agency grew into a small village where a U.S. Indian agent supervised the application of the Indian treaties. In 1851, under pressure, the Dakota gave up their lands in Minnesota for a swath of land 20 miles wide along the Minnesota River along with cash payments, goods and services. In 1858, the twenty-mile swath of land had been reduced to ten miles wide. By 1862, tensions had arisen between Indians willing to accept the white man’s ways and those favoring the traditional hunting and gathering ways. Worse, the cash payments were usually delayed or withheld. White traders got much of the payments first to pay inflated costs for items the Indians needed to farm. Food shipments were late, rotten, or of poor quality. Redress to the government provided no relief. A 1861 crop failure and severe winter made conditions explosive in 1862. In August a six-week war broke out when Dakota Indians attacked another mission agency nearby. When the six-week war was over, both Upper and Lower Sioux Agencies had been burnt, over 500 white settlers were killed along with an unknown number of Dakota. The government hanged 38 Dakota men in one mass hanging and forced the rest of the Dakota onto reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota. Besides reading the displays about the Dakota War of 1862 and the Agency tasks, we took two hikes along the Minnesota River.
Lunch was at a family owned restaurant in Glencoe MN as we said goodbye to the agricultural area of MN and returned to St. Paul. As predicted, fall colors were at their best when we returned home.
Ed and Chris