The lakes and forests of central and northern Minnesota are a large part of who I am; as a result of this I tend to avoid the open country of southwestern Minnesota and beyond. In the forests it takes only a few acres of forest and you can largely escape human’s attempts to domesticate the land and experience the land, as it would be without us. In the plains you can be standing in the middle of a square mile of virgin prairie but because you can see for miles and miles you can still see the human altered landscape, making it difficult to truly experience the prairie as it would be without us.
In August while traveling through southwestern we stopped in Luverne, Minnesota at Blue Mounds State Park where there is remnant tallgrass prairie. The prairie was awash in the colors from the blooming wildflowers. While not all of the flowers are native to North America they do make for a beautiful scene. I also found out the hard way that those of us with hay fever issues should probably avoid this area during late August, particularly when there is a strong wind shaking the pollen off of the flowers and into the air.
While at Blue Mounds I walked from one side of the park to the other side of the park, at least the portion of the park that you are allowed to walk in as there a large fenced off area within the park where a herd of bison is allowed to roam. While I was there the bison herd was lounging around in the sun, far enough away that if you didn’t know they were bison you would just assume they were cows.
While trying to make photographs of the mosaic of wildflowers I had the wind to contend with, but rather than trying to fight the wind I used it to my advantage allowing the wind to turn the mosaic into a more painterly scene. As the day progressed and the sun got lower in the sky I began noticing how the maximillian sunflowers glowed in the late afternoon sun.
One of the reasons that Blue Mounds State Park wasn’t converted into farmland like the farms surrounding it is because just under the surface and in many areas exposed to the elements is Sioux Quartzite. At the southeast corner of the park is a cliff of this pink quartzite, where for a time the rock was quarried then used as rock for buildings and crushed to be used for roadbeds. While the quarry hasn’t been used for many years the rock in this area isn’t weathered the way that the rock in the rest of the park is.
While the park is certainly beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, it may be many years before I revisit the park though I will definitely take the time to stop on my way through if my travels have me passing through the area.
-EAK, July 2015