Southwestern Minnesota

While in southwestern Minnesota, there were two other locations that I visited.  The first was Gneiss Outcrops SNA, just outside of Granite Falls.  While it is not a huge area, it is an interesting area.

It is located in the Minnesota River Valley and a portion of is is actually on the Minnesota River, though I did not make it to the river’s edge on this particular day.  On the day that I explored the area, it was a warm, overcast, slightly misty day. This location is named for the gneiss outcrops that are some of the oldest exposed bedrock on the planet. Just like at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, this rock was exposed when the Glacial River Warren drained Lake Agassiz.

When I visited it wasn’t too long after the DNR had done some clearing and burning of trees and shrubs that been taking over the area. With the development of the prairie, the fires that once would have scoured the prairie of this woody material have ceased. Allowing it to take over these areas and preventing the natural mix of plants that would grow on this site if it weren’t for human development and wildfire prevention.

After walking between some of the burn piles, I arrived at the east end of Lake of the Little Tree Spirits. At this point I began to ascend the gneiss outcrops on the south side of the lake. From here I had a good vantage of the frozen lake, while the lake had been safe to walk on, the recent warm weather had placed an end to any exploring I wanted to do on the lake.

So, instead of exploring the ice’s surface, I explored the rock outcrops on the lake’s south shore. From my new vantage I could look across the lake to outcrops on the lake’s north side and down onto the patterns in the ice on the lake. While I am not sure of the source, in many areas the lake ice had a striking green color to it. The ice had cool cracks that were arcing across the ice almost like subatomic particles in a bubble chamber. Then there were the places where the ice was white but inside of that was clear ice that looked almost like neurons stretched across the ice or maybe visualizations of a Julia set.

As I continue to explore the rock outcrop, I see places where the Glacial River Warren had eroded the rock at the end of the last ice age.  Then I find plants that many would not expect to find in Minnesota, prickly pear cactus, while they were not good-looking when I visited, they were still cool to see. After exploring the outcrop, I decided to call it a day and walk back to the car.

-EAK, July 2017