Blue Mounds State Park - Minnesota

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Park Overview

Blue Mounds State Park is full of natural surprises. Start with the Sioux quartzite cliff, rising 100 feet from the plains. A bison herd grazes on the prairie. Prickly pear cactus blooms in June and July. A sea of prairie grasses and flowers sway in the wind. The park is also a favorite for birdwatchers who want to see nesting blue grosbeaks and other birds. Enjoy camping and swimming.

History

Plains Indians depended on the bison to survive. Different weapons were used to kill bison including the lance, and the bow and arrow. It is not known if the park's quartzite cliffs were used by the Plains Indians to stampede the bison off the cliff. Local rumors have persisted for years on the existence of large quantities of bison bones piled at the base of the cliff.

No evidence exists today to substantiate these claims and stories. The large rock outcrop, first known as "The Mound," has provided the park area with an exciting past. The cliff appeared blue to settlers going west in the 1860s and 1870s. They named the prominent landmark, the Blue Mound. The mystery of the Blue Mound is not restricted to the cliffs. At the Mound's southern end is a 1,250 foot long line of rocks aligned in a east-west direction. Who built it and why is unknown. It is known that on the first day of spring and fall, the sunrise and sunset are lined up on this stone alignment. Visitors can hike to these rocks.

In 1934, Rock County citizens asked the U.S. government for a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project in the Blue Mounds area. The first phase of the project was completed in 1937 with the construction of two dams on Mound Creek. These form the present lakes in the park. In the 1950s, thousands of trees were planted around the two lakes and in the campground. In 1961, the name of the park was changed from the Mound Springs Recreation Area to Blue Mounds State Park. That wasn't the only change: the park added three bison from the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge near Valentine, Nebraska to start the present bison herd. Today, the Blue Mounds' herd is maintained at more than 100 bison.

Wildlife

Bison, elk, wolves and prairie chickens roamed this part of Minnesota over 150-200 years ago. Today, a herd of bison resides in the park. The park has a small population of coyotes and a stable deer population. Birdwatchers can catch glimpses of several western species as well as the birds of the tallgrass prairie.

Geology

The Sioux quartzite rock was formed on the bottom of an ancient sea. Vast quantities of sand were deposited on this ancient sea floor. Ripple marks from this sandy, watery origin have been preserved and can be seen along many of the park's rock outcrops. Sandstone was formed from the further accumulation and weight of sand water. Through time, heat and chemical reactions transformed the sandstone into a very hard quartzite. The pink to purplish color in the quartzite is due to the presence of iron oxide. Glaciers have been the most recent geological event to shape the landscape in the last two million years. Glacial striations and scratches gouged into rock when loose rocks were dragged across the bedrock can be seen along the rock outcrops near the cliff line. Retreating glaciers buried the surrounding bedrock with a "glacial drift" of rock, sand, and gravel 200-300 feet deep. The last glacial advance, known as the Wisconsin Ice Stage, did not cover the southwest corner of Minnesota.

Landscape

Blue Mounds State Park contains a small remaining fragment of the once vast tallgrass prairie which covered much of North America. The abundant rock outcrops and shallow soil prevented much of the land within the park from being plowed. However, heavy grazing by domestic livestock has diminished the native grasses and wildflowers and introduced foreign and exotic, weedy plants. Special management programs are now underway to restore the native grasses and wildflowers. Late summer offers visitors a panorama of prairie colors when hundreds of different wildflowers bloom and grasses grow. For example, the big bluestem grasses grow to seven feet tall, at a rate of almost an inch a day. In addition, Blue Mounds is one of several places in Minnesota where cactus grows. Patches of prickly pear cactus can be found growing in shallow soils atop the quartzite outcrops. In late June and early July, the yellow flower of the cactus blooms.

Trails

Summer

Self Guided - 1 Mile -- Trail begins at the interpretive center and leads you through bur oaks along cliff line. Pick up a brochure at park office.

Hiking - 13 Miles -- Easy to moderate hiking trails. Main trail leads you over the top of the mounds through rich and varied prairie-dominated terrain. Trails give hikers a rare opportunity to experience Minnesota's ever-changing tallgrass prairie.

Paved Bike - 2.2 Miles

Winter

Snowmobile - 3 Miles -- Trails are within the park. In addition, there are 20 miles of snowmobile trail available within 10 miles of the park.

Winter Hiking - Wildlife population in the park is easily viewed during winter months on 13 miles of winter hiking trails.

Getting There

From the town of Luverne, go north 4 miles on Minnesota Hwy. 75. Turn east on County Road 20 and go 1 mile to park entrance.

Contact

1410 161st Street, Luverne, MN 56156 -- tel: 507-283-1307 -- fax: 507-283-1306

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