Let’s Go Exploring

By Millicent Hanson

Last week, Connie Clay shared childhood memories of outdoor adventures and made a strong case for encouraging our children to explore nature in her blog “Second Nature”. This week, Millicent Hanson provides us with a list of local family-friendly hiking trails and historical sites. Let’s go exploring.

Veteran’s Memorial Park, Winnebago: Make a visit to the Veteran’s Memorial Park on the southern end of Winnebago’s Main Street and view the monuments that bear the names of many who have served, some of whom have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This can be a perfect opportunity to share a history lesson (especially in light of the recent 75th anniversary of D-Day) and encourage appreciation for those who have sacrificed much for our freedom. The nearby shelter is a handy place for a picnic lunch.

Rice Lake Wildlife Management Area, 195th St E, Winnebago: Take Hwy 109 east of Winnebago for 2 miles, and then head north on County Road 107. Turn east on 195th St. to the parking areas at the top of the hill or near the boat landing. There is a trail with Rice Lake on the east and woodlands and prairie to the west. This 198 acre WMA (Wildlife Management Area) borders Rice Lake and is a great opportunity to view wildlife.

Daly Park, Lura Lake, 11056 571st Lane, Mapleton: Daly Park is located on the northeastern shore of Lura Lake, approximately 4.5 miles southwest of Mapleton. The park offers fishing, playground and picnic areas, and an island with a half mile long hiking trail where you can explore the natural environment of the island.

Dodd Ford Bridge, Amboy: Driving north on Hwy 169 towards Amboy, watch for the brown sign directing the visitor to the historic Dodd Ford Bridge, a one-lane bridge constructed in 1901. There are two overlooks, one of which has informational historical markers and the other with a handicap accessible boardwalk to the river.

19th World Plowing Contest Monument, Vernon Center: A short distance north of Vernon Center on the west side of Hwy 169 is the monument for the 19th World Plowing Contest, which was held in September of 1972, and brought nearly 500,000 visitors to Vernon Center during the week-long event. A Cairn of Peace at the monument includes stones from 19 of the countries that were represented at the 1972 contest. For a historical perspective, visit HERE.

Unity Trail, Blue Earth: If you are looking for a walk through the woods on a hard surface, the Unity Trail provides a nice adventure for explorers of all ages! The trail begins either at the west rest stop on Interstate 90 located near Blue Earth or the Faribault County fairgrounds. Access the trail by taking the west on-ramp to I-90 from Hwy 169.  The entrance to the rest stop is a short distance from the on-ramp. In the parking lot, drive past the rest stop building to a parking spot near a gravel road. This trail takes you under the east and west bound bridges crossing the Blue Earth river and heads south to the east bound rest stop and beyond. The length of the trail is sometimes shortened during high water times.

Millicent Hanson has volunteered with Judy Tupper in the Genesis library since the Academy started. She and her late husband, Roger, enjoyed traveling and hiking in many areas near and far. She is looking forward to exploring trails with her new Goldendoodle pal, Jagger.