United States – Minnesota Interstate Park: An Amalgam of Relaxation and Education — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Delaney Babich

United States – Minnesota Interstate Park: An Amalgam of Relaxation and Education — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Delaney Babich

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This state park means countless things to different people; nature can provide healing, entertainment, education and beauty. To me, this place feels like home.

Ever since I moved to the area I have been drawn to the natural beauty and relaxing energy provided by the gracious conservationists who created this sanctuary. Whenever I am in its boundaries I feel an overwhelming sense of compassion and gratitude. My best friend and I have a connection to the landscape. It is a place for us to blow off steam, to sunbathe, rock climb, take creative photographs and above all, to remember our dear friend Alex who tragically lost his life to our majestic St. Croix River. Words can simply not express the deep love and connection I feel to this place. I lose myself and find peace, meditate and soak up the sun in this space where I can break the hold of conventional societal rule and just be myself. It will always be dear to me, and I will never forget its significance.

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It all began billions of years ago with the eruptions of volcanoes from the Midcontinent Rift System. Lava flows poured over the region, hardened and eventually became the landscape of the park. Glaciers from the last Ice Age carved the basalt and sandstone into the cliffs we see there today. The way was formed so perfectly that it became a major transportation route for Native Americans years later, along with fur traders of the 18th century. Around 1837 the logging era was in full swing, and logs were rafted down the St. Croix and through the town of Taylors Falls, where there was a sawmill and camp for production. Many logjams occurred, and people realized it was too tough a spot for such an industry. The logging industry is the reason for development in this area, for the economic boom, and for what grew into a large population. Around 1865, a bill was passed to secure the region as a protected area to stop mining and vandalism. The beginning stages of development started in 1920 and the park has been maintained ever since. Many of the important symbols and rock formation still exist; the state has made it abundantly clear how important the history of this river and its accomplishments are to the people of the area. Highway 8 runs through the park and has become a major vein of transportation from Minnesota to Wisconsin, bringing thousands through the area everyday. Needless to say, this park has become an abundantly important zone in Chisago County.

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The entrance of the park is situated in front of Highway 8, giving an open and welcoming feel to this palace of nature. There is a DNR building where you are able to go through a small museum of the history, buy souvenirs, and sign up for educational hikes or a ride on a paddle boat for a relaxing afternoon of sightseeing and historical facts. The structures and formations in this park are spectacular. The entire park has been carved out by glaciers, which left behind tunnels, immense potholes and mind-boggling cliffs. Once inside the park you start to come in contact with the potholes big and small. Some are large enough for you to fit in (one is so deep that there is a staircase leading to the bottom) and others are small enough to fit only your pinky finger into. Either way you get an overwhelming sense of how small you really are. Along with the potholes are gigantic cliffs where you can stand right at the edge, making you feel more alive than ever. The sounds of the river hypnotize you, your height above the water makes you feel powerful, and the sight of seeing so many others enjoy the beauty gives a sense of togetherness. Further into the park there is a place reserved for rock climbing. These are the tallest cliffs in the park, some fully intact but others starting to crumble and create new formations.

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Thousands of people have visited this park, coming from all over the state and even the country to explore the formations within its boundaries. Of course only those with cars and enough money to get to the location have visited, leaving many people out of the experience. Mostly middle to upper class families and people come to visit and camp. Those who come seem to interact differently than they might in a city setting; people are polite, they are more open with strangers, and they tend to take many photographs to share with others later. Something about the openness and beauty brings out the best in many people who visit. However, in this small town there is controversy about whether or not the large population of Hmong people who come to fish in the clean waters of the St. Croix are welcome, which can cause them to feel a little out of place when they visit. It is something that those in charge of the park are trying to overcome since they understand that all people should be able to experience such beauty.

What is important to remember is that the Interstate Park is a public space. Anyone is welcome to visit as long as they are respectful and pay the fee to park in the lot, use the campsites, or rent kayaks and canoes. State parks were created to give the public a place for recreational use, relaxation and a chance to get out of the city. They are usually designed for family activities, and can require an extended stay if you don’t live in the area. The growing popularity of this park has led to renovations of the parking lots, campgrounds and even a few of the buildings in Taylors Falls. The town has been tailored to be a tourist town, with a bed and breakfast, restaurants and historical sites throughout its area. This creates more revenue for the town, thus giving the park more motivation to be as pristine as possible. It has become much more than just a conservation effort, it has become a community and life source for the people who care about our environment and prosperity of the town. This place has taken a step in the direction of a museum, providing anything you would like to know about the history and back-story of the town and those living in it. This gives the place a business aspect, which I tend to ignore. I like to focus on the beauty and natural state, not the ways it can create more revenue.

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Overall, the park gives you an open feeling, one of imagination and importance. You start to perceive the world differently, forgetting about traffic, hardship, and society in general. The park is a place to get away, to relax and maybe even learn something new about yourself. Anything is possible when you step outside for a minute, when you enjoy the place nature itself has carved out for you to enjoy.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org

The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports will share brief dispatches from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

26 Comments

Filed under Delaney Babich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

26 responses to “United States – Minnesota Interstate Park: An Amalgam of Relaxation and Education — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Delaney Babich

  1. Neil Vierzba

    I liked reading this article because it’s close to home. Many of the other great articles have been about all different countries in the world and it was nice to read about this great state of Minnesota.

  2. Miranda King

    This was cool to read because of the intimate relationship to the park. I love being out in the wilderness. I grew up in the country and one of things I miss most about the country is walking through the woods and how peaceful it is.

  3. Jonia G

    I thought the way you illustrated how you feel connected to the park was touching and lovely. I also enjoyed that you threaded issues that exist in that environment: economic and racial. Overall, this article gave me a great insight to how much one place can mean to a person and have many threads of relation to it. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Maija

    This park may just be a park to some people but it could also be a family tradition, or even a sense of home like it is to the author. It’s amazing how many meanings this area has, and how much of an impact it has on people. Knowing that people do still appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature is comforting.

  5. Alayna McCawley

    I really enjoyed this report and the felt as though I could experience what the author was experiencing because of their excellent way at describing feelings and scenery. I was humbled to read about the history and the connection the author has to the park. Upon reading this, I am curious to visit this wondrous place in attempt to feel what the author felt; it seems like one of those places that you just have to see at least once in your life. It is amazing to learn all Minnesota has to offer.

  6. Kyle Hellmann

    I have camped, rocked climbed, and hiked every trail on the Minnesota Side of this park! Its important to note that this park is paired with the Wisconsin Interstate Park, directly across the St. Croix. After going to this wonderful place several times, I had no idea that there was an controversy, as it had never been brought up to me before. Hopefully this just becomes a thing of the past.

  7. Jenna M

    Very well written and I think you captured a lot of what others feel towards this beautiful environment. I am in 100 percent agreement with your statement about the openness and beauty bringing out the best in people. I often find myself forgetting my worries and stressors once I take a little time to soak up fresh air and nature. I really enjoyed reading your article!

  8. I really enjoyed your article about the park. I lived in Taylors Falls for a few years and spent many sunny afternoons soaking up the sun on the rock ledges above the river. If you go above the dam north of the town there is a cement wall that stretches out into the river. It is about four feet wide and maybe two-hundred feet long. If you walk out onto the wall and sit for a while beavers will swim up and check you out. It is a fun way to spend the afternoon. Thanks for the memories!

  9. Cali Stabe

    This was an amazing article that was very enjoyable to read because I can tell that what your writing about, you are very passionate about this and that shows and its so much more interesting to read when you can see that passion in their work. The pictures were also breathtaking.

  10. Chelsea Bastyr

    I really, really enjoyed this article. We ready so much about other places in the world that sound wonderful but it’s always so refreshing to read about a place so close to home. I am from Duluth but have never been to this park, but I would like to make it there this summer! I can really connect with what you said in the beginning about it being a place to remember a friend that passed away. A friend from high school passed away unexpectedly passed away and his favorite place was a hiking/running trail here in Duluth and we often go there to remember him and all the memories we shared. I’m very excited to visit this park and experience it for myself!

  11. Rachel Rees

    I enjoyed reading this article because I was able to relate to an outdoor sanctuary which I often go to clear my mind. It was also nice to read about such a beautiful place in Minnesota that has grown into such a great community. Hopefully I can make a trip there sometime when the weather gets warmer and see the beauty of it myself. Thanks for sharing!!

  12. Ada

    I really enjoyed reading about the history behind the park and its present day state. In addition to being able to deeply express your connection with nature and the park, your experiences and the pictures in the article are really able to tie together the past and present state of the park, remarking its change over time.

  13. Robert Ochs

    This article definitely makes me want to visit this park, especially since it is close to home for me. I remember once when I was 15 I went to the Boundary Waters for a week long camping trip. I wasn’t big on camping at the time and wasn’t sure what to think. But when I got there, I had never felt a more calm and relaxed feeling. I won’t ever forget that trip. Just like it seems you won’t forget about the times you go to this park.

  14. Katie Hass

    I really enjoyed reading this article because this is a park I haven’t heard of before. I’ve lived in Minnesota for about 12 years and I do agree that the scenery up in the area is gorgeous and perfect for relaxation. I do remember going to state parks in the last place I lived, Las Vegas, Nevada, and seeing all the rock formations and layers of sandstone was a treat. It’s nice to know that they’re working on keeping the history of the area alive as well. I’ll have to keep this park in mind for my next park excursion!

  15. Mickie Keuning

    That sounds like an awesome place. Although I have never been there, but I can relate to the feeling of having a natural environment that feels like a sanctuary. You depict this place very well and I would like to go visit!

  16. Chelsey L

    I really enjoyed reading this because you do not see a lot of articles that deal with state parks and how enjoyable they can be. It really caught me when you started describing the scenery so well and how beautiful it is. I hope to one day go and visit this place because I am a outdoorsy person.

  17. Luke Scharrer

    It is great to see an article about a local destination that many of us have the opportunity to appreciate. I have been there before, and the entire space is very accurately depicted. Beautiful photos, as well!

  18. Benjamin Carlson

    One of the greatest aspects of areas like this is that they are open to the public, but, like the article says, only those who can afford the trip can experience its beauty. If some areas of the park were made completely free to visits, do you think more people would make the trip?

  19. Emily Schiro

    This is an amazing illustration of what the the park looks like not only naturally but through your eyes. It seems like a magnificent place and you describe the connection you have with it really well. You have made me want to go visit this park come the summer months.

  20. Samantha Roettger

    I have canoed, hiked, camped, and rock climbed in this park so I am able to share the beauty you have found here. It is hard to put into words just how surreal and beautiful this park is. However, you did an excellent job putting this beauty and wonder into words. Your writing is very descriptive and brought images to my mind. Very nice piece!

  21. Paul Chazovachii

    I like how this article expresses then beauty of the park, it kinda reminded me of back home, how i would go to the parks close by and climb trees and stuff. Sometimes nature helps us relax and just let go by opening up to its beauty.

  22. Ashley Svihel

    I really enjoyed your article thank you for sharing a place that is so dear to you. It truly looks like a great place to blow off steam and escape from the our busy everyday lives for awhile. The pictures you have taken are beautiful and they made me want to visit this area someday.

  23. Austin Kindt

    I’ll have to add this spot on my map for places to check out this spring and summer. I can completely relate to how relaxing nature can be with getting away from civilization and breathing in fresh air. My plan for late July is to backpack Isle Royal across and back. Hopefully it will be a relaxing and memorable experience as nature can turn into misery with the right mix of weather. Thanks for sharing your experience and the background history that goes along with the park.

    • MIke Lehmann

      What an awesome place, can’t believe I have yet to visit there and I have lived in Minnesota all of my life! I definitely need to plan a visit out there, now that the weather is clearing up.

  24. Jimmy Lovrien

    Great background and analysis on not only Minnesota Interstate Park, but also public parks and spaces in general. The philosophy behind state and national parks — that is, preserving and conserving land in its “natural state” — is of importance. That being said, many of these areas were once completely logged and mined on. The natural state is a bit of an illusion. Regardless, the importance of ensuring protection is attractive to me. Also, I’m wondering just how “public” places like this can be. Although anyone can visit, there are certain restrictions in place, like the cost of entering and the travel time.

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