Friday, March 4, 2016


The name "Minnesota" comes from the Dakota word for "clear blue water," and Minnesota's nickname is "Land of 10,000 Lakes." It should come as no surprise that two of the first sites we visited on our trip to Minnesota involved water.

Our first destination was Snelling State Park, which sits on the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The Dakota Indians, who lived here before the Europeans arrived, considered this confluence to be the center of the world.
We were there on a cool, overcast day in October. As we drove through the park, the nearby city seemed far, far away. The breeze tickled the feathery pampas grass, but the water in the lakes sprinkled throughout the park appeared to be a flat, hard mirror.

The park has miles of biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing trails, but we saw no one as we drove around.

Bob was understandably excited when we came upon this flock of wild turkeys:
. . . and I was yet again grateful that digital cameras have replaced film:

After the War of 1812, a series of forts was built in the Northwest Territory, including one at this site in 1819.  It was originally called Fort St. Anthony and was used to control trade on the Mississippi and keep peace with and between the Indian tribes. During the Civil War it was used as an induction and training station for Union soldiers. Soldiers from Fort Snelling also fought in the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War of 1898.

During World War II, Fort Snelling was used as an Army base; cartoonist Charles Schulz was based here. It also had a language school that taught Japanese to 300,000 Army personnel.

Near-perfect reflections in the lakes:

One more reflection: two sisters--the bookends of the family:

Our next next stop was nearby Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, where we were introduced to a few of Minnesota's luminaries, beginning with John H. Stevens, possibly the first resident of the west bank of the Mississippi River in the area that became Minneapolis. Later he served in the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate:

Gunnar Wennerberg, a Swedish poet, composer, and politician, has no connection to Minnesota that I can find--other than the thousands of Swedish immigrants that settled in this area:

We were looking for the statue below, and we even asked several people about where it might be, but no one seemed to know, which is odd as it is the most famous statue in the park. It shows the legendary Hiawatha tenderly carrying his sweetheart, Minnehaha. The figures, sculpted by Jacob Fjelde in 1916, are based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem The Song of Hiawatha 
Photo from here
I've since learned that these lovers are hiding on a little island upstream from the Falls. We didn't go upstream--just downstream.  Oh well, next visit.

For now, you'll just have to settle for another beautiful young couple:

We did see the most photographed place in the park: 53-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls. Made popular by Longfellow's poem, it is hard to miss.
Interesting fact: Longfellow never actually visited the Falls. He was inspired by a photograph.

Hey, there's that cute couple again! (Hi, Watha! and Mini? Ha ha!)

Lady Autumn and her friends were out in all their finery, adding splashes of color to the riverbanks:

Dakota Chief Little Crow surveys the scene:
Little Crow negotiated a treaty with Minnesota settlers in 1851, but the government reneged on its side of the bargain, and Little Crow eventually felt he had no choice but to lead his tribe in a war to drive the settlers away. He and his people were routed in 1862, and a year later he was killed in a gunfight with a farmer who didn't know who he was. His body was dragged through the streets, and he was eventually beheaded and buried. A few weeks later the settlers figured out who he was, and the man who shot him was awarded $500 for "rendering service to the state."
This disembodied head takes on a certain creepiness for me now that I know Little Crow's story, which contrasts sharply with the romanticized story of Hiawatha and Minnehaha.

Susan Jeffers  is one of my favorite children's book illustrators. Her drawings are soft and tender and evocative, and that is especially true in her 2007 book Hiawatha. Jeffers chose to focus on only the beginning of Longfellow's 1855 book-length poem, the boyhood of the Great Peacemaker. Longfellow's wonderfully descriptive and cadenced writing ("By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water . . . ") is a good fit for young children, and Jeffers's sweet illustrations are a perfect visual accompaniment.


  1. The parks and the waterfall are beautiful. Nice to have them so close to two large metropolitan areas (or I guess the two cities are probably one large metropolitan area). I don't know how that old guy ended up with such a beauty, the couple in all those pictures, but good luck to him!

  2. The scenery is stunning, the "young couple" enchanting, and the sad stories of government treatment of Indian treaties predictable. You've got some great shots.