Blue Mounds State Park Offers A Glimpse of the Prairie

Located in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, Blue Mounds State Park encompasses a small remnant of the once vast prairie land that covered most of the central United States. The 1,826 acre park is marked by a large outcrop of Sioux Quartzite bedrock that was first known as the Mound, a mysterious line of rocks, a herd of American bison, as well as a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Where history and nature come together
Blue Mounds State Park was so named because of the one-and-one-half-mile-long line of Sioux Quartzite that rises from the prairie landscape. While the quartzite is pink to purplish in color, it appeared to be a bluish color to the early settlers who saw the cliffs from a distance. That blue color is still seen today at sunset. For this reason, the early settlers called the large outcropping the Blue Mound; and today it is often referred to as Minnesota’s Stonehedge.

In addition to this natural landmark, the park is home to a more than 1,200-foot line of rocks that is surrounded by mystery. No one knows for sure who placed this perfectly east-west line of stones, or for that matter why they did it. However, some believe the stones were placed by the Plains Indians to mark the spot of sun rise and sun set on both the fall and spring equinoxes.

The park also contains one building and four structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They were all constructed as part of the 1930s Work Progress Administration’s efforts. The WPA also built two dams along Mound Creek, which tumbles down a rocky gorge made of the pink and purplish colored Sioux Quartzite that was used to build the park’s structures. The result of the WPA’s efforts was the creation of the Mound Springs Recreational Reserve which opened in 1937 and was the catalyst for the creation of Blue Mounds State Park in 1961.

Year-round Recreational Opportunities
Hiking, swimming, boating, camping and biking are among the many warm-weather recreational activities available at Blue Mounds State Park. For the more adventurous, the 100-feet-tall Quartzite cliff for which the park is known is a popular spot for rock-climbing enthusiasts. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to climb the cliff to partake in the splendid view that awaits at the top. There’s also a hiking trail that takes visitors to the peak.

The park has a thirteen-mile trail system and naturalists offer guided hikes along many of the trails. There are also bike trails for cyclists; and the waterways can be explored via using a canoes or kayaks that is available to rent.

The winter months are just as attractive to visitors with the seven miles of snowmobile trails, a groomed cross country ski trail, and more than 2,000 acres just waiting to be traversed and explored on snowshoes.

A Stunning Landscape, Bison and Abundant Wildlife
A herd of more than 100 Bison are a popular attraction at Blue Mounds State Park; and visitors can observe these majestic animals grazing within a fenced-off bison range. The park is also home to deer, coyotes and a variety of prairie animal life. Birdwatchers have the opportunity to see more than 225 different species of birds, including tall-grass prairie birds and many species of western birds.

People who visit in late summer are treated to a vast panorama of color when the hundreds of varieties of wild flowers are in full bloom among the up to seven-feet-tall blue-stem prairie grasses. This glimpse of a nearly extinct natural habitat also conceals an unexpected surprise. Prickly pear cactus grow in the patches of shallow soil on the many Quartzite outcroppings; and a visit in late June to early July is the perfect time to see the yellow flowers of these cacti in full bloom.

Blue Mounds State Park is undoubtedly a perfect place to get away from city life and enjoy a bit of untouched natural beauty in an all-too-rare prairie setting. For information and camping reservations call 866-857-2757. General park information is available by calling 888-646-6367.