October 5, 2018
We thought it was high time we saw some of the waterfalls we drive by in Southeastern Minnesota. It wasn’t raining today, unusual this year, so we went exploring.
First, is the non-waterfall – Zumbro Falls. The city dates to the mid-1800’s. A grist-mill dam created the falls at the original location of the. Numerous floods over the years swept away the dam and the waterfall. Needless to say, we didn’t stop here.
We saw our first waterfall 40 miles west of Zumbro Falls, in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Established in 1945, the park has eleven miles of hiking trails, four miles of snowmobile trails, and a mile of snowshoe trail. It also has a lovely waterfall, called Hidden Falls.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is comprised of two, nearly horizontal, layers: a layer of glacial drift about 150 feet thick over a layer of limestone. The limestone is buried in most parts of the park, but is visible at Hidden Falls on Prairie Creek. As the creek flowed over the hard limestone bedrock, lower layers of soft shale bedrock eroded faster and undercut the limestone, creating a rock shelf with a waterfall.
You can walk across the creek to continue hiking through the park.
We then drove east to the City of Cannon Falls, through rolling farmland. The fall colors are not at peak yet, but it still made for a beautiful drive.
Cannon Falls experienced a very bad storm a couple of weeks ago, and there is still evidence of the damage, with fences down, homes damaged, and many trees uprooted. With all of the rain recently, the waterfall has a good, strong flow.
The waterfall, for which the city is named, is located on the Little Cannon River, less than a mile from where it empties into the Cannon River. Take a walk in Minnieska Park for some good views of the falls.
I especially liked the stelae that were posted in the park, with the message, in several languages: “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”
Our last stop was seventeen miles north of Cannon Falls. Hastings is home to Vermillion Falls at Vermillion Falls State Park. This 100 foot waterfall on the Vermillion River is located next to Ardent Mills flour mill. The original mill, built in 1853, and powered by Vermillion Falls, was the first operating mill in Minnesota Graham flour was invented here, a key ingredient in graham crackers, so when you are enjoying your S’mores, remember it’s possible in part because of the mill in Hastings.
The park is home to a white squirrel. We have black squirrels at home, which are probably variants of the eastern grey squirrel. I’d not seen a white one before. It might be an albino, but more likely, is another variant of the eastern grey squirrel. It was difficult to get close enough to get a good shot of it, as it was pretty skittish.