You may not believe we found solitude on one of the first warm, sunny days at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, but it is possible, I promise!
Now that we have a young one of our own, we are constantly trying to remember things that we did growing up in the Twin Cities. One thing that I have fond memories of is the Como-Harriet Streetcar at Lake Harriet. I had been checking their website this spring, anxious for them to start operating for the season. On Saturday, they started rolling!
There aren’t many opportunities to jump aboard a fully-restored streetcar from over 100 years ago, but the fine folks with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum operate out of both Excelsior and here at Lake Harriet. At Lake Harriet, about one mile of track remains from a past era where streetcars were part of daily life in the Twin Cities.
For only two bucks per person, with children three and under free, we enjoyed the fifteen minute ride, narrated by a friendly operator at each end. Enjoy the breeze through the open windows and learn a little history to boot! You can even get off at the Lake Calhoun stop and enjoy the beach there, too, before riding back to the depot at Lake Harriet.
We had seen a dirt path leading into the woods on our way to the streetcar station, so we walked over past the playground and found a sign for the Roberts Bird Sanctuary. Based on how busy the area is, I had two expectations: first, the trail would be crowded, just like the paved trail a hundred yards away along the lake, and second, there certainly wouldn’t be any birds!
How wrong I was on both points! As we stepped down the flight of stairs into the woods, the bustle of the Chain of Lakes faded away pretty quickly. Sure, you could always hear the cars, but otherwise, there was definitely some solitude. We probably only saw a half dozen people in our half-hour meander. As a bonus, there were birds! A few feet in, we saw a bird, and then another, and soon, they were all around us. It would be a great place for a bird lover! Learning to identify birds is definitely something I would like to do more someday.
Roberts Bird Sanctuary
We didn’t make it to the end of the trail, but I believe it opens up at the other end into a nicely landscaped garden area with flowers and benches. Overall, while the trail does parallel an ugly fence overlooking a beautiful cemetery, we were very pleased to find a neat, quiet place tucked away from the busy Chain of Lakes.
Do you have a secret sanctuary in the Twin Cities? Care to share? Leave a comment and let us know!
I was in Carver, MN, for the afternoon, and I thought I would check out some of the area trails. If you are walking down the hill on Ash Street, or driving by on Main Street, you can see signage on top of the flood levy for the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, which is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Trail Map at head of trail
Tell me you don’t want to see what is down that trail! It is pretty neat because the trail seemingly starts in the middle of the neighborhood.
Carver city street looking towards trailhead
There are houses on both sides of me here, with the crosswalk crossing Main Street. No parking lot, no signs…it is almost like a private trail for local residents of Carver, right out their back door.
The signage is for the Rapids Lake Unit, but there are definitely conflicts between the boundary signs and the map. According to maps such as this one, downtown Carver is quite a distance from federal land, but the boundary signs appear almost immediately. I am not sure who manages the land that is outside of the Rapids Lake Unit, but I assume it is state land, and it is definitely public land, because there are signs that infer hunting is allowed in-season. So, depending on the season, use appropriate caution.
After the bridge, you can decide whether to turn right or proceed straight ahead, with both directions following the Carver Creek trail. For this adventure, I chose straight, because I figured it would get me to the Minnesota River. The trail was wide and straight, which isn’t exactly my favorite type, but it was great to be in the woods, listening to the frogs. Being in Carver, there wasn’t even any highway noise, just the occasional Harley cruising down Main Street. Very nice!
Carver Creek trail
After only about a half mile, the trail seems to end in a clearing underneath power lines, on the bank of the river. With the water so high, there was a ten foot drop down to the swirling river. I’m sure that in the heat of the summer, there is a bit of a beach there. I was disappointed the trail didn’t continue along the river, but it appeared today would be a pretty short walk.
A ten-minute walk back, and I was in downtown Carver again. As you can see from the map I linked to above, the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area has a whole lot to offer. I was disappointed to figure out when I checked the maps after my quick walk that I hadn’t really even gotten to explore any of it, as most of the hike took place outside of the federal lands. This is another place I will most definitely have to come back and check out this summer. There is even a campground with hike-in sites down near Belle Plaine.
Leave us a comment below if you have any personal experience with any of the other units of this extensive Recreation Area. I would love to hear where to focus our attention next time we are that far south west of the metro area.
Don't miss an update