Week Of Field Trips

I started a part time job with the National Parks this week. I'll be doing a lot of what I normally do, but for the parks service. I'll mostly be at the Mississippi River Visitor's Center at the Science Museum, so if you find yourself in St. Paul, stop in and say hello. This week has been a week of field trips to learn about the Mississippi River and cool places to visit.

For example, at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, you can see some early mines that were part of Minnesota's first brewery. The above mine belonged to a brewery once owned by Jacob Schmidt and he would keep lager in there (sometimes helping to maintain a cooler temperature by putting ice from the Mississippi in the mine). There is also a cave sacred to the Dakota called Wakan Tipi, but it is completely blocked from the public for safety reasons.

While we were walking around, there was a pair of red-tailed hawks soaring over us. The above bird hung in the air like a kite, made a steep dive, and landed on this branch attempting to rip it off. It was gathering sticks for the nest--it was very cool to watch.

This is one of the many mounds found at Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul. The mounds were created by the Hopewell Indians and used for burial. I love that there are Indian Burial Mounds right in St. Paul--surrounded by playgrounds and bluebird houses.

As a matter of fact, here is one of the bluebirds hanging around the park. There's a point where you can stand in front of a mound and see not only the nearby downtown St. Paul skyline, but also the Minneapolis skyline. An Indian burial ground right in a major metro area--how has there not been any sort of zombie attack or poltergeists going on?

We also stopped at Lilydale Regional Park which is known for its fossils. Our guide kept telling us that we'd just go a little farther. He really wanted us to go up this hill--there was a clay pit we really had to see...I'll admit that I was skeptical.

We got to the pit and he was correct, it was worth it. The water that trickles out forms huge ice falls which people can get permits to climb in winter. All the rocks in this area are covered with fossils:

This was one of several rocks that I picked up and you could easily see fossils--don't ask me what kind--it looks like some coral and a few shells. A few hundred million years ago this area was at the bottom of a sea. When you get into the park, you can see layers of sandstone and on top of that is a layer of shale that's chock full of the fossils--you are supposed to get a $10 fossil collecting permit from St. Paul before you take anything home. You will also find a ton of bricks at the park too, as it used to be a brickyard. I would have a tough time at this park in May. I'd want to look down for fossils, but since it's right along the river I would be watching for warblers too.