Interstate State Park - Minnesota - Winter

Taylors Falls Travel Blog

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looking upstream - St. Croix River

Interstate State Park contains some of the most unique geology in Minnesota, and perhaps even the world.  About 1100 million years ago, this area was part of the mid-continental rift where the North American plate began pulling apart.  This rift stretched from Ontario, through Minnesota and Wisconsin, and into Iowa and Nebraska.  As the continent was pulling apart, the area was filled with lava flows which formed the basalt rocks you see in the park.  The tough basalt resisted erosion when the area was later covered with shallow seas.  And then the glaciers came.  Ten thousand years ago, the glaciers began to melt and Glacial Lake Duluth (present day Lake Superior) began filling with the melt water, but could not drain due to glacial ice.

snow filled pothole
  The lake level rose hundreds of feet before the melt water spilled over sending huge volumes of water down the Glacial St. Croix river valley.  The melt water cut a channel over a mile wide and hundreds of feet deep.  The swirling waters caused rocks and sand to become trapped in eddys and the swirling rocks began carving out holes in the bedrock.  As the holes got bigger and deeper, the water swirled even more, causing round, deep holes to form known as potholes. 

Interstate Park contains the world's most concentrated area of potholes - over 100 potholes in an area of 20 acres.  The park also contains the world's deepest known pothole at approximately 60 feet deep and 15 feet wide.  Another pothole is suspected of being up to 80 feet deep.

the deepest pothole
  Many potholes have not been excavated to determine their depth and a swampy area is suspected of containing some of the deepest potholes known. 

The Minnesota side has a 1/4 mile interpretive pothole trail that winds around the potholes with information signs.  The parking lot is closed in winter and I'm guessing its because the trails are a little treacherous in winter.  I was up in the area for a funeral and decided to make the day better by hiking in the park.  I walked around the potholes area (by myself) and decided it wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done.  The trails are not maintained in winter and some of the potholes are filled with snow so it would be easy to fall in one.  The paths were very slippery and it could have been disasterous if I had slipped and fallen into a pothole since no one really knew where I was.  But that didn't stop me from crawling all over the rocks.  At some points I had to pull myself up using the railing - at least then I knew where the potholes were.  I spent about an hour crawling around before moving on.  This place is incredible at any season - just a little more dangerous during winter ;)

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looking upstream - St. Croix River
looking upstream - St. Croix River
snow filled pothole
snow filled pothole
the deepest pothole
the deepest pothole
Devils Kettle - pumped out in sum…
Devil's Kettle - pumped out in su…
channel not frozen
channel not frozen
frozen springs
frozen springs
water under the bridge
water under the bridge
looking downstream
looking downstream
snow in parking lot
snow in parking lot
my shadow
my shadow
pot hole with green ferns
pot hole with green ferns
looking at Wisconsin side of park
looking at Wisconsin side of park
me hiking in the snow
me hiking in the snow
basalt flows
basalt flows
looking downstream
looking downstream
looking down from above
looking down from above
shouldnt have climbed up here
shouldn't have climbed up here
hard to see trail and potholes
hard to see trail and potholes
trail around a pothole
trail around a pothole
when in doubt, make your own trail
when in doubt, make your own trail
drifts on river
drifts on river
basalt wall
basalt wall
good place to climb
good place to climb
Taylors Falls
photo by: alyssa_ob