In July 2014 I took a one day trip down to Southwest Minnesota to see the prairies and get a sense of what life was like for the Plains Indians who lived in this area as far back as 5000-7000 years ago. Buffalo were abundant at that time and there was (and still is) plenty of water.
The list of places I wanted to visit included Blue Mounds State Park, Pipestone National Monument and Jeffers Petroglyphs. One area not on my list for that day was the “Touch the Sky Prairie”.
About “Touch the Sky Prairie”
I honestly knew nothing about this special area and is one reason it wasn’t on my list. I discovered it just by following the road signs that mentioned it, and purely out of curiosity. It ended up being the highlight of my trip.
What I later found out is that “Touch the Sky Prairie” is a prairie restoration project established in part by one of my favorite nature photographers, Jim Brandenburg. In fact, Brandenburg (a former National Geographic photographer) grew up less than a mile from the “Touch the Sky Prairie”. I won’t go into all the history and background of this special place because you can read more about it on the Touch The Sky Prairie website.
The Prairie Trail
It was fortunate that I knew nothing this area because I had no expectations. From the road, it looked like one big prairie. It became more special once I started to hike the area. You could see barns and buildings in the distance, but it was a totally peaceful experience. There was no one else around, I had the entire area to myself.
I decided to hike a one mile trail to get a better feel of the area. The trail was wonderful, it was simply a cut grass trail with no signs of any wear or tear at all. Very natural.
A Prairie Oasis
In the middle of this large prairie was a wooded area with a small creek running through it. What was really amazing was that this lone wooded area was surrounded by a sea of tall grass prairie. I can imagine that a long time ago, Plains Indians saw this wooded area from a distance and made it a frequent destination for it’s fresh water and shade.
It was really amazing to see this area because in June the area was hit with a huge rain storm that dumped about 11 inches of rain in the area. You can see some remnants of it in the photo above with the clump of grass around the tree trunk. It looked like this entire area was covered by rushing water. In fact just a short distance away was a bridge that had totally been washed out by this flooding. A mere one month later you could barely tell what had happened, except for a nearby washed out bridge.
This was a totally peaceful place. You could hear the gurgling of water as it flowed through the rocks, the buzz of nearby bee and the sounds of a warm summer breeze. I could have spent all day here just taking in the ambiance of the area. I could have stayed all day.
Unfortunately, my day was quickly passing and so I needed to get back on the road to my next destination, Pipestone National Monument. I’ll write more about that destination soon.
For directions on how to get there, visit their website at Touch the Sky Prairie. The trail to the prairie waterfalls is in the area furthest to the west.