Wednesday, September 19, 2012

State Park Apocrypha: Kaplan's Woods: September 16, 2012

Kaplan's Woods was a State Park in Minnesota, created by the legislature in 1935.  Like most other State Parks in the region (we have seen Minneopa, Flandreau, Nerstrand-Big Woods, and Rice Lake thus far), it was deciduous hardwood forestland with a bit of water (the Straight River).  It's close proximity to Owatonna gave it kind of a "city park" atmosphere - like Flandreau, I suppose.  It remained a place for locals to picnic and enjoy the trails for about 30 years.  My dad mentioned that he and his brothers spent some time there - but apparently the fishing on Rice Lake made that the more popular park for them.

A pretty path on a Sunday morning in Kaplan's Woods

In the early 1960's, Interstate 35W was constructed nearby.  A good portion of Kaplan's Woods State Park was swallowed up by the highway.  The state decided that, at only 154 remaining acres, it was too small to maintain as a State Park.  It was transferred to the City of Owatonna in 1963, and it remains a City Park to this day.

Kaplan's Woods lives on, surrounded by 35W, US hwy 14, and the streets of Owatonna

The loss of Kaplan's Woods State Park was actually a catalyst for the creation of Rice Lake State Park.  The townspeople of Owatonna also wanted a place to swim - so they turned their eyes towards Rice Lake.  Rice Lake State Park was born with the intent of dredging the shallow lake to make a new swimming pool for folks like my dad and his brothers.  Unfortunately for them, the dreams of dredging Rice Lake never came true.  Instead of it being a swimming pool for the people of Owatonna, it became a great place for migrating birds to stop in the spring and the fall.  Can't say I'm sad the swimming pool thing didn't work out.

A bit o' prairie

Although I can't add this hike to the State Park list, it deserves mention.  Times change, the landscape changes.  We lose one park, we gain another.  The state of Minnesota has added new parks over the years - including one that is too new for a Hiking Club Trail.  It's the circle of life!

Total miles hiked today: (this park) 2.5
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 124.9

Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Thunderdog - n/a; Elly - 0
Total ticks (in 2012): 48

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