Need a place to go when you’re looking to de-stress? Look no further than the Grey Cloud Island State Natural Area, with parking at 103rd Avenue and Hadley, as well as just off of 110th Street …
Need a place to go when you’re looking to de-stress? Look no further than the Grey Cloud Island State Natural Area, with parking at 103rd Avenue and Hadley, as well as just off of 110th Street South. At 237 acres of near pristine and trackless wilderness (informal trails do exist), it’s just minutes from modern life, but a world away. Care to come and play?
“Birdwatching is a favorite pastime here,” the website of the National Park Service (NPS) says of Grey Cloud, which is managed through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Each spring the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area hosts a ‘Big Watch’ for birds at Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area. So how did the ‘unusual geology’ (NPS site) of the Grey Cloud Dunes State Natural Area form? For that, there’s Explore Minnesota to explain more.
“The landscape at Grey Cloud Dunes grandly illustrates the story of the Mississippi River’s past,” the site for Grey Cloud at exploreminnesota. com states. “Two terraces roughly 50 and 110 feet above the present- day water surface are the handiwork of Glacial River Warren, which drained Glacial Lake Agassiz between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago.”
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Above the terraces rest the dunes of later origin, forming “during a mid-Holocene warm/ dry period just 8,000 to 4,000 years ago. But in case you happen to spot a blue racer snake while out on the dunes, relax!—they’re not dangerous to humans.
At the same time, “Large numbers of raptors and waterfowl may be seen moving along the Mississippi flyway during spring and fall migrations.”
Don’t have the money for admission? No worries! The Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and National Area is free to visitors. Come on down and walk around, but as noted on the explore Minnesota site, “please steer clear of sparsely vegetated areas of dune slopes and ‘blowouts,’” as these are fragile and offer habitat for sea beach needle grass, also called seaside-three awn. Once you’ve had your fill of nature and yearn for a return to civilization or nature elsewhere, please use the foot brush made available at the trail head to take the nature-based toxin produced by spotted knapweed off the soles of your shoes. Spotted knapweed is just one of many invasive plants in the area, with the need to be cordoned in and contained from spreading elsewhere. But otherwise?
Just enjoy the nice breeze—although a compass might be a good idea as well. There are, after all, only informal trails. Try finding those on your way to work and play.