Minnesota River Valley: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Part I

One of the goals my wife and I have set for ourselves is to explore the Minnesota River Valley as it passes through the Metro Area. It’s a pretty large area – the green space surrounding the river is a mile wide in places, and if I include everything between US-169 and the airport, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

I’m pretty familiar with Fort Snelling State Park, but there’s also a couple of National Wildlife Refuges in there, as well as dozens of parks owned by Bloomington and Eden Prairie. Some of the trails meander continuously throughout all of them, though, so it can be tough to know exactly who owns what down there. And that’s just the Hennepin County side of the river. The Dakota County side is equally complex, I’m sure.

Our first exploration started at the Old Cedar Avenue Trailhead. We followed the path northeast for about a mile and a half, past the old gravel pits to the Bloomington Bass Ponds. I’m about 80% sure that our entire trip was contained within the Long Meadow Lake Unit Park, part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.


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Here’s some photos of the afternoon hike:

Before heading out, KP and I made sure to double-check our provisions. I required soda; her, puffy rice snacks.

Vision. Determination.

We were hoping we would be able to go out onto the Old Cedar Avenue bridge. We knew it was “closed”, but closed and “closed” are two different things. There were actually people out on the bridge – you could get around the fences, but it required a little bit more scrambling than I was comfortable with doing with KP strapped to my chest.

Old Cedar Avenue Bridge - Closed.

The trails could accommodate only the toughest of travelers. Benches were scarce, requiring nearly a quarter mile trek between sitting opportunities.

Bench.

KP loves bridges!

Infrastructure! TH-77.

My sturdy travel companion. She is an extraordinarily hardy and capable outdoorsperson, other than the fact that her socks keep falling off.

Travel Companions.

Pretty nice views of Long Meadow Lake.

Long Meadow Lake.

KP, emboldened by her first successful venture into the vast uncharted Minnesota River Valley, tried to ride home without a car seat facing forward. Not so fast, kid.

She's laughing because she's about to pull off one of her socks and stuff it in her mouth. Typical KP.

Ever explored the Minnesota River Valley? What’s your favorite part?

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