Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Day at Frontenac State Park

Yesterday we spent a wonderful day outdoors in Frontenac State Park, located along the Mississippi south of Red Wing. We'd arranged to meet fellow nature blogger Bruce Ause of Red Wing Nature Notes, a blog I admire and am inspired by. He was leading an interpretive hike in the park, which we joined, after which we'd planned to have Bruce show us other favorite spots in the park.

As always, click on any of the photos to see them much larger. It's definitely worth doing!

One of the many scenic overlooks from the park's bluffs

Cottonwood tree in prairie succession area

Woodlands on a perfect fall day

Oak branches against the sky

Bench and overlook where we stopped to eat our lunch

Goldenrod gone to seed

This is our new friend and guide on the hike, Bruce Ause, who in 1970 became the founding director of the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center. We felt lucky to benefit from the knowledge and experience he's gained from 30-plus years conducting outdoor education programs in the area and leading interpretive hikes like this one as a DNR volunteer.

In the uplands area of the park, we saw quite a few bluebirds, a ruby-crowned kinglet, a meadowlark, some dark-eyed juncos, a red-breasted nuthatch, several types of sparrows, plenty of chickadees, one or more yellow-rumped warblers (we had a nice view of the warblers in the treetops from our lunch bench at the top of a steep drop-off), a turkey vulture, and a sharp-shinned hawk (no eagles today, that we noticed -- they will be gathering more along the river as other fishing sources start to freeze over). We also saw three deer quite close to us as we walked through open, grassy areas.

Another view of the river and the Wisconsin-side bluffs, with puffs of smoke in the Old Frontenac area below, perhaps from leaf- or brush-burning

After finishing the uplands part of our our hike, Bruce suggested that Dave and I might enjoy heading down to river level to follow the trail that crosses Wells Creek out to Sand Point -- so we did. Down here the trees were far bigger and older than most we had seen up above. There was a definite "forest primeval" sense to the place.

A lengthy boardwalk traverses some of the wetter areas along this .7-mile trail. It appeared that at least part of the boardwalk had been underwater during the recent flooding. Here, a tree had fallen across the boardwalk, knocking one section down. There was a fetid, swampy smell to these wetter areas.

Wells Creek, seen from trail bridge

The trail ended at the edge of the water, where usually there is a good area of mudflats attractive to shorebirds. Right now it is all underwater, and all we saw were gulls, grackles and (more excitingly) two belted kingfishers.

Thanks, Bruce, for a marvelous outing. We couldn't have picked a better day for it.


Beth said...

So pretty, Penny! You are right about needing to plan a visit!

Mary S. said...

Some great photos here -- especially the one of the tree bending over the trail. You really captured the low fall sun.

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos and great descriptions! I camped at Frontenac a few years ago and really enjoyed the park. The views and hiking trails were great. The skunks though were very "friendly" in the campground. They must have been used to finding leftovers.

Penelope said...

Thanks for the comments. I think views of the Mississippi from the bluffs in the Red Wing and LaCrosse areas are among the most breathtaking scenery in the world. @zoologirl, I'm happy to discover your blog via your comment here. I will add it to my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I already have your blog on mine! :)