The Lake That Speaks: Mini-Minnesota Vacation #3

Lac Qui Parle, viewed from the Upper Campground

Russ and I have been sticking close to home lately, but not that close. Our last mini-Minnesota trip with our Scamp took us to the western prairies. We visited Lac Qui Parle State Park, which in French means “the lake that speaks.” (Or “lake which speaks.” But I can’t bear to use a “which” when a “that” will do.)

We lucked out, launching our weekend trip on a couple of the last unseasonably warm days of the season. We arrived at our Scampsite (in the Upper Campground – better view of the lake) on a Friday evening. We ate our supper on a picnic table overlooking this natural impoundment of the Minnesota River, formed by glaciers long ago. The lake earns its name because it’s a migratory stopover for thousands of birds in the spring and fall. A better name for it, perhaps, would be “the lake that sings.” During those times, visitors will hear a chorus of quacking and honking. Not many birds were around during our stay, but we did hear some Canada geese and murmurations of starlings.

Watching the orangey sunset in the big sky, we felt like we were stealing the last warmth before fall. Unlike our previous mini-trips to Lake Superior’s North Shore, trees were scarce at this campground – only a few, since we had crossed over into prairie country. We awoke in the morning to the sounds of gunshots – pheasant hunting season.

Our Scamp makes friends with one of the only trees near our site.

Saturday was forecast for warmth, so we planned to visit a farm where Russ’s daughter works and spend a few hours canoeing down the Chippewa River with her. I must admit I am spoiled by northern Minnesota Rivers. The Chippewa, which flows through agricultural land, looked a bit murky, but the cloudy water was overshadowed by the brilliant golden fall colors of the trees along its banks. The park offers canoe rentals if you want to explore the lake or the river. We were lucky enough to score our watercraft from the farm.

Water levels were low, so we needed to be on the lookout for shallows. We navigated many rapids – most Class I, which would have been more fun in higher water. Eagles visited us on the way, along with some mysterious waterfowl we never got close enough to identify.

The Chippewa River

On our last morning, we hiked the mown trail from the campground down to the lake. Then we walked up to the road and crossed it to see the largest cottonwood tree in Minnesota. One would expect a tree like this to be near the water, but it was up a hill and down the other side, many hundreds of yards away from the lake.

This grandmother tree is truly impressive. My pictures do not do it total justice. I thought I had seen large cottonwood trees before, but they pale compared to the girth of this one.

Just part of Minnesota’s largest cottonwood tree.

Here are some pros and cons of the Upper Campground at Lac Qui Parle.

PROS

  • The campground was quiet during the day and night.
  • Sites are spaced far enough apart to feel private.
  • Hiking trails are nearby and so are towns, if that’s your thing.

CON

  • There are hardly any trees in the campground, but this is a prairie, after all!

That’s it for our mini-vacations. Snow has arrived and we’ve stored the Scamp for winter, resting up for future adventures.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more scenic outhouse anywhere.

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