Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interstate State Park, Taylors Falls MN

This is the first post discussing famous places of scenic beauty, garden design and inspiration from nature.

A small park on the western shore of the St. Croix River at the south edge of Taylors Falls it’s full of beauty everyone can appreciate; towering rock, deep flowing water and a mix of broadleaf and boreal forest.  Found within The Dalles of the St. Croix the area is rich in geological, ecological and human history.
Bedrock of basalt lava flows filled a rift valley are over 1.1 billion years old. Sandstones deposited from tropical seas covered the basalt. The current topography was transformed by glaciers.

Here the St. Croix River flows through a valley over a mile wide. The river at this point is typically 70 feet with pools to 100 feet deep. A plaque in the park mentions the trail is 200 feet under the surface of Glacial River St. Croix which quickly reduced Glacial Lake Duluth (current remnant Lake Superior). The main feature of the park is the potholes created by circular erosion of material by the powerful flow of water. Some have been excavated and found to be 60 feet deep, the world’s largest potholes.

Just north of the park is St. Croix Falls Dam which drowned the rapids at the top of the dalles. This hydroelectric plant providing energy for the Twin Cities has recently been supplanted by connection to the Manitoba hydroelectric power grid. Originally a dam was proposed for a lumber mill and transporting timber south. But climax white pine forests were quickly cut and not restored, the timber industry collapsed as the dam was finished. Tourism is the primary industry today. Does the dam serve any purpose? Is restoration of the rapids possible? (See The St. Croix Dam a Fatal Blockage published by Macalester College.)

In 1771 in a great battle at the rapids portage the Ojibway wrested control of the Upper St Croix valley from the Lakota and their allies the Fox. This valley now comprises the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, one of the original eight National Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The park marks a transition from mixed deciduous hardwood to boreal ecologies. This area has been seriously altered through human intervention. The wild demand for timber destroyed the climax White Pine-White spruce-Aspen forest of pre-european settlement. Red Oak-Sugar Maple-Basswood forest has supplanted and dominates surrounding lands. The cliffs and talus slopes are covered with pine and cedar.

We can get inspiration for our gardens from nature in the park.

Much of the area is monumental in scope the scale creates wonder and awe. The river can inspire a water gardener to develop a plan modeled on the river. Replacing the dam, long swift rapids of tumbling water plunge into the deep pools of the basaltic canyon.  Depending on finances a gardener could recreate the river course on a god-like human perspective or with more expense on a half-human scale. Rather than using glacial or river boulders we could use trap rock or something of dense basaltic character. Many photos are taken from a rocky promontory in the park on the Minnesota side. It allows excellent views up and down the dalles. You can use a site on your garden course to the same effect.

As you can see by my photos there are many other ideas to adopt. A marker framed by a single monolithic pine.

Curtain Falls used to fashion a dry waterfall in an aspen vale.

The drooping branch of a maple reflected in the water at the mouth of a pothole.

A sight rarely created outside of nature, gnarled roots clinging to life, requires vision and time. What beauty in shape and texture can be fashioned. You may diminish scale and time through bonsai or niwaki. These techniques applied to pines and cedar can provide effective replacement.

Interstate Park and the upper St. Croix provide an inspirational guide for creating beauty from nature.

Before you visit download the wildflower and bird checklists from:
Blue Vervain

No comments:

Post a Comment