Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hike crosses moraine at new Minnesota park

Fishing pier on Big Marine Lake.
Photo courtesy of 
Day hikers can enjoy a walk through a woodlands and on long pier at Big Marine Park Reserve in east-central Minnesota.

The unnamed trail in the Washington County park – christened here for convenience’s sake – runs 0.75 miles round-trip. The park is roughly equidistant between the communities of Marine on St. Croix, Hugo and Forest Lake.

A fairly new park, Big Marine opened in 2008. It currently consists of 657 acres and features a swimming beach. Plans call for expanding the preserve to 1800 acres with about four-fifths of it set aside as a prairie-like area similar to the way pioneers found it when first settled there.

To reach the park, from Minn. Hwy. 95 in Marine on St. Croix, head west on County Hwy. 4 (aka 170th St. N.). Turn right/north onto Morning Trail North. The park entry road (aka Lomond Trail North) is on the right/east. When the entry road splits, go straight/west, following it to the last/northernmost parking lot (the road loops back onto itself at the lot).

The turf trail leaves from the park's western side, entering a deciduous forest, which makes for a colorful walk in autumn. Sitting between two wetlands, the woods is atop a ground moraine, or sediment – usually sand, clay and boulders – deposited in piles as the glacier retreated at the end of the last ice age.

Upon reaching the intersection with the paved trail, retrace your steps back to the parking lot. Once at the lot, cross to its northeast corner, where a dirt path leads to a fishing pier on the south side of Big Marine Lake; the pier is 100-feet long and handicap accessible.

A popular fishing lake, Big Marine sports populations of bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye. Fishing poles and tackle available at the park's contact station, just in case you forgot your own.

One more caveat: Dogs are allowed on the park's trails but must be leashed.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.