Upcoming slices of history to be shared at Minnesota state parks include a hike to the Marnach House at Whitewater. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Upcoming slices of history to be shared at Minnesota state parks include a hike to the Marnach House at Whitewater. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
If you're like me - and enjoy a side of history with your outdoor travels - a trip to a Minnesota state park might be just the ticket this year.

I went to the state's DNR website in search of the calendar of events. What I first found was a welcome surprise. The site has been revised to offer more and better-organized information, all in a very user-friendly layout.

One example would be the tantalizing teasers urging you to check out activities like the "I Can" programs for kids and families offered through the Parks and Trails Department, a fishing opener, or May Arbor Month.

Another feature is video offerings of all types. It appears they may have been there before, but now they're super easy to find, linked to the DNR's Youtube channel. I checked out the one for the Cuyana Country Recreation Area, where trails were built in the past few years specifically for mountain biking. The rec area is near the towns of Crosby and Ironton. It's the site of a former iron ore mine with terrain from easy to tough, as well as scenic views and fishing in mining-pits-turned-water-filled lakes. Watching the video gives a fuller idea of what to expect there. And there are many videos.

Thoroughly check out the website when you get a chance, http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/index.html

History shared

After getting familiar with the DNR site, let's turn our attention to the handy-dandy events calendar. You can pretty much always find something to do there.

I'm trying to save you some time by going through and pulling what I feel are enticing history offerings at parks, so you can get event dates on your calendar. Here we go...

Friday, May 23, 8:30-9:30 p.m., at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park south of Wykoff: "'History of the Fillmore County CCC, Companies 706 and 751." 2014 marks the 81st anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and its great service to America. The Corps completed public works projects while providing employment for young men 18 to 25 during a time of great economic hardship. At the height of the program there were 135 camps in Minnesota, with three in Fillmore County. Hear the history and see historic photographs in this presentation about 'Roosevelt's Tree Army.'"

Saturday, May 24, 1-3 p.m., Whitewater State Park, south of Elba: "The village of Beaver was abandoned in 1938 after repeated flooding. This ghost town cemetery holds many stories of pioneers, civil war veterans, conservation hero Richard Dorer and others. Join us for a cemetery visit and learn some fascinating history about the area. Bring your own transportation, as the cemetery is located five miles north of the park. We'll begin at the visitor center."

Sunday, May 25, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., William O'Brien State Park near the town of Marine-On St. Croix. "Join us on the rails as we take an antique train ride. After a mile walk out to the train tracks, a naturalist and a train conductor will rove the train cars and take you on a tour of the history and landscapes of the St. Croix Valley. Learn some of the natural and cultural features of the St. Croix Valley and early history of the train era in the valley. At Osceola, Wis., you can hop off the train to do lunch or antiquing or continue on the train to Dresser, Wis. The train turns around at Dresser, makes another brief stop at Osceola, and will then bring you back to the park. So bring snacks or a lunch if you plan to stay on the train. The day starts at the visitor center at 10:45a.m., when we will head out to the tracks. The train will drop you back at the park around 3:30 p.m. The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for kids under 16, and children under 4 ride free."

Monday, May 26, 10-11 a.m., Fort Snelling State Park, West St. Paul. "'Wokiksuye k'a Woyuonihan: Remembering and Honoring the Dakota People.' Come and learn about the first people to care for this land. We'll explore Fort Snelling State Park and visit the sacred site of Dakota genesis as well as the tragic place where the Dakota began their forced removal from Minnesota. Discover the natural landscape and learn about its deep connection with the Dakota people." This program also is offered Thursday, May 29, at the same time.

Friday, May 30, 6-7 p.m., Whitewater State Park, south of Elba: "Did you know that Whitewater State Park was once home to German prisoners of war? In fact, local legend has it that many German POWs actually requested to be placed here because of the scenic beauty and friendly people. Come to this dynamic presentation to learn more about the POWs who stayed here."

Saturday, June 7, 3 p.m., Minneopa State Park, west of Mankato. "150 years ago, Louis Seppmann, a German immigrant, finished building a stone windmill on the bluff overlooking the Minnesota River. Designed to grind wheat, the mill has stood the test of time despite losing its blades in a number of windstorms. Today we are celebrating the amazing achievement of this pioneer and what was brought to this region of Minnesota. Meet 'Louis Seppmann' and hear some of the stories of early pioneer life on the vast tallgrass prairie and Minnesota River Valley. This program is sponsored by the Blue Earth County Historical Society and Friends of Minneopa. Meet at the Seppmann Mill on the campground side of the park."

Friday, June 13, 6:30-8 p.m. The May 30 program at Whitewater State Park is repeated.

Saturday, June 28, 3-5 p.m., Whitewater State Park. "In 1857, Luxembourg immigrant Nicholas Marnach and his father, John, built a stone home in the wilderness of the Whitewater River Valley. In the early 1990s, modern day Luxembourgers and area residents restored the home. The Marnach House stands today as a symbol of pioneer times and dramatic impacts of land use practices in the Whitewater Watershed. Join us at the Whitewater Valley Visitor Center to hear the story of this National Historic site. After the presentation, we will caravan into the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area to the Marnach House trailhead where folks may hike at their leisure up the 1.6-mile trail to the house. Local volunteers will greet you at the house for a rare inside tour."

Remember, this is just a smattering of listings that attracted my attention. There are many other programs, events and activities listed on the DNR website and calendar. Check it out. Also remember a state park admission fee is charged. There may be an additional fee; it's listed if so, such as the antique train ride.

Get out and enjoy!