Lisa Brainard: Special events keep Whitewater Park busy this fall


PHOTO COURTESY FRIENDS OF WHITEWATER STATE PARK See the Marnach House on Sept. 14 as part of a weekend full of archaeology and history programs at Whitewater State Park, north of St. Charles. This was a Lewiston-Altura School class visiting in 2015.
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Lisa Brainard
Journey vs Destination

Fall is an excellent time to visit Whitewater State Park, located north of St. Charles on Highway 74. First, of course, there are the leaves on the many trees there. Eventually they change color, providing beautiful, scenic views throughout the hillsides, bluffs and valleys.

Beyond that, Whitewater offers a bunch of interpretive programs. Look for the treasured, annual activities, as well as the new events during this special centennial anniversary year for the park. Five programs are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14, in a centennial edition of the annual Whitewater Valley Archaeology and History Festival. The overall schedule looks like this:

Friday, Sept. 13, 6 to 7 p.m. A Walk Through the Ghost Camp. As part of the Whitewater Valley Archaeology and History Festival, join staff and volunteers for a stroll through Whitewater's distant past. Travel back to the Great Depression and learn about the lives of the young men who helped build Whitewater State Park. The program will offer a unique opportunity to see what the camp looked like with outlines of the buildings placed in their original locations. Meet at the south picnic area.

Saturday, Sept. 14, 8 to 10:30 a.m. Marnach House Hike. Take a trip and hike into the past with a naturalist to explore an old stagecoach route to the historic Marnach House. This three-mile, round-trip hike will introduce you to some of the earliest settlers of the Whitewater Valley and you will get a rare look inside the stone house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bring transportation and a water bottle. Meet at the visitor center.

Saturday, Sept. 14, 11 a.m. to noon. Return to Backyard Canyon: A Trip Down Hwy 74. Join author Peg Brauerfiend at the picnic pavilion in the north picnic area to hear some of her tales of the Whitewater Valley. She’s collected many stories through interviews with locals and research into local places. The story of life along Highway 74 between Whitewater State Park and the Mississippi is captured in her book, Return to Backyard Canyon.

Saturday, Sept. 14, Noon to 3 p.m. Children's Hands-on History. Children can partake of hands-on history at the south picnic area. They will have the opportunity to try a variety of activities such as archery, atlatl throwing, flint knapping, pioneer games and old-time tools.

Saturday, Sept. 14, 2 to 4 p.m. Ghost Town Cemetery Field Trip. The town of Beaver was abandoned in 1938 after repeated flooding. This ghost town cemetery holds many stories of pioneers, civil war veterans, Minnesota conservation hero Richard Dorer and others who have lived in the Whitewater Valley. Visit the cemetery and learn some fascinating history about the area. Bring your own transportation as the cemetery is located 5 miles north of the park. Meet at the visitor center.

Saturday, Sept. 14, 5 to 6 p.m. The Boys with P.W. on Their Pants. Meet at the south picnic area to join a naturalist for a walk through the old POW (Prisoners of War) camp. During this one-hour program learn how, during World War II, nearly 300 German prisoners of war ended up calling Whitewater State Park home.

There will be more events at Whitewater State Park this fall. Watch for details. But, for now, make note of these on your calendar: Oct. 18 and 19, Geology Gathering; November – History Mystery Geocache Challenge; and Dec. 20, Winter Celebration.

Check out the park at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00280#homepage, and centennial events on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/friends-of-whitewater-state-park/whitewater-state-park-centennial-anniversary/266849604088292/

Thanks go to Park Naturalist Sara Holger for helping to compile all this information.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.