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Wander Minnesota: Northland Arboretum

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(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

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Just minutes away from the hubbub of the twin cities of Brainerd and Baxter is the Northland Arboretum. It’s almost a shock to find yourself so close to the fully built-out stretch of Highway 371 that goes through Baxter and just down the street from Fleet Farm, and yet you’re in a peaceful, calm nature preserve.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Northland Arboretum is made up of 500 acres of land, some of which previously belonged to the Brainerd Landfill. The Landfill closed in 1972, and the untouched 40 acres that was once the actual landfill is now thriving grassland. The Nature Conservancy owns 200 acres of land within the Arboretum itself, comprised mostly of Jack Pine Savanna.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

If you look closely at the above photograph, you can see the aptly named Monet Bridge in the background. It’s one of the many lovely features in the area nearest to the main entrance, where a number of small, groomed gardens offer a more formal garden experience.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There’s a wildlife garden, maintained in conjunction with the Minnesota DNR to provide vegetation appropriate for the local critters, birds and bees.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Some of the facilities are rustic, such as this outdoor stage. That’s OK—most of this nature preserve is, indeed, preserved nature rather than manicured gardens.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Memory Garden is the last of the planned gardens before the trails take visitors off into the wilds.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The winding and sometimes hilly trails wander through vast stands of Jack Pines, and it’s here that it’s hardest to believe there’s anything approaching civilization nearby.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

Most trees are towering, but others take on different, more graceful forms.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The Northland Arboretum is a thoughtfully designed preserve, very convenient for visitors to the area (and also located at a trailhead for the Paul Bunyan Trail), and full of beautiful things to enjoy. Take some time away from the lake to enjoy a hike through gardens and forests.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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