By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLS (WCCO) — At Whitewater State Park in Winona County, it doesn’t matter if it’s above or below 30 degrees — people show up for one particular snow activity.

Even with the ground covered in a blanket of January snow, Whitewater finds a way to stand out.

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There are bluffs that seem to push up, beaver dams that push across and a creek that pushes its way through it all. Every part of it can be seen if you have just the right footwear.

“I’ve been snowshoeing out here since high school,” Kelly Allen-Sobeck of Rochester said.

Kelly and her crew are part of a snowshoe group that loves to explore all 1,900 acres of the park. It’s an activity that’s gained plenty of traction during the pandemic. And the miles tick by when you’re having fun.

But no matter how cold it gets, they’d rather be here for countless reasons. For one, you can fish for trout year-round. Natural springs feed Trout Run Creek, so it never freezes over.

“They’re tricky to catch, and if you’re quiet and get snuck up on them, you’re doing good. You accomplished something,” Tom Sobeck said.

Jeremy Darst with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is an interpretive naturalist for the park.

“Snowshoeing gives you an opportunity to see a place in a new way. I might visit this park 10 years in a row in the summertime and I won’t see what I’ll see snowshoeing,” Darst said.

(credit: CBS)

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He also serves as park explorer, pointing out discoveries that have been made over Whitewater’s century-old history, such as the remains of an old cabin likely built in the 1800s. But, it’s the natural and rapidly changing beauty that he’s drawn to.

“I can walk on one side of the hill and be on a prairie that you would see in southwestern Minnesota, and I can walk to the other side of the hill and be in a northern forest,” Darst said.

It’s also one of the few places in Minnesota where animals, like timber rattlers and beavers, are neighbors.

The snow hides some things during the winter. But, if you’re willing to put in the steps you won’t be sorry.

“It’s really an opportunity to be active and see a place in a way that you never have. That’s where snowshoeing comes in,” Darst said. “This place is pretty breathtaking. It’s pretty hard to ignore.”

The park is also known for its eagles and peregrine falcons.

At one time, the Civil Conservation Corps worked on a number of projects at Whitewater, and the park also served as a German prisoner of war camp during World War II.

Snowshoeing is free on Saturdays.

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For more information on how to snowshoe Whitewater State Park.

John Lauritsen