At Minneopa, the hike began at the picnic shelter on the falls side of the park. Kudelka led the group over the new bridge that crosses the lower falls and down to the creek, which he noted was at the “highest level I’ve seen in months.”
Along the way, Kudelka pointed out the steps that were built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration and talked about the impact of drought at Minneopa. During the summer, he said, park staff cleared more than 1,000 dead carp from a pool above the falls.
As hikers crossed the creek and ascended the opposite embankment before re-tracing the route, Kudelka talked about the formation of the Minnesota River Valley through the ages, how geologists believe its deep valley was carved by the Glacial River Warren about 10,000 years ago. He talked about the bald eagle nest that park visitors discovered in a cottonwood tree and the hand-dug well that still exists near Williams Nature Center on the former site of a Dakota village that preceded the village of Minneopa.
As the park naturalist, Kudelka said he enjoys a continual sense of discovery when hiking the park. He said he hoped to share some of that discovery with visitors.
“It’s such a unique story, how the whole Minnesota River valley was formed,” he said. “For me, every day is a learning experience. That’s what I enjoy.”
— Some information for this story was provided by The Associated Press.