Conservation Minnesota

Hidden Gems Close By

While certainly many Minnesotans were up north during this great Labor Day weekend weather, and enjoying fun-filled water recreation, my wife and I stayed home in the metro area and experienced relative quietude.  I picked out a beautiful little lake in the far reaches of western Hennepin county to visit and go kayaking.

Little Long Lake contains about a 130-acre watershed, actually two lakes with a marsh in between, and 110 acres of it are under conservation easements by the Minnesota Land Trust, Hennepin County and the DNR. There is very serious consideration by Three Rivers Park District to purchase the whole area for park use and protection.

Presently, there are two church camps on the property that have been there for years. One, Camp Kingswood, does want to sell and has been talking to Three Rivers park officials. The other, Voyageurs, is at the extreme southeast side of the lake and borders county road 15.

There is a public access on the lake that is used by swimmers, scuba divers – the lake is spring fed and almost 80 feet deep – kayakers/canoers, and small boats with a ten-horsepower limit. This past Sunday,with only a handful of people on the water, we greatly enjoyed the clean water and the natural setting surrounding the shoreline.

The lake has two high ridgetops on the east and west sides that contain maples, basswoods and oaks. A floating tamarack bog exists on one adjoining wetland, and rare sedges alongside are home to loons, least bitterns and kingfishers. There is a channel through the middle marsh where a kayak or canoe can easily access the lower part of the lake.

It will be great if Three Rivers does acquire Little Long Lake and adds it to it’s natural resources. Because of the glacial lake narrowness and water quality (noted as one of the top two cleanest Hennepin county lakes), you do get an “up north” feel when on it. The only downside is that a Minnetonka Sportsmen Club operates a shooting range on the far side of the western ridge, where you can sometimes hear the gunfire. Perhaps, if the lake does come under the public domain, that club would feel more comfortable moving somewhere else.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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Ed Wargin says:

I really can appreciate Mr. Helland’s story. Our family has only lived in Minnetonka for a few years having lived previously for several years in the heart of the Great Lakes in northern Michigan. I wasn’t sure what the transition would feel like for us moving back to the city, but it has been nothing short of spectacular because of the many natural areas and parks that our urban and suburban areas provides us here.

By way of trying to understand our new surroundings better and striking that balance between nature and city life, I have been photographing the parks nearby our home. I can’t think of many other U.S. cities that provides such easy access to nature as our Twin Cities.

I find that we don’t need to bolt out of the city every other weekend to decompress when it turns out we have so much nature to be thankful right here in our own backyards. Thanks Mr. Helland for writing this today. It is timely.