Last week I read about a recently published book Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota’s State Parks by Chris Niskanen and Doug Ohman that features stories about all the 66 state parks in Minnesota. In the article about the book Niskanen mentions that the world record Jack pine is located at Lake Bronson State Park in Kittson County, a quick drive from our home in Hallock. We were curious about this Jack pine so on Sunday we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and head over to the park to do some hiking and check out the tree. When we got to the Park we stopped at the Ranger’s station to buy a permit for the year and to get some information about the Jack pine. Pete, the always helpful assistant park manager, showed us how to find it on the map.
Lake Bronson is an interesting state park. In the 1930s the South Fork Two River near the town of Bronson was dammed to create an artificial lake due to a drought at the time that had dried up area wells. My husband’s grandmother was from the town that later changed its name to Lake Bronson. She likes to tell us how Mrs. Maggie Bronson’s house was located right in the middle of where the lake was being formed. She refused to move her house and so there it sat as the waters rushed in, surrounded it and eventually covered it. According to Grandma, the remnants of the house are still in the lake.
In 1937 this land became Two Rivers State Park after it was turned over to the state of Minnesota and was renamed Lake Bronson State Park in 1945. The lake is one of few in the area and the only one in Kittson County. It’s a popular spot for swimming, canoeing, fishing and boating. The summer also brings many campers to the park. In the winter cross country skiing is very popular, as is snowmobiling and hiking. The park is part prairie and part aspen forest because of its location between two geographic zones which creates a unique landscape and hosts a variety of wildlife. The park also boasts a number of historical sites including an observation tower that was constructed as a WPA project and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
But on Sunday we were there to see the Jack pine. After following Pete’s directions we drove to the lot, parked our car and started walking. While we did encounter a family along our route and a group of bikers, the park felt very remote, wild and peaceful. Along the way we happened upon one of the Pioneer Cemeteries located in the park and we also walked past some sand dunes. Right before we reached the Jack pine there was a sign that succinctly stated “Big Pine Tree” and true to what we’d been told, it was big, very big. I’m not sure what else you could say about it. As we stood peering up at it we could hear the drumming of some nearby grouse, which somehow made the experience more complete and meaningful. And, then, we turned back to the trail and retraced our steps back to our car. We talked of future plans and absorbed the quiet that surrounded us as we walked. We vowed we would spend more time at the park this summer. It was a perfect way to end the weekend and I’m anxious to return.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.