Upcoming events at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Saturday, Feb. 15

Open House Day: Free Admission into Minnesota State Parks.

1-2 p.m. -- Snowshoeing for Beginners. We will begin inside the Interpretive Center with a brief talk about different types of snowshoes, then move outside for a how-to lesson and a snowshoe hike. Traditional snowshoes are provided. Registration is required and is limited to the first 25 people. To register, call 320-532-3269 and leave your name, phone number and number of people attending. Meet at the Interpretive Center.

Saturday, Feb. 22

1-2:30 p.m. -- Family Snowshoe Hike: Winter Wildlife Survivor. Learn about the techniques animals use to deal with cold Minnesota winters. A brief talk and how-to-snowshoe lesson will be followed by a short snowshoe hike to search for signs of these winter survival strategies. Snowshoes are provided. We have snowshoes that fit kids from age 4 to adults. If you have younger children, you can bring a sled and pull them along. Registration is required and limited, call 320-532-3269 and leave your name, phone number and number of people attending. Meet at the Interpretive Center.

Sunday, Feb. 29

1- 2:30 p.m. -- Geocaching Adventure on Snowshoes. Discover the fun of snowshoeing and the great sport of Geocaching. After an introduction to GPS and Geocaching inside the Interpretive Center we will put on snowshoes and go find some hidden caches. Snowshoes, GPS units and an introductory snowshoeing lesson are provided. Registration is required and is limited to the first 25 people. To register, call 320-532-3269 and leave your name, phone number and number of people attending. Meet at the Interpretive Center.

Corps signs cost share agreement with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for Big Sandy Lake study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, signed a cost share agreement with the Minnesota Department of Resources last week, to study the Big Sandy Lake watershed and the impacts on the aquatic community from the operation of Big Sandy Lake Dam, near McGregor.

The information gathered from the study will help scientists better understand the aquatic community near Big Sandy Dam. The results of the study will be used to improve the operational management of the dam, as well as consider the potential for a fish passage.

The study is covered under the Corps’ Planning Assistance to States Program and will focus on the area fisheries and a hydrological assessment of how water moves through the dam. The study has a total cost of $718,000, half of which will be federally funded.

Under its Planning Assistance to States and Tribes Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to use its technical expertise in water and related land resource management to help states, federally recognized Indian Tribes and other eligible units of government with their water resource problems.

MPCA seeks help in restoring and protecting the Mississippi River-Sartell Watershed

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has scheduled two meetings for people interested in ongoing water quality projects in the Mississippi River-Sartell Watershed. At the meetings, you can share your concerns about lakes and streams you care about, learn about water quality in the watershed and the MPCA’s process and reports, and help guide how restoration and protection work is prioritized.

Water quality monitoring by MPCA and area partners have uncovered excess levels of phosphorus and bacteria in the watershed. Two lakes and 15 streams are now considered “impaired” because they have failed to meet one or more water quality standard. The agency has found that alteration of flow in streams and changes in land use are stressing aquatic life and water quality. The MPCA is preparing a total maximum daily load report, which specifies how much pollution reduction is needed in the affected bodies of water to meet water quality standards. The MPCA has also drafted the Mississippi River-Sartell Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) report, which summarizes watershed conditions, prioritizes resources, and establishes key restoration and protection strategies.

The studies are part of the MPCA’s approach to gauging the health of Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds. After intensive water monitoring, the agency and partners evaluate biological conditions in lakes and streams. Waters that fail to meet standards are placed on the Impaired Waters List, and the agency develops information and strategies that are used to restore impaired waters and protect healthy ones.

Public participation and partnerships are essential to a successful WRAPS process. The MPCA is seeking input on strategies for protecting and restoring water quality in the Mississippi River-Sartell Watershed. Get involved by attending an upcoming public meeting:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 25, 4:00-7:00 p.m., Royalton American Legion, 103 N. Maple St., Royalton

  • Thursday, Feb. 27, 4:00-7:00 p.m., Sartell Community Center, 850 19th Street S., Sartell

Master naturalist course offered

Master Naturalist Big Woods-Big River course will be offered Feb. 25-May 5 at the Northland Arboretum. Registration is due by Feb. 24

The Brainerd lakes area rests in the transition of two major Minnesota biomes; the northern boreal and deciduous forests. This core training will explore the deciduous forest biome including the diversity of plants and wildlife, the surprises of its geology, the complexity of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and much more.

The setting for this course is Northland Arboretum with Whiskey Creek flowing through, as it makes its way to the Mississippi River. Attractions include jack pine and oak savannas as well as many more attractions and 12 miles of hiking, snowshoe and ski trails. Landowners are Crow Wing County, The Nature Conservancy and Northland Arboretum. The Northland Arboretum is a 583-acre non-profit arboretum and nature reserve in Brainerd. The arboretum was founded in 1972 when the Brainerd Landfill closed; that original 40-acre landfill site now supports a grassland with an ADA-compliant accessible wellness fitness trail.

The Blanding's turtle, a state threatened species, is found in the savanna and nearby wetlands, along with the eastern hognose snake, a species of special concern. The Mississippi River corridor is home to the long-eared bat which is a threatened species that occasionally makes an appearance. We also have native north woods wildlife like deer, porcupines, fox, fishers, beavers, coyotes, and black bear. The Arboretum has been named an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society and has had over 130 species identified on the grounds.

The course will be held weekly on Tuesday evenings starting on Feb. 25, with one full weekend (Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3) in the field experience exploring state parks and other natural and historic places. The course cost is $295 and includes course manuals and supplies.

If the course cost is a hardship a scholarship application is available. After the scholarship is fully processed, applicants will receive a code to be entered in the online registration process.

For more information and to register, visit https://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org/