For us, Taylors Falls and Interstate State Park are interchangeable. But, to clarify, Taylors Falls is a town, located on the St. Croix River which makes up the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border. Interstate State Park is a park at Taylors Falls which is one of the closest places to us where you can really see geology, except for Red Wing or some parts of St. Paul.
Whereas in Red Wing you experience high bluffs of sandstone, (and you do see some sandstone cliffs in Taylors Falls too) the real highlight of Taylors Falls are the potholes. Not road potholes, mind you; these are tunnels bored into solid rock, where stones and even boulders carried by glacial meltwater smashed around in certain spots, swirling and breaking and polishing the surrounding rock walls. The visitors center has some excellent examples of the stones themselves that carved the potholes of all sizes.
I don’t have any photos that show these well on-hand, so I will direct you towards someone else who wrote about the geology of Taylors Falls: http://www.hutchk12.org/geo/mngeo/page42.html
A certain kind of pine tree becomes dominant in the forests around Taylors Falls. I don’t know what kind they are unfortunately, I like how they look though. They are different yet than the trees you will see up on the North Shore.
A wide area of the park is like a stone playground, popular with rock climbers and generally fun to explore and clamber around on. But, the park also has beautiful hiking trails.
A loop can take you from these sandstone cliffs (you are actually climbing up to the top of a kind of bluff or steep, tall hill by taking staircases leading up the cliffs) over to the hard basalt rock and glacial potholes.
As you hike you might see snails on the cliff faces, and plenty of small caves that might be host to all kinds of life.
Taylors Falls was a logging town. A sign, at the bottom of one of the tallest trees in the area, mentions that trees this size were common throughout these forests and fueled Minnesota’s growing economy. Logs would be floated down river from Taylors Falls and other towns further up, and sometimes, a jam would happen.
Edna Curry, a freelance writer who lives in Taylors Falls, put together a great article on this infamous log jam here: Greatest Logjam Ever!
As you near the top of the bluff you have probably sensed that you have climbed a good deal, and that is confirmed by a view like this. It probably isn’t that impressive in a picture because it is so hard to capture the scale, but the countryside sprawls out before you and you can see the river curving away.
After you have feasted your eyes, it is time to go back down again. This part of the park seems more secluded and quiet. You have climbed down into a valley, between two very steep hills.
If you are lucky, and we were, you might see an elusive insect.
We only noticed this Stick Insect because he was on a dark-colored part of the tree. If he was on a lighter part, he probably would have blended in perfectly. He would shake back and forth when perceiving danger, perhaps emulating a twig blowing in the breeze, but he had no need to be concerned. He relaxed and crawled around our hands for a bit before we put him back. Just be careful, they are very delicate.
We have always had good experiences at Interstate State Park, and this last time was no exception. It isn’t far from the cities, making it a reasonable day trip. For more information on the park, including a nice report on the current fall colors, go to the Minnesota DNR page for Interstate State Park.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to share your own stories about Taylors Falls and the surrounding area!