A Walk in Reservoir Woods

It is amazing how many times you can drive by a place, busy going about your daily lives, and not even recognize the hidden potential that exists in a space.  It must have been the hundredth time I cruised up Larpenteur Avenue in St. Paul, passing by a seemingly insignificant parking lot off the side of the road just east of Dale Street.  Driving around aimlessly with the family one day, we decided to check it out and it has since become one of my local faves for a quick escape from the city, without even having to leave at all. 

With just over a five mile journey from my home (which is centrally located betwixt the two bustling downtowns), I arrive at the parking lot, where I am greeted with an assortment of the ‘handbag inhabiting’ variety of pooches enjoying their leashless woodland frolic in a small fenced in area adjacent the lot.  A few yards down the path leading out of the parking lot, there is a much larger off leash area, partially fenced in and bordered by a wetland on the other side, giving the larger canines a place to roam.   But the story does not end here, though sometimes my reluctant toddler would like to linger and get her ‘puppy’ fix that our petless home doesn’t provide.  The 120 acres of space that is Reservoir Woods is my secret forest in the midst of the city.  The parkland, so named for the vast underground reservoir containing some 30 million gallons of water which belies the park, stretches east to connect to McCarrons Lake and County Park and west until it meets up with Roselawn Avenue continuing on with a trail extension.  To the north, once the parkland dwindles, you can continue on the Dale Street Trail extension, linking up to a network of parklands such as Villa Park, Concordia Park, and larger Central Park, which contains and arboretum and the Roseville amphitheater, boasting summer program offerings. Development in Reservoir Woods is minimal, limited to a winding asphaltic path, with a few benches sprinkled here and there.  Maps can be found at major crossings to assist in wayfinding, but an internal sense of direction will help those navigating the twists and turns of the trail.  If you have grown to love the diversity of experiences the state of Minnesota has to offer, then you will relish in the experience of the wooded forest, giving way to a pine like adventure reminiscent of that found in majestic Itasca State Park in the central part of the state.  Vestiges of the great prairie also exist enabling explorers an opportunity to seek out exploded milkweed pods spreading their seeds with the gusts of the fall wind and to feast on bold splashes of color, as from the brilliant yellow of goldenrod sprigs.   

This hidden gem was all set aside because of the potential that was seen by two concerned citizens.  In 1997, Denise Hermes and Janet Olson organized to make sure this place would stay as a public asset for all.  Because of their collaboration with the community, the City of Roseville, Ramsey County, Roselawn Cemetary Association, and St. Paul Regional Water Service, the park trail system officially opened in 2000.  The power of one (in this case two) voice reminds me of one of my favorite quotes and how we can all strive in our own lives to keep these vestiges of the natural world set aside: ” I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”  (Helen Keller)

So while the weather is still holding, and the trees are giving it all with a last ditch effort to show off their remnants of fall color, hop on over to Reservoir Woods and experience it for yourself.  Why not trade off the experience of being stuck in traffic, followed by countless hours spent reaching a far off destination down the road, for one of staying local this weekend and exploring one of the great outdoor spaces metro area has to offer.  Park access is via parkings lots located at Lexington, less than 1/4 mile east of Dale Street or near the end of Alta Vista Drive (which spurs off to the northwest from Dale Street just directly north of the Larpenteur Avenue intersection).

I would like to hear from you!  Tell me about places (large or small) in the Twin Cities and greater metro area that are your refuge.  Places you feel are tucked away into the urban fabric, awaiting exploration, that may leave others feeling inspired, renewed, and more connected to the world around them.

And for those of you trying to build up your searching skills (in anticipation of the annual St. Paul Winter Carnival’s Medallion hunt???), I present to you the “Faces of the Forest” challenge.  The first person to spot this face in the trees will win a free coffee, courtesy of me, at the eclectic Ginkgo Coffehouse on the corner of Snelling and Minnehaha Avenue.  The clue is:  Go for a stroll, where the land begins to roll and soon the path will curve and sway.  Soon you will find a row of red pines, nestled in a valley astray.  Pause to take a breath, on my wooden deck, and surely my face to all will beck.

Pleasant wanderings to all!


~ by urbanwandernlust on October 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “A Walk in Reservoir Woods”

  1. Tina – What a great idea for a blog! My favorite urban hideaway is Fort Snelling’s Pike Island at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. No cars or bikes permitted… just a friendly dirt walking path that encircles the heavily wooded island. Though just below the bustling activity on the bluffs above, Pike feels like a completely different world. I’ve seen deer, beavers, bald eagles, and all kinds of other wildlife there. It is truly a beautiful slice of urban nature.

    • I agree Nathan, that IS a fabulous getaway. I first discovered it myself when I began cross country skiing, as a low impact activity to do, while pregnant. the surface out there is quite level (excepting traversing the foot bridge to get to the island) and the bald eagles were amazing – flying less than 15 feet away from me. And then there was this interesting serenade by some trumpeters across the bank of the river – not birds, but people blaring on their trumpets. I hope other people will take advantage of your suggestion and check it out for themselves. Thanks for the contribution!

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