|Frontenac State Park|
Frontenac State Park rises 450 feet above an expanse of the Mississippi River called Lake Pepin. A spectacular view of the river valley extends for miles in all directions. The park contains floodplain forest, maple-bass wood forest, oak woodland, bluff prairie and grassland.<br><br>Since the tur...
Hok-Si-La Municipal Park
|Description: Hok-Si-La Park hugs Lake Pepin just north of Lake City, a beautiful community located in the Mississippi Bluffs Region of southeast Minnesota. Situated along the shores of Lake Pepin, a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River, and between sandstone bluffs formed in the early Paleozoic eras, Lake City is truly a unique place. It is known for its spectacular scenic views and considered one of the best sailing lakes in the nation.
Grounded in history, Lac de Pleurs (Lake of Tears) was the name given to Lake Pepin by Father Louis Hennepin, who camped on the shore of the lake in 1680. He christened the large body of water Lac de Pleurs after observing his Sioux captors weeping near the lake over the death of a chief's son.
In time, Hok-Si-La was the site of the Hotel Russell in the late 1800s. It has since been a silver fox farm, farmland and a Boy Scout camp before becoming a city park in January 1974.
Despite its legacy and today’s bustling marina, the floodplain forest hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. The Mississippi River Valley is rich in biological diversity.
Large concentrations of bald eagles and an abundance of migratory birds have earned Lake Pepin the designation of a Globally Important Bird Area (IBA).
Wildlife to Watch: Birders know Hok-Si-La as a spring migration hotspot for warblers. Cape May, magnolia, bay-breasted, chestnut-sided, prothonotary and Nashville warblers all frequent the area. Search for migrating warblers in the large oaks near the shore. You may find solitary, spotted and least sandpipers, ruddy turnstones and sanderlings skittering across the sand and rocks. Colorful Baltimore orioles and indigo buntings nest in the park. In fact, a pair of orioles have regularly built their abode just below the eagle nest.
Minnesota’s first eagle nesting platform was erected in this park. Fish food is plentiful and reproduction has been successful—two eaglets fledged in 2006, 2008 and again in 2009. Audubon Minnesota weighed, took blood samples and banded the two eaglets in May 2009 for future tracking. Eagle viewing doesn’t get any easier, since the adults can be seen coming and going from the nest site. Eaglets may be noticed first popping their heads out of the nest in late spring, then as the season progresses, testing their wings as they get ready to vacate the premises. Campers get an earful of vocalizations too—from both parents and youngsters. Look for eagles soaring on currents and perching in trees along the river, lake and highway.
The Lake Pepin IBA encompasses a relatively lengthy stretch along the Mississippi River. Hok-Si-La is included, where according to the Audubon citation, the highest concentration of migrating common mergansers in the world occurs on Lake Pepin during the month of November. Counts range from 20-70,000 annually, with the highest recorded count of 70,000 occurring in November 1995. Large concentrations of other species of waterfowl, as well as ring-billed and herring gulls, are found amongst the mergansers.
Several bat houses also provide shelter for natural mosquito control. Squirrels—gray, fox and red—scamper about the woods. Watch for white-tailed deer in the park and along the roadways. If you look hard, you might run across an opossum or wild turkeys. In the evening, listen to the metallic choruses of Cope’s gray tree frogs and on balmy, rainy nights the high trills of American toads. Warm days find painted, snapping and even smooth soft-shelled turtles basking on sun-drenched snags.
Special Tips: This park is a fantastic birding area for all seasons, but especially during spring and fall migration. On the second weekend of May this site has hosted a warbler-banding program through the Carpenter Nature Center.
While hiking, check out the tree interpretive signs put in by a local Minnesota Master Naturalist.
Other Activities: Old photographs are featured on the walls in the interpretive center/park office/store. See photos of the Grannis Saw Mill, Rest Island, Hotel Russell, Lake Pepin Country Club, Nihart's Fish Co. and Rest Island Silver Fox Farm. Also on display are wildlife exhibits. Photos of many bird species that migrate through the park may be seen in the office area.
Ownership: Lake City
Size: 252 acres
Closest Town: Lake City
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: