|Seven Mile Creek County Park|
Nestled in the ravines and hills of the Minnesota River Valley, the fast-moving waters of Seven Mile Creek have cut through the land to form a picturesque valley bordering a fast-moving stream. Lying on the eastern edge of the region, the park is within a transition zone of the grasslands to the ...
Sakatah Lake State Park
|Description: Glacial activity 14,000 years ago shaped this landscape. Along the Cannon River Valley, ice blocks left by receding glaciers formed depressions that filled with water creating lakes such as Sakatah.
This site sits on an altamont moraine formed during the last glacial period. A moraine is a large mound of rock and mineral debris deposited at the end of a glacier, where the ice melted as fast as it advanced. In many areas of the park you will see moraine deposits, some more than 400 feet deep.
In time, the Wahpekita (Wapacoota), members of the Dakota Nation, inhabited the region. They named the area Sakatah, which translates to "the sights and sounds of children playing on the hill," or loosely translated as "Singing Hills".
The “Big Woods” made land travel difficult, so the Cannon and other area rivers served as important Indian water routes between south central Minnesota and Wisconsin. Indian villages existed along the riverways. It is believed a village site was near the point separating Upper Sakatah and Lower Sakatah Lakes.
In 1862 a trader by the name of Alexander Faribault established a post on the northeast shore of Cannon Lake, which gave rise to one of the first white settlements in the area. He eventually opened at least five other trading posts along the Cannon River.
Original notes from surveyors in the late 1800s described the area as low, rolling land with second-rate timber and prairieland with bur oak, basswood, aspen, butternut, elm, ash and ironwood.
Today, the undulating topography of the park features a rich, mixed hardwood forest. The Cannon River formed the boundary between the “Big Woods” of the Minnesota and Mississippi River Valleys, and the southern oak barrens south of the park. Sakatah Lake, a natural widening of the Cannon River, provides visitors with opportunities for many forms of outdoor recreation and nature study. The parklands on the south side of the lake include three and half miles of shoreline along Sakatah Lake.
In addition to the park, the 48-acre Sakatah Wildlife Management Area (WMA) has one land parcel at the outlet of the Cannon River on Lower Sakatah Lake and two parcels, which are islands in the lake. Although there are no amenities at WMAs, they are excellent places to pursue wildlife watching.
Nearby Townsend Woods Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), though small, is the finest example of the "Big Woods" that used to cover parts of south central Minnesota. The 73-acre site contains a beautiful virgin forest of sugar maple, red oak, basswood and oak, with few shrubs. The loose, fertile soil is lush with spring ephemerals. Woodland warblers are found in significant numbers during spring migration. The best time to visit the SNA is mid to late spring to view woodland wildflowers such as hepatica, bloodroot, trillium, Dutchman's breeches and spring beauty.
Wildlife to Watch: Open fields, wetlands, upland forests, lakes and forest edges found at Sakatah Lake provide the perfect habitat for many southern Minnesota wildlife species. It will be easy to spot squirrels, but a bit harder to catch a glimpse of a mink, raccoon or cottontail rabbit. If you’re lucky, you might observe a coyote trotting in the open areas.
Canoeists may paddle the calm, relatively shallow waters in search of more wildlife. Along the shoreline, look for turtles basking, a white-tailed deer getting a drink and great blue herons stalking fish.
Due to the highly diverse habitat, this is a premier park in the Minnesota State Park system for bird watching. With only 842 acres, the park supports a surprising list of 202 species.
Listen for the singing of songbirds, tapping of woodpeckers and cooing of doves. The presence of cerulean warblers, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, ovenbird and Acadian flycatcher attest to the quality of the remnant “Big Woods” forest. You might set eyes on one of the five species of swallows swooping through the air. Three additional colorful songbirds—northern cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks and indigo buntings—adorn the woods. Other birds to look for include killdeer, belted kingfishers, flycatchers and phoebes, red-eyed and warbling vireos, spotted sandpipers and chimney swifts. Check for red-tailed hawks and American kestrels hunting from high overhead. Scan for strutting wild turkeys, skittering ring-necked pheasants and singing bobolinks in the open fields. Listen for red-winged blackbirds and sedge wrens near the wetlands; and for savannah sparrows from meadows to marshland.
Sakatah Lake itself is a gathering place for waterbirds during spring and fall migration. Ducks, pelicans, herons, cormorants and gulls use the lake for resting and feeding.
Special Tips: Running through the park is the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail, a 39-mile, multiple-use trail developed on an abandoned railroad grade. Stretching from Mankato to Faribault, the paved path offers wildlife watching opportunities and beautiful scenery through Minnesota's hardwoods forest.
Other Activities: Land Manager Contact:
Sakatah Lake State Park
50499 Sakatah Lake State Park Road
Waterville MN 56096
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 842 acres, lake 881 acres
Closest Town: Waterville
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: