By Jim Umhoefer
Brown County. Adjacent to and partially within New Ulm city limits. The park is several blocks south of highways 15 and 68, 2 miles south of Highway 14. Highway map index: G-19.
Flandrau State Park retains its natural character even though it's just a short walk or bike ride from residential areas in New Ulm. The park is bounded by steep wooded slopes that seem to guide the Cottonwood River on its curvy course. The river wanders through bottomland forest and grassy openings, past oxbow lakes and marshes where it used to flow.
The Oxbow Trail is a loop that leads you into the lowland world of the Cottonwood River. This is a one-mile self-guided interpretive trail where you can learn about some of the natural features of the park.
Flandrau is a heavy day-use park. The guarded swimming beach draws sun worshippers for long afternoons of sunbathing while kids entertain themselves building sand castles and splashing in the water. The swimming pool was rebuilt in 1987 to include filtration and water treatment.
The campground has about 60 semi-modern (35 electric) and 30 rustic sites. They can fill up fast on holiday weekends, but midweek is not as busy. (Incidentally, some of the handsome park buildings in the campground, beach and office areas were constructed of native stone.) Flandrau has two group camps. One, near the main campground, is primitive. The other, on the south side of the river, has barracks, a mess hall and swimming area (organizations must furnish their own lifeguards.
Flandrau, known originally as Cottonwood State Park, was named for a prominent lawyer and Indian agent of the Minnesota River country during the 1860s. During the U.S. Dakota Conflict of 1862, he organized a company of volunteers that helped to repel Indian attacks on the frontier town of New Ulm.
Cross-country skiing is the most popular winter activity at Flandrau. Though the park grooms about 8 miles of trails, some skiers and snowshoers prefer to forge their own paths though the river bottomlands.