Blue is King at Carley State Park
By Rudi Hargesheimer
Each spring, wildflowers display a kaleidoscope of colors at Carley State Park, but blue is king.
For just a few weeks, Mertensia Virginica, or Virginia Bluebells, bloom profusely on the flood plain of the North Branch of the Whitewater River. They crawl up the hillsides toward the tall white pines on the limestone bluffs, spill onto the forest floor in hues of pink and purple and provide a feast for butterflies. They also draw the attention of human visitors who gather to celebrate the delicate flower at the annual Carley Bluebell Festival, hosted by the Lions Club of nearby Plainview, MN and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR).
Activities include a family scavenger hunt, Mother’s Day card making for kids, archery for ages 8 and older, and wildflower walks. This time of year, many blooming wildflowers make appearances along the park’s five miles of hiking trails. A large bend in the Whitewater River curves below the bluffs and the Wildflower Trail follows the river on the flood plain. Concrete block stepping-stones across the water allow access to the bluffs, home to stands of White Pine, an unusual sight this far south in Minnesota.
Carley State Park is named after State Senator James A. Carley. His family and the Ernestina Bolt families donated the land to the state of Minnesota in 1948. Today, 209-acre Carley State Park might be considered a sister to Whitewater State Park, its much larger neighbor to the east. Both are in the Whitewater River watershed, but Carley is located in the upper reaches of the North Branch. The bluffs at Carley are not as tall as those at Whitewater and the camping is more rustic, but crowds are rare and the trout fishing is just as good, if not better. In the fall, the maple forest glows with reds and yellows.
Carley Bluebell Festival
May 13, 2023
Carley State Park
More info on the MNDNR website
About the Author
Rudi Hargesheimer is a long-time North Shore enthusiast. He discovered the new Superior Hiking Trail in 1986 and was soon a Superior Hiking Trail Association volunteer board member, serving twelve years – six of those as President. Rudi was a 40-year employee and manager at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis. He traveled extensively all over the world, coming to realize that the best adventures of all were on Minnesota’s North Shore and the Superior Hiking Trail as his photos will attest. He has written many articles about adventure in Minnesota as a contributor to Minnesota Trails Magazine, Lake Superior Magazine and other regional publications. His current business is North Shore Photo Art.