August 17th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member — printed with permission from the Renville County Register

Most Renville and Redwood County residents like to see the Minnesota River Valley and the parks that can be found in and near the valley.

We are well aware of the unique and ancient rock outcrops in the valley and in the parks. These rocks are three and a half billion years old. They may have been at the base of a mountain range that ran across Minnesota, according to some geologists.

We enjoy driving between the two counties (the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor) and seeing the beautiful trees, the river winding through the flood plain and the wildlife that may appear at any time.

Most of us are also aware that the Minnesota River is really too small to have carved this valley in only 10,000 years. The Glacial River Warren, flowing through the breech in the glacial moraine holding back the water in Glacial Lake Agassiz did have the power and volume to carve the valley.

River Warren scoured off the soil on top of the bedrock leaving the bedrocks exposed. The exposed rocks were also attacked by the huge river and whirlpools were formed. These had gravel, sand and larger rocks trapped within the powerful circular current.

As these whirlpools spun, the abrasion by the gravel and rocks bored its way down into and in some cases, through the exposed bedrock.

Some whirlpools only made shallow “kettles” on the rock surface. These collect water and provide habitat for several rare species of plants on the outcrops and domes of bedrock.

Wait, there is more.

Yes, as tributary streams flowed toward and then down into the valley of the River Warren, waterfalls were created.

As creek water came into the valley, it also eventually found its way to the bedrocks. There is where the waterfalls were formed.

There are a few folks who appreciate these waterfalls. One is Bob Douglas, retired professor from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. He was an instructor in geography there, but his sideline was study of waterfalls and their history.

Douglas became very interested in the Minnesota River and fell in love with the waterfalls in the Minnesota River Valley and its tributaries.

A “lunch-and-learn” event was held July 18 at the meeting room above the River Valley Arms and Ammo store in Morton. Ken Speake, KARE 11 News, retired, was the emcee for the meeting held before lunch. He introduced Bob Douglas to the assembled River-lovers gathered there.

Douglas shared photos and historical information about some of the waterfalls in the Minnesota Watershed. His enthusiasm was very evident for what he had found.

Following the event at River Valley Arms, many of the participants moved over to Beaver Falls Park to view the falls there. This is one of the Renville County Parks. After spending time here, the participants shared their thoughts about waterfalls and the beauty of the Valley of the Minnesota River.

Douglas explained that many waterfalls provided campsites for Native Americans, early explorers, and fur rendezvous were held at some of the larger ones.

This event was sponsored by the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center and Friends of the Minnesota Valley, and some of their volunteer supporters. Their next event is to study the Morton Rock Outcrops Scientific and Natural Area behind the old Morton School. This will be on September 12, 2015. 

If you are interested, contact me. I can e-mail you a brochure about the three events sponsored by this group, or you can click here to go directly to their website!

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