Bob Ingrassia

Exploring the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

November 21, 2012 · 2 Comments

An unseasonably warm November weekend sent me out with Roman (son) and Roxy (poodle) in search of adventure. I’d been meaning to check out the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary on St. Paul’s East Side, so we hit Google and then hit the road.

I was only vaguely aware of what to expect. From my days reporting at St. Paul City Hall in the mid-2000s, I’d heard about the park taking shape on the river flats east of downtown. But I’d never found the time to visit until the other day.

What we discovered was awesome — sandstone cliffs, great views of the river valley, a sacred cave, and up-close views of the rail yards that still bustle with activity. The on-site signage gives you an overview of the history. How the Dakota entombed their dead in Wakan Tipi, the cave that once featured glyphs carved into the soft stone. How the North Star brewery helped forge St. Paul’s reputation as a great beer town. And eventually, how a big coalition of civic groups worked with U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento (who died of lung cancer in 2000) to reclaim and restore this portion of the river flats.

You should make an effort to explore the nature sanctuary. Check out this site and then go.

Some highlights from my visit:

Mississippi River valley, looking south

Sandstone bluff, topped by a layer of limestone

A tower of sandstone

Sandstone throne

A pond outside the sealed entrance of the Wakan Tipi cave. Dakota still consider this a sacred place.

Wakan Tipi — Rail construction in the mid-1800s destroyed part of the cave. Explorers and sightseers erased the glyphs. A steel gate now blocks access.

Rail lines bustle between the sanctuary and the river.

A bald eagle scopes the valley.

Just north of the sanctuary is Swede Hollow, the small creek gorge rich in history

Swede Hollow, looking north

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