MINNEOPA STATE PARK
The word Minneopa comes from the Dakota language and is interpreted to mean "water falling twice," referring to the beautiful waterfalls of the Minneopa Creek. Walk the trail which encircles the falls, leading down a limestone stairway to the valley below. Ascend the opposite side and enjoy a panoramic view of the valley which reveals the underlying geology of this area. Visit Seppmann Mill, a wind driven grist mill fashioned in German style from native stone and lumber, or hike through oak savanna and native prairie grasslands overlooking the scenic Minnesota River Valley.
The southern part of the park is hilly and wooded, with Minneopa Creek and its waterfalls the major feature that attract visitors. The northern sections of the park feature prairie and the Minnesota River. Once, the land was tall-grass prairie, interspersed with marshes, lakes and streams. Today, extensive farming has replaced the prairie with cultivated fields.
The entire park lies within the banks of the Glacial River Warren which drained Glacial Lake Agassiz at the end of the last period of glaciation, some 15,000 years ago. These banks are easily viewed if a visitor looks north and south from the vantage point of Seppmann Mill. Also visible are the many large boulders scattered upon the prairie grassland which lies in the bed of that ancient river. These boulders, known as "glacial erratics," are made of parent material entirely different than that commonly found in this area. They were transported from a region far to the north and were deposited here by the melting ice of the retreating glacier. The word Minneopa is derived from the Dakota language and is interpreted to mean "water falling twice." As the retreating glacier melted and drainage patterns emerged, the valley of Minneopa Creek was formed. "Downcutting" occurred until a more resistant layer of rock was encountered and this layer forms the ledge from which the twin waterfall drops.
Minneopa is home to a wide variety of songbird species. Many migrants stop here for a short stay on their way to their summer range. It should come as no surprise then that birdwatching is a popular activity. Be prepared to see the eastern bluebird, the western meadowlark, and the yellow shafted flicker. Tree sparrows, king birds, red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed hawks, and even American bald eagles are common at various times of the year. If your eyes are sharp, you may catch a glimpse of a wild turkey or ring-necked pheasant sneaking through the grass. The white-tailed deer is never far away and campers are often treated to the call of a coyote announcing its presence in the early evening hours. Both woodland and prairie animals can be found in the park. The Minnesota River Floodplain area is home to various snakes, beaver, and waterfowl. The southern wooded part of the park is home to woodpeckers, squirrels, and other woodland animals.
In 1905 the State of Minnesota passed legislation setting aside the area around Minneopa Falls for public use and establishing Minneopa State Park. This made Minneopa the third state park in Minnesota. The scenic splendor of the area was well known and it had become a popular destination for thousands of visitors who came by rail to the townsite of Minneopa, which had sprung up around the adjacent depot in 1870. Still others made their way by steam powered paddle boat up the Minnesota River and then on foot following the banks of Minneopa Creek to the falls. Locals came from miles around by team and wagon to picnic and play baseball. The Seppmann windmill, in the northwest corner of the park was donated to the state by Albert Seppmann, son of its builder. Stone was used for the main structure, which still stands today. It was designed by Louis Seppmann after windmills in his native Germany. The mill was completed in 1864, and in a favorable wind could daily grind 150 bushels of wheat into flour. The windmill was struck by natural calamities, including lightening and a tornado. After the tornado struck in 1890, the windmill's arms were not replaced because windmills had become unprofitable to operate. This German-style mill is a rare example of wind-powered grain milling. In the late 1870's three years of consecutive grasshopper plagues wiped out all of the crops and the little town disappeared from the map. The depot continued to serve the thousands of tourists that came by train every summer to picnic near the falls.