Springtime in the Beaver Islands
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The maze of Beaver Islands adjacent to St. Cloud State University offers a glimpse of the Mississippi River of yesteryear.
“The Beaver Islands are jewels in the university’s crown,” said Loren Boone, assistant vice president for marketing and communications. “They’re a wonderful natural resource for Minnesotans to enjoy.”
The “Springtime in the Beaver Islands” slide shows display 48 photos about birds and blossoms, moonseed and sunsets, skateboarders and disc golfers, rodents and reptiles, kayakers and canoeists.
About half of the more than 30 islands are owned by the university – purchased in the 1930s at the urging of then President George Selke.
"These islands are repositories of quite a bit of natural habitat the way it used to be," said Fred Bengtson, area wildlife manager for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The St. Cloud-to-Anoka stretch of river was designated in 1976 as a Minnesota Wild and Scenic River in part because of the natural, scientific, scenic, recreational and historical values of the islands.
The Audubon Society maintains a birding guide and map (PDF) for the 55-miles between St. Cloud and Anoka, including the two miles of Beaver Islands.
The photos were taken by photo enthusiasts using gear that ranged from a point-and-shoot purse camera to a professional-grade Nikon with a telephoto lens.
“It’s difficult to tell which photos were taken with point-and-shoot cameras,” said Boone. “That’s how stunning these island vistas are. That’s how amazing the diversity of animal and plant life are, even if you never leave the Beaver Islands Trail.”
The asphalt-paved Beaver Islands Trail begins on the south end of campus, winds past a fishing pier, boat landing and viewing platform, and continues along the west shore of the river. Visitors can enjoy wide views of the islands, especially if they walk down to the river's edge.
Those who want a closer look at the Beaver Islands can rent canoes and kayaks from Outdoor Endeavors, the university’s outdoor education program.
“Having something so untouched, so close to campus, but not seen very often by the majority of people, is amazing,” said 2009 graduate Michael Schoenecker, a contributing photographer and five-year student employee at Outdoor Endeavors. “I wish more people could take advantage of the islands.”