Last weekend CD and I decided to check out an area of Minnesota that neither of us had visited before. It’s the Big Bog State Recreation Area, a dozen nor so miles north of Waskish, near the Red Lake Indian Reservation. After a brief stop at the small park
headquarters to pay our $5 day-use fee and get a complimentary map of the area (the nice young attendant actually gave me her own copy, as the regular supply had run out), we first drove to a small nearby public beach on the eastern shore of Upper Red Lake. Combined with Lower Red Lake, this is the largest lake in the State (although, amazingly, this vast expanse of water has a maximum depth of only 15 feet). It’s so big that, though it was a clear day, we could not see the far shore (nearly 35 miles away) due to the earth’s
curvature. There was also a stiff, steady, westerly wind with the resulting rolling waves and large whitecaps as far as we could see. Dogs were not allowed in the beach area, so we stayed only long enough for a quick look and to read the information posters—which helped us to learn that the bog area is the largest in Minnesota and one of the largest in the country, encompassing 9,459 acres, or roughly 500 square miles. The State Recreation Area was established “as the result of a grassroots effort to create a sustainable tourist attraction in Waskish, whose economy was devastated during the Upper Red Lake walleye population crash of the 1990s.”
We then drove another seven miles north on Highway 72 to our main goal: A mile-long
boardwalk was constructed into the bog from a place called Ludlow Island, providing intimate views of several aspects its character, which included open sphagnum bog and conifer forest swamp, with mainly tamarack and black spruce. Signs cautioned against leaving the boardwalk for any reason—apart from damage to the fragile ecosystems (they can take up to a year or more to recover from a footprint), they warned that it’s possible to
step into (and, presumably, be swallowed up by) a flark! (A quick Web search just revealed that a flark is a type of bog in Finland and that Flark—presumably a mythical being—is the eater of souls.) Of course, CD and I took great care to stay on the boardwalk, even though we were unaware that our mortal souls were in danger at the time. Limo though, very thirsty from the hot trek in the open sun, had no such ethical concerns and was sorely tempted by the small, tantalizing pools almost within reach and hopped down once—only to find himself promptly hauled back up before he could either do any damage on the surface or risk being sucked down into the netherworld.
Around the terminus of the boardwalk we could see pitcher plants in abundance, and I was able to get close to a few by lying down and stretching out carefully with my little Pentax for a few portraits. It was a very beautiful experience, and we are already planning to revisit it in early spring and autumn, hopefully next year.