Lake Louise Park has a new spin on recreation this summer. A nine-mile, multi-use, surfaced bike trail stretches from the town of Leroy, through the wooded and oak savanna areas of the park, into Taopi. Perfect for bikers, rollerbladers and hikers, the new trail is featured on the 2003 annual state park permit.
"The new trail winds two old-growth stands, totaling more than 100 acres that contain basswood, bur oak, red oak, white oak, ironwood, cherry and maple," said Guy Lunz, park manager. "We invite our visitors to bring their bikes and rollerblades, enjoy this new trail and see the park from a different perspective, especially when autumn colors the landscape," says Lunz. Research indicates that the stands are some of the best old-growth oak stands in southeastern Minnesota.
The diverse forest is just one of the pleasant surprises you'll find at Lake Louise State Park, located in southeast Minnesota, just four miles from the Iowa border, and 1/2 mile north of LeRoy, Minnesota. In the spring, the best-kept, most beautiful secrets of Lake Louise State Park peek up through the rocky soil.
After the snow melts, Allium cernuum - wild nodding onion - pushes up and its pink and white buds color the slopes and open woods. Standing 1-2 feet tall, the flowers bend at the top of the stem and nod forward. Lake Louise State Park was the first place that this delicate and rare plant was sighted in 1982 by staff of the Minnesota DNR Natural Heritage Program. Today this state-threatened species has been recorded at 70 locations in Minnesota. The other rare plant, big tick-trefoil (Desmodium cuspidatum var. longifolium) with pink or red blooms, is a species of special concern in the state.
Hard Times Bring a Generous Spirit
Lake Louise was a park long before it obtained its state park designation. In 1853, the town of LeRoy was platted and the Upper Iowa River was dammed to provide power for a grist mill. Back then, stately bur, red and white oaks dominated the landscape and prairie grasses and flowers bloomed in scattered openings.
The town thrived until a critical decision changed all that. A new railroad was created south of the original town site of LeRoy. Out of economic necessity, the town moved closer to the railroad and the grist mill was abandoned.
The Hambrecht family, owners of the grist mill, donated the mill pond and surrounding land to the village of LeRoy and it became known as Wildwood Park. The mill pond was named after a member of the Hambrecht family and still bears her name, Louise. The park became a magnet for family picnics and community celebrations. In 1962, the city of LeRoy donated Wildwood Park and about 70 acres to the state and it was named Lake Louise State Park, in honor of the Hambrecht relative.
Down by the Lake
Today, the 1,147 acre park, located on the shores of Lake Louise, is the place where locals, Twin Cities' natives, and Iowans gather to hike, swim and enjoy the scenic picnic grounds. Anglers catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish and bullhead. Forty-seven species of fish have been documented in the park or within the Upper Iowa River or Little Iowa River that flow through the park. Visitors also enjoy trails for hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Teeming with Wildlife
The park boasts of 146 species of birds, of which 99 are potentially breeding species. The park has records of some rare species too: the upland sandpiper (Batramia Longicauda), red-shouldered hawk (a special concern species) and the state-endangered Henslow's sparrow. A small, great blue heron rookery is also present in the park. Turkeys are commonly seen on the park trails.
Butterflies and moths are abundant in the park, including several species of fritillaries and skppers as well as some hairstreaks. One uncommon species, the delicately striped hickory hairstreak was found in a sedge meadow within the park.
The park has a healthy population of amphibians and reptiles. The water attracts the snapping turtle, painted turtle, prairie skink, red-bellied snake, plains garter snake, common garter snake, and northern water snake. Researches recorded seven species of amphibians including the American toad, spring peeper, western chorus frog, green frog, northern leopard frog, and bullfrog. Recently, the tiger salamander was spotted in the park, another natural surprise in this charming southern park.
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Facilities and Features
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For More Information
Lake Louise State Park
Route 1, Box 184
LeRoy, MN 55951
of Natural Resources
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
1-800-766-6000 (MN Toll Free)
TDD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf)
(612)296-5484 (Metro Area)
1-800-657-3929 (MN Toll Free)