Explore Ravine Lake and the wetlands of Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park – Sept. 18

Cottage Grove Ravine Park

In the midst of smart phones and video games, over-scheduled kids, and nature-deficit disorder, I am pleased to report that there still exists a place in the world where kids ride their bikes down to the local pond to go fishing. Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park is nestled in a deeply wooded ravine on the southernmost end of Washington County. Though a new trail system connects Ravine Park to Cottage Grove City Hall and the county’s South Service Center, the 515 acre park remains more of a hidden gem than a popular recreation destination. Nonetheless, its many charms include easy fishing access from both a dock and the entrance road, good opportunities to watch ducks and migratory birds, and challenging cross-country skiing in the winter.

The South Washington Watershed District (SWWD) prepared a lake management plan for Ravine Lake in 2003 and, though the lake is still listed as impaired for too much phosphorus,  its health has been steadily improving. Parking lot raingardens at the South Service Center and extensive stormwater management features at the new Cottage Grove City Hall both help to keep pollution out of the lake and prevent erosion within the ravine. Along with improving water quality, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began stocking Ravine Lake in 2002 and the lake now has good numbers of walleye, bluegill, crappie, and largemouth bass. More recently, in 2012, Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) began working to improve habitat within the park by removing invasive species such as buckthorn, black locust, garlic mustard, honeysuckle, Kentucky bluegrass, reed canary grass and smooth brome that have crowded out the native oak savanna and prairie species once plentiful in the hills and woods.

On Thursday, September 18, 6-7:30pm, SWWD and FMR will team-up to host a family-friendly event for people interested in exploring and learning more about the lake and wetlands at Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. I will be co-teaching along with FMR ecologist Karen Schik. Learn about the plant life in and around the wetlands — aquatic, amphibious, and terrestrial — and the important role these plants play in providing habitat and filtering pollutants from our waters. We’ll also use dip nets to get a closer look at macroinvertebrates living in the marsh, and discuss what these tiny creatures reveal about water quality. It will be an easy hike, mostly along a paved trail and fishing dock, though participants should wear outdoor and pond muck friendly shoes and clothes.

This is a free event, but registration is limited. Please contact Amy Kilgore at 651-222-2193 x31 or akilgore@fmr.org to reserve a spot. Go to the FMR website to learn more and see photos from last year’s hike and pond dipping.