During my presentation at the TCACCC Spring Break this last weekend I promised to post the information about Photographing Natural Minnesota in this newsletter. The following articles are from that lecture. In this newsletter I will cover Tall Grass Prairie, the next article will cover the Deciduous Big Woods region.
Minnesota is comprised of 4 eco-regions or distinctly different biological environments. These regions are:
Tall Grass Prairie
Prior to any photographic road trip I spend a significant amount of time researching where I want to go and when a good time to go would be. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the people on the ground at the locations you are thinking of visiting. Generally I have found that the Park Rangers, Wildlife Managers, or other Natural Resource personnel are more than happy to share what they know about the region or interesting things to photograph.
When I plan and go on a photographic road trip I try to plan at least 3 days. Less than that and it get rushed. More is always better. Don’t try to cover too much territory, pick 1-3 locations for your trip depending upon the size of the area you expect to photograph.
Tall Grass Prairie:
There are 3 distinct types of prairie, tall grass, mixed grasses, and short grass. All of Minnesota falls within the classification of the tall grass prairie; however, some prairie sites can have characteristics of the mixed grass prairie. Minnesota’s prairie runs north and south on the western edge of the state.
Many years ago as a young boy I remember one day when my older sister, Sandy, excitedly brought me to the Schaefer prairie preserve in west central Minnesota. To my untrained eye the 80-acre plot looked puny and unimpressive. Today this site is 160 acres of virgin and restored prairie. When I visit it now I see an exotic gem filled with diversity and rare beauty. Getting to know and appreciate the prairie ecosystem, I believe, takes a good guide and some time. Once you have been initiated you will want to explore every preserve you can find. At less than one percent of its original size the tall grass prairie ecosystem is one of the rarest of all the ecosystems left on earth, fortunately we have many very good remnants preserved here in Minnesota.
Time to visit:
April for Prairie Chicken booming grounds, Early to mid May for prairie white lady slippers, and yellow lady slippers
Mid June to Early July for western prairie fringed orchid, Late July for cone flowers, blazing stars, and sunflowers
Mid to late August or early September for turning grasses and yellow aspen trees, general landscapes.