Tag Archives: Rails to trail experience

As a family, a group of friends or on your own bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area are endless.

Family fun spring bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area

Looking for a bird-bike destination with endless opportunities for a family outing, a place to explore with friends or a getaway for yourself?

Consider planning a trip to the Willmar Lakes Area.  Head west out of the Twin Cities and before you know it you will be greeted to small-town charm and a sprawling countryside full of birding opportunities. To the naked eye it may seem like just another rural prairie community, but head out on a bike with your binoculars and the area presents its many birding haunts. Here along this major migrating flyway, you are sure to spot many species from the Minnesota Prairie Bird List, that nest in the area.

Now, as warmer weather approaches the trees and marshes along the trails and roads here become a special place to visit. Allowing birders and cyclists plenty of great outdoor space, in Kandiyohi County, for biking and birding.

A perfect spring bike-bird location in western Minnesota

The Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year for a weekend bike getaway.

The Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect bike getaway to visit any time of the year.

Species to check off your list when bike-bird opportunities arise in the Willmar Area

Besides the Red Crossbill that has been sighted around the MinnWest Technology Campus, in Willmar, many parks here along the trail are also worth checking out. Some of the great birding haunts in the area include; Sibley State Park, Mason Lake State Park, the Prairiewood Environmental Learning Center, and a couple of Big Kandiyohi Lake County Parks, easily accessible from the Glacial Lake State Trail. When visiting here are some of the other birds you may see to check off your list: the Short-eared Owl; Townsend’s Solitaire; Long-eared Owl; Black-throated Green Warbler; Connecticut Warbler; Snowy Egret; Common Gallinule; Blue Grosbeak; Eastern Screech-Owl; White-winged Crossbill and a Long-tailed Duck.

Getting around on your bike in Willmar is more than encouraging. Awarded the Bike Friendly Bronze status by the League of American Cyclist, the community has redesigned its streets and inner city trails to make it easy to pedal around and explore the area’s attractions and parks.

Getting around Willmar with your bike and binoculars

While biking, this is also a great area for bird enthusiasts. Sibley State Park is one of the most popular areas, so make sure you bring your binoculars and camera. Around the park, you will have a chance to see many of the 206 different species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. And with the Glacial Trail, it’s easy to get out to the park, by bike, from your hotel room in the Willmar Lakes Area.

About the Glacial Lakes State Trail

Built on a former Burlington Northern railroad line the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The trail is paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. This multi-use bike corridor offers many opportunities to look at wildflowers and wildlife along the way.

Bring the binoculars along, for some of the birds sittings along the trail you may see!

Bring the binoculars along, for some birds sittings along the trail!

Sibley State Park and Mount Tom

Once you get there, hike up Mount Tom. It’s worth the walk and will give you a bird-eye view, of a 50-mile radius at the summit, of the areas patchwork of forest, farmland, prairie knolls and lakes. Along with prime birding activities here with interpretive programs in the spring, it is also open year-around.

In the park, you will find nearly two miles of paved trails that link Lakeview Campground and the Interpretive Center. With a slight elevation change, another favorite haunt is the Pond View Trail loop offering more birding opportunities.

Other parks and trails

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

Willmar and the surrounding area makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. With several parks offering recreational activities and trails, those who visit with their bike will find many haunts to pedal to, including Bergquist Park, Ramblewood Park, Rau Park (Scott Park), Thompson Park, and Swansson Park.  From the trail, you can also reach Robbins Island Park and the park at Green Lake.

Rural road bike-bird opportunities

There are also plenty of bike-friendly Kandiyohi County roads, paved and gravel, to help you navigate the area to reach other marshy areas popular with several bird species here.

More about the bike-friendly Willmar Lakes Area

Willmar also has the Yellow Bike program that places bikes at different spots throughout town. Community members and visitors can use these bikes free of charge during the day.

When you are not riding, the area also offers plenty of indoor attractions when you want to relax. Along with several museums covering different parts of Minnesota’s history, Then, after your ride enjoy a refreshing beverage as you take a break from the outdoor activities in this scenic prairie lakes area.

Places you maybe shouldn’t ride a bike

By , Bicycle Blog

Last year I did a three-day tour around southern Illinois and southeast Missouri. It was beautiful fall weather and a great ride with six friends. Our path included 45 miles on the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Illinois, one of the many terrific rail-trail conversions in the United States.


Riding on the Tunnel Hill State Trail, in Illinois

The most exciting and memorable segment however, took place in Chester, Ill. Chester sits on a bluff high above the Mississippi River, and is best known for being the birthplace of the creator of Popeye, the spinach-eating sailor from the cartoons.

We were eating lunch when one of the locals offered us a shortcut to get to the road along the river, a smooth, flat road with very little traffic.  It would be a nice alternative to the busy two-lane state highway.

“Just go down by the prison,” he said. “Make a left there right into the entrance.”

Now in hindsight that part about the prison should have been sufficient reason to stay with our original route. But we followed the directions to Menard State Penitentiary and found the ‘short cut’ which sure enough, looked like a bike path. We turned in and zoomed through a big grassy field down a huge hill back toward the river. Soon however, the path swooped suddenly right into the prison complex. We were riding alongside the fence of the main jail (where we were close enough to say “hi” to the prisoners inside) and as we passed one of the towers, the guard up inside spun around, then picked up a phone and shouted something into it. We then passed another guard leaning against a truck watching a crew of inmates cutting grass. He turned agitated too and we had a strong feeling that maybe we were somewhere we should not be. But soon enough we passed through another gate, went out a far parking lot and were gone.

As we made our way down the river road, not long after that a van from the pen came roaring past us, pulled up in front of us and waved us over. A guard was driving and he was somewhat irate. Asked us where we’re from and what we were doing on prison property. We should not have been on that road, he said, and that it created quite a stir inside.

We explained what happened, and he said the people in town probably meant a road that was farther down from the one we took. We were very polite and apologetic, and the guard’s demeanor changed just a bit. He wasn’t quite smiling by the time we were done, but let us go with a warning to do that again.

So, next job application, if it asks if I’ve been in prison, do I have to tell them this?

Source: Bicycle Blog