The larger Sauk Centre community has also been involved in the development of this area. A committee of school staff and community members continues to monitor and expand on current needs and projects.
In addition, community groups have provided money and labor for projects which enhance the learning value of the site and increase its usefulness to our school and the community.
PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING
-hours- sunrise to sunset
School property is open to the public. There are several walking trails for your enjoyment. There is an observation deck along the river with picnic tables that you are welcome to use. Please keep in mind the rules listed on this website as well as all school rules when using the area.
There are 14 acres of restored prairie on the school's land. Located in the northeast corner along the Sauk River, there is a loop trail that runs through the prairie for ease of walking.
Nearly 20 million acres of tall grass prairie once covered Minnesota. Currently less than 1 % of these native prairies remain. Sauk Centre is unique in that it lies on the edge of the original prairie and deciduous woods of this area.
Prairies are a type of grassland that is dominated by herbaceous plants, especially grasses. Trees are either absent or only widely scattered on the landscape. Grasslands are the largest vegetation type in North America, covering approximately 15 % of the land area. Prairies are the grassland found in the central part of the North American continent. Rainfall decreases from east to west, resulting in different types of prairies with the tall grass prairie in the wetter eastern region, mixed-grass prairie in the central Great Plains, and short grass prairie toward the rain shadow of the Rockies. Today, these three prairie types largely correspond to the corn/soybean area, the wheat belt, and the western rangelands, respectively.
The first European settlers moving westward from the forests of the eastern United States encountered the prairies, which seemed like a vast ocean of grass. The wind caused waves on the surface of the shimmering grasses.
It was easy to get lost on the prairie, especially since there were few trees or other features for landmarks. Some of the early settlers turned back from the prairies. They thought land that could not grow trees would not be good farming land.
Occurring in the central part of North America, prairies are subject to extreme ranges in temperatures, with hot summers and cold winters. The temperatures also fluctuate greatly during growing seasons. Rainfall also plays a major role in determining the distribution of prairies across North America. Boundaries of prairies are always in a state of flux. During periods of drought, trees died and prairie plants took over previously forested areas. When rainfall was more abundant, the trees and forests were able to reestablish themselves.
Fire has always been a natural component of prairies. Before European settlement, they were either started by lightning or Native Americans. Prairies typically burned every one to five years. The fires moved quickly across the plains. While the fires destroyed tree saplings and thatch, it did not harm the soil or the roots in the soil. The fire also served the purpose of releasing nutrients from thatch back to the soil. The soil underneath the prairie is a dense tangle of roots, rhizomes, bulbs, corms and rootstocks. The above ground portion of the prairie dies back each year, but the largest portion of the plants, which is below ground, survives for many years. For example, big bluestem roots may be 7 feet deep and switch grass roots can be more than 11 feet deep.
The Sauk River borders the school land from the north end along the Highway 17 bridge to the southern most edge of the school property. Starting in Osakis Lake and winding for 119 miles to the Mississippi River near Sartell, this river is known to many. The Sauk River is part of the Mississippi River Drainage Basin, the largest basin in the United States. For more information on the Sauk River, visit the Environmental Protection Agency
When you look at portions of this river, you will see oxbow lakes. These crescent shaped lake segments were once part of the river proper but were left behind when the frequent spring floods rearranged the flow you see today.
Also evident on this river are meanders, which are large curves in the stream. They are an indication this stream has been here for a long time. They are formed when the swifter current on outside curves of a stream erode away and these same eroded materials are deposited on inner curves of a stream where the current is less swift.
The Sauk River has many floodplains or broad, flat valley floors. These have been created through the many meanderings of a stream over time. When a stream floods, it will cover a part of or the whole floodplain, leaving behind rich eroded sediments.