Interpretive Naturalist Jeremy Darst enjoys giving tours and educating visitors about Whitewater State Park. Darst says, “The beauty of winter is that you can go lots of places off the trails because there’s no vegetation. There are also historical markers [in Whitewater State Park] you can see in the winter that aren’t visible in the summer.”
Whitewater State Park Snowshoeing Class
Darst begins the snowshoeing class at Whitewater State Park with a lesson in dressing for the cold as well as a few tips on snowshoes and how they work. It’s important to dress in layers. “It’s not necessary to have extremely warm clothes and gloves because you expend a lot of energy snowshoeing. Dress in long underwear and lightweight wind pants. If your clothing is too warm it will cause you to sweat. When you stop for a break, you’ll get cold from the sweat.” He also says lightweight gloves and a hat are ideal for snowshoeing. “You may want to wear sunglasses because of the sun’s reflection on the snow,” says Darst.
Many of the guests are new to snowshoeing, so Darst explains the importance of staying on the snow. “If you walk across the parking lot or other hard surfaces, you will likely break the teeth used for gripping and hiking through the snow,” says Darst. He also says it’s best not to walk on any trees lying across the trail.
After the basic snowshoeing lesson, attendees carpool to the Nature Center parking lot. At the beginning of the hike Darst points out beaver lodges and a man-made bat house. The Whitewater State Park Saturday snowshoeing class trek is about an hour and half.
Whitewater State Park provides snowshoes free of charge for Saturday events. However, if you’re interested in snowshoeing in the park at other times, you can rent snowshoes for $6 a day. If you have your own snowshoes and you aren’t sure if conditions are appropriate for snowshoeing, call the park office for snow depth and other conditions. For more information you can call 507-932-3007 or visit dnr.state.mn.us.
White Water State Park Snowshoeing Classes
Hidden History Snowshoe, 1-3 p.m., Saturday, January 23, 2016
An afternoon on snowshoeing while you discover some historic relics only visible in the winter.
Snowshoe Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., February 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2016
Visit the forest, streamside and meadow to look for signs of wildlife and to explore the winter world on snowshoes. All ages are invited.
More Snowshoeing Trails and Rentals
Oxbow Park in Byron has about 2 miles of groomed trails beginning and ending at the northeast corner of the parking lot. The trails are rated easy, so it’s a great family outing in the winter months. They offer adult- and child-sized snowshoes for $3 a pair. Equipment can be rented from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Visit co.olmsted.mn.us/pw/parks/oxbowpark/Pages/SkiTrail.aspx for more information.
Snowshoe rentals are also available at Quarry Hill Nature Center. They have knowledgeable staff to help select the perfect pair of snowshoes. There are 8 miles of groomed trails for beginners and experts. Snowshoe rentals can be rented for a half day, full day or all weekend. Prices vary. Visit qhnc.org/park/cross-country-skiing for more information.
According to Tyrol Ski & Sports in Rochester, snowshoeing is an affordable sport for the whole family. They can help match equipment to your fitness level and the type of excursion. Rental prices cater to adult ($10) and children ($5) a day. Visit tyrolskishop.com/pdf/winter_rental.pdf for more information.
Snowshoes can also be purchased from Tyrol Ski & Sport, Mills Fleet Farm, Gander Mountain and Scheels. Prices vary by size, brand and retail location.
A portion of this article was reprinted through permission from the St. Charles Press by Nicole L. Czarnomski, St. Charles Press Staff Writer. Nicole L. Czarnomski is a freelance write who lives in St. Charles and frequents Whitewater State Park.