Whitewater State Park

We were in the Rochester area this past weekend for the Land O’Lakes 2019 Fall District Convention in which Ross’ barbershop chorus was competing. Whitewater State Park is only a half-hour away from Rochester and was highly recommended by one of Ross’ fellow barbershoppers. It was a brisk and crisp fall afternoon, and we were hoping to catch the last of the fall colors. According to the Minnesota DNR fall color finder, a small portion of southeast Minnesota was still in the 75-100% peak.

We arrived at the park, and there were a good number of people setting out to enjoy what the park had to offer. We stopped at the park office to get a trail map and recommendations on what path to take. According to the Minnesota DNR website, Whitewater’s highlights include rugged hiking trails to scenic bluffland, excellent trout fishing in the summer and winter, year-round interpretive programs, a visitor center, spectacular spring wildflowers and what really amused me, a noticeable lack of mosquitoes.

I went into the office as Ross told me there was some merchandise for sale. I picked out a Whitewater State Park T-shirt and brought it to the counter, saying to the park employee I like to get “state park swag.” He liked that reference and mentioned the time he ran into someone at a concert wearing a Whitewater State Park shirt. Whitewater happens to be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The Chimney Rock Trail was recommended to us as we’d see, well, Chimney Rock, as well as Inspiration Point. Chimney Rock is a limestone rock column that’s 40 feet tall. Inspiration Point is a limestone rock outcrop that overlooks the valley. We came to the sign that marked the beginning of the trail (well, I think it was the beginning) and ran into a couple that started at a different point on the trail. Then we came across a guy with a fishing pole and gear, taking advantage of the great trout fishing.

The trail was at times challenging, well for me anyways. There were a few sets of stairs, parts where the trail was mainly rocks and some steep inclines. My fear of heights kicked in as we approached the trail that was close to Chimney Rock. I was advised by a passing hiker to just not look down.

According to the Minnesota DNR website, the Chimney Rock Trail is described as steep and hilly (got that right), with more than 100 stairs, bare rock and packed dirt. “Hike up a bluff to visit the famous Chimney Rock and watch turkey vultures and eagles soaring while anglers pursue trout on the middle branch of the Whitewater River below,” the website said.

We were greeted by a couple of dogs when we reached Chimney Rock. A couple of folks were crouched inside the opening in the bottom of the rock column. I didn’t really feel like folding myself into the spot, so we kept on the trail.

As for the fall colors … even though they were a little muted, they were still a sight to see. I stopped several times along our hike just to check out the abundance of colorful trees and take some photos with my phone.

I think we also went on the Inspiration Point Trail, which is also steep and hilly, with more than 100 stairs. We definitely got our workout with our hike. As we made our way back to the truck, we passed by the trout run area. I saw another fisherman heading toward the river. Ross kept looking for the trout as we walked along the riverside, and we didn’t see anything.

We made the most out of the short time we had since we still had a 3+ hour drive ahead of us. It’s definitely a park I want to return to as there’s a lot more to see,