Little Mountain Range on the Prairie


I spent my college years living in a small, rural town in western Minnesota. Not only did this city girl learn the hard realities of life on the prairie where blowing wind could snow the town in for weeks at a time, but I also found Minnesota’s very own mountain range.

panoramic landscape of glacial lakes state park

When people think of the prairie, images of flat and endless fields of farmland, tall and blowing grasses, and classic tales of pioneer life often come to mind. In west-central Minnesota, however, the Leif Hill Moraines (sometimes called “Leaf Mountains”) form an arc up to twenty miles wide and 200 miles long.
deciduous woods and scenic view at glacial lakes state park

Up to 350 feet high in some places, these rolling hills cover the landscape and create spectacular views of deciduous forests, lakes and prairies. Once inhabited by Paleoindians, the area was later held by the Dakota and then the Ojibwa. When settlers arrived, the hills were used for raising livestock.
blue skies shining over glacial lakes state park

The vastness of this landscape makes me think of how breathtaking and desolate it had to have been for early residents in the area.
grass trail in glacial lakes state park

Today, only about 1/10 of 1 percent of the original Minnesota prairie still remains. At Glacial Lakes State Park, they work to preserve these rare native plants and grasses. In the spring and summer,visitors can see prairie clover, pasque flowers, coneflowers, and goldenrods in addition to native grasses.
glacial lakes view from the top of the moraine


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By Heidi Van Heel
Heidi Van Heel

Heidi Van Heel

Writer, freelancer, and believer in magic living in Minneapolis. In my free time, I love reading, exploring the great outdoors, and experimenting in the kitchen.

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