Turtles, like leatherbacks and snappers, have been spotted recently at familiar nesting sites at Crow Wing State Park, a place they call home.
Now park guests and campers can learn more about the natural features -- and creatures -- at the state park from the park's newest addition, naturalist Stacy Bot.
Bot, a Marshall native, graduated from St. Cloud State University with a biology degree in 1999. She has worked at state parks in Colorado and Minnesota before she was hired as a seasonal naturalist at Crow Wing State Park.
Bot, 23, will work at the park through mid-September, offering a variety of educational programs, including informational hikes and guest presentations. She'll also be on hand to help answer questions from guests about the park. Her first project will involve the turtle nesting site. She just started her position a few weeks ago so program dates and times will be announced at the end of June or early July.
For the past several years, the park has partnered with the Crow Wing County Historical Society to offer Saturday night programs. These programs will be continued and expanded, said Bot.
Ron Miles, regional naturalist for central Minnesota state parks, said a summer naturalist at Crow Wing State Park has been a high priority in the state park system for a number of years. It has been a part of the state wide park plan for 15 years. The naturalist position at Crow Wing State Park is a permanent seasonal position.
Jim Cummings, a year-round naturalist at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, contributed to the nature programming over the years at Crow Wing State Park, but it was time for the park to have its own naturalist. The park has about 50,000 visitors each year.
"I'm really excited about it," said Bot. "There is so much opportunity here because they've never had a naturalist here. There is such a broad spectrum of things to do."
Crow Wing State Park is nine miles south of Brainerd on Highway 371. According to historian William Warren, the state park was the scene of a major war battle between the Dakota and Ojibwe in 1768. Crow Wing also was the home of great Ojibwe leaders, including Be-be-sig-aund-dib-way (Curly Head), Bug-o-na-ge-shig (Hole-in-the-Day) and Song-uk-um-eg (Strong Ground).
As the fur trade economy shifted into logging, fur traders in the Crow Wing settlement were being replaced by boom companies and sawmills by 1848. This community, according to park literature, was, for more than a century, the northernmost settlement of Europeans on the Mississippi River. Half of its population was Ojibwe during the territorial and early statehood periods of Minnesota.
In addition to its historical significance, the state park hosts a variety of wildlife, has 61 semi-modern campsites, shower facilities, picnic areas, and canoe and boat rentals. There are 14 miles of foot trails and a .4-mile self-guided interpretive trail.
For more information on Crow Wing State Park, call its main office at 829-8022.
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