WLA Features: Sibley State Park
By Bailey Hovland
State parks are some of Minnesota’s greatest resources. They preserve the land of those who came before us, give everyone an opportunity to experience the great outdoors, and support the biodiversity unique to Minnesota. And in the Willmar Lakes Area, Sibley State Park is our local treasure. For 100 years, this land has been serving the public views of rolling prairies, serene wetlands, and tranquil forests. Right between the transition zone of two ecosystems; where the woodlands of the East meet the grasslands of the West, Sibley offers two sides of Minnesota to explore. And with 2,900 wild acres, Sibley State Park showcases why public lands are so important to Minnesotans and visitors alike.
The park is home to many animals, offering more than sightings of the typical white-tailed deer and monarch butterflies. Sibley is the northwestern-most breeding location for the yellow-throated warbler in the United States, a small songbird with a clear voice that pierces the treetops. The park’s woodlands are home to ruffed grouse and wild turkey, two fowl that are often spotted wandering the area. The plant variety includes bur oaks, ironwoods, hackberries’ green ash, basswoods, and aspens. Foxes are commonly spotted on the grounds, and eastern screech owls can be found in the trees. The abundance of feathered creatures makes the park an ideal place to go birding, so you can bring your binoculars and try to identify as many sparrow species as possible.
Sibley also hosts a number of events for the community to invite them outside. Each event is educational and designed to show visitors the undeniable beauty and unique features of the region. Included in the long list of events that have been offered in the past are: Become Fluent in Loon, Superheroes of Sibley State Park (showcasing the animals and insects with “super” powers),
Animal LIVE, and Pollination Sensation. Some of their educational experiences are even more interactive, taking you through different parts of the park to identify various plants, wildlife, and history. The Wild Edibles Walk gives visitors insight on how to identify wild plants that can be ingested, providing vitamins and minerals for the snacking hiker or survivalist. And the Bedtime Birds Stroll and Storytime was designed to take visitors along the shores of St. Andrew Lake in the early evening, listening to a naturalist talk about the birds of Minnesota that come out at night. There’s also a few seasonal events that bring visitors to the park, including the Jack-O-Lantern Walk that keeps visitors in the Halloween spirit.
Visitors can also take on Sibley by themselves, hiking the various nature trails, setting up their tents on the campgrounds, and visiting the wildlife observation areas. One of the better workouts is trekking the Mt. Tom Trail 3.3 mile loop, giving you stunning views with an abundance of fresh air. And the Pondview Interpretive Trail Loop walks alongside some of the park’s water features, giving visitors the opportunity to spot waterfowl and fish. The campgrounds are perfect for a family vacation, where you can enjoy the waters of St. Andrew and grill out underneath the stars. And of course, the wildlife viewing is not limited to the observation areas (but are certainly perfect spots to scan the horizon).
Regardless of what events or plans get you out to Sibley State Park, it is certain to be an experience you won’t soon forget. With the peaceful woodlands, thriving wetlands, and abundant wildlife, there is no end to what you can see and experience out at Sibley. But don’t take my word for it—plan your next visit today.
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