Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A glimpse of winter on the Minnesota prairie March 8, 2011


Traveling U.S. Highway 14 west of New Ulm to southwestern Minnesota.

I NEEDED A TRIP to southwestern Minnesota this past weekend, as much to be with extended family as to reconnect with the land where I grew up. I was not disappointed, on both counts.

I embraced the family I love as we talked and laughed and talked and laughed some more while celebrating my middle brother’s 50th birthday until just past midnight on Saturday.

Sometime in between, we joked about the possibility of being snowed in on his Redwood County acreage. Snow was in the forecast and we all know that snow on the prairie, combined with wind, could strand us.

By the time we finished breakfast mid-morning on Sunday, the flakes were flying and U.S. Highway 14 was dusted with snow, enough to cause cautionary travel as my husband, son and I headed east back to our Faribault home.

Fortunately, we drove out of the snow even before reaching New Ulm.

Every time I visit the prairie, I realize all over again how harsh winters are out there and how very different they are from the winters I experience in southeastern Minnesota. Honestly, if you saw the drifts and plowed ridges of snow along Highway 14 and the endless vista of wide open spaces that stretch like a sea of white, you would understand.

Join me on this visual journey along a section of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway between New Ulm and Lamberton. These photos don’t even do justice to winters on the prairie because we weren’t traveling in a prairie blizzard. But, in these images, you can envision the possibilities…


Railroad tracks run parallel to Highway 14 as the land stretches under spacious skies.

In some spots along U.S. Highway 14, the snow is piled higher than vehicles.

Snow had been pushed into rows in fields along Highway 14, acting as natural snow fences.

The wind sculpted drifts along the snow fences.

The snow had been pushed into mountains so high that only the top portion of Family Foods was visible from Highway 14 on the eastern side of Sleepy Eye.

Snow pushed off Highway 14, as seen through the windshield of our car.

Visibility was reduced as we traveled along U.S. Highway 14 Sunday morning near Lamberton, creating this surreal image of the local grain elevators. The top seven images were taken on Saturday.

We were thankful the lights on this sign, on the east side of Springfield, were not flashing Sunday morning. During severe winter weather these lights are activated and roads are closed to keep motorists safe.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling