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


8 Responses to “A glimpse of winter on the Minnesota prairie”

  1. dorothy bowman Says:

    Beautiful!! Just happy I don’t have to see it everyday. What were the temps? Easy to forget how beautiful the landscape is. Loved the photos.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The temp was around 30 degrees. We are expecting more snow here in Minnesota today and into tomorrow. Oh, joy.

      I agree with you that the prairie is a beautiful place. I shot 150 photos on our weekend trip to southwestern Minnesota, so you’ll definitely see more.

      Happy you enjoyed the trip “back home.”

  2. Dawn Tietz Says:

    Beautiful!! I just wish we could skip over the spring floods and go right to some nice spring weather. I am starting to have nightmares that our backyard will still be under snow in June for graduation.

    Over 150 pictures??? Wow!! You must be snapping constantly!!

    Do you suppose the ground hog will try to come out again and decide he’s not staying?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, Dawn, I hope the snow is melted from your yard by your son’s June graduation party. If not, just note on the invitations that guests should wear boots.

  3. Bernie Says:

    I love when you take road trips. I get to see parts of MN I never did when I lived there.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, thanks, Bernie. These road trips occur less often in the winter, because of, yeah, the weather. Every time I’m on the road, though, I notice something I never saw before, even if I’ve traveled that route hundreds of times. Sometimes we “look,” but don’t “see.”

  4. Audrey,
    Your Minnesota looks an awful lot like our Alberta. These could have been taken on the roads leading out of our city.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Minnesota has a diverse landscape, from the flat, open prairies on the west (pictured in this post) to rolling hills along the Mississippi River valley to the east, to the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota. Where I live in southeastern Minnesota is more densely-populated and a mix of hills and flat land.

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