Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Delighting in Owatonna’s Mineral Springs Park on a Sunday afternoon April 19, 2016

A sign explains the legend of Princess Owatonna, represented in an early 1930s statue in Mineral Springs Park.

A sign explains the legend of Princess Owatonna, represented in an early 1930s statue in Mineral Springs Park. The statue was restored in 1986, but appears in need of repair work again.

I DRANK A LONG, deep drink of glacier cold spring water bubbling from a fountain in Owatonna’s Mineral Springs Park. Water that tasted of iron, of the earth. Water that, as legend goes, holds healing power. Princess Owatonna, the daughter of Chief Wabena, supposedly drank daily of the springs along Maple Creek, regaining her health.

I drank from this fountain of spring water.

I drank from this fountain of spring water. Owatonna Mineral Springs Company spring water was served on railroad dining cars back in the day.

Whether legend or truth, it mattered not to me. I drank more, until my husband pointed out rust running across the park roadway from the spilling water fountains. (I should have noticed the rust in the fountain bowls.)

Maple Creek winds through the park. Several pedestrian bridges cross the waterway.

Maple Creek winds through the park. Several pedestrian bridges cross the waterway.

This 48-acre park is a lovely place, nestled at the base of wooded hills, the creek flowing through.

Maple Creek runs surprisingly clear.

Maple Creek runs surprisingly clear.

I watched this drake for a long time swimming in the creek.

I watched this drake for a long time swimming in the creek.

I was especially impressed by the clarity of the water, so clear I could see the webbed feet of a drake paddling. So clear I could see the creek bottom. So clear I could see a minnow swimming.

The Princess Owatonna statue up close.

The Princess Owatonna statue up close.

Sunday was the perfect day to visit this park with the 1930s statue of the Indian Princess after whom this southern Minnesota community is named. So legend claims.

On the wooded hillside, these wildflowers bloomed.

On the wooded hillside, these wildflowers bloomed.

Sun baked heat into the afternoon at an unseasonably warm 70-plus degrees. Wildflowers bloomed. Hints of buds greened trees. A butterfly darted.

Fishing in Maple Creek, although there were not fish to be seen except minnows.

Fishing in Maple Creek, although there were not fish to be seen except minnows.

Kids raced around the playground, energized. Guys tossed horseshoes. A boy fished with his dad. Walkers walked dogs. The signature scent of roasting hot dogs drifted from the picnic shelter grill.

People smiled. How could you not? Sunday marked a glorious summer-like spring day in Minnesota. As beautiful as they come in April.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “Delighting in Owatonna’s Mineral Springs Park on a Sunday afternoon”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    Lovely fountain.
    I suppose a little iron can’t hurt…

  2. Nothing better than getting outside to explore and experience the natural – Beautiful park and captures – thanks for sharing 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    Especially while in NYC, but truly, in every place I have traveled, I realize the importance of nature in small towns and big cities. Parks provide so much to the senses… if only more folks would indulge in a regular visit!

  4. I remember as a kid, every park had a stone water fountain in it… Today, I wouldn’t think of drinking from a public outdoor fountain. Ah, for the good old days..

  5. Sounds like a good time was had.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Looks like a lovely park Audrey, and you’re right it was a wonderful day! A great day to be out and about!. I would have guzzled from that fountain too! Growing up in the country we had several areas with natural springs bubbling up from the ground. We Kids would get down on our hands and knees and slurp from the springs as they bubbled up. It was the most cold and refreshing water ever! Not sure I’d recommend that now but we weren’t sick much 🙂

    • That is fascinating that you drank from springs bubbling from the ground. No such thing on the prairie where I grew up.

      • Jackie Says:

        The farm land I grew up near was very hilly and rocky, the springs were on the side of the hills next to the pastures. Yes, I’m sure a different kind of country than you were used to.

      • I always dreamed of living on a farm with pasture land and a creek running through. In the area of sw MN where I grew up, the land is tilled and planted with crops. No room for pasture when the land can be producing money via crops. That was the mindset back in the day.

  7. James "Corky" Ebeling Says:

    The water is tested my the MN Dept. of Health. The rust you see is iron deposits. Many people come from miles to fill jugs of this spring water especially for canning!

    • Yep, I knew the rust was a result of iron. I could taste the iron in the water and note that in my opening sentence. But I didn’t know people come from miles around to fill jugs with this water, especially for canning. That’s interesting. Mineral Springs water reminds me of well water from the farm where I grew up in southwestern Minnesota.

  8. Beth Ann Says:

    I see Henry my duck friend made it up to see you but where was Maude.? This was a lovely walk in the park for me.


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