Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Autumn ablaze at Maplewood State Park October 14, 2019



BEFORE THE WINTER STORM arrived with predictions of feet of snow in nearby North Dakota, we embraced autumn at, for us, a previously unvisited state park. Maplewood State Park east of Pelican Rapids in northwestern Minnesota fits its name. This place blazes with hillsides of trees set among prairie and lakes.


A rutted and narrow gravel road takes motorists on a scenic drive through the park.


These horseback riders led their horses to the lake for a quick drink.


Restored prairies are found throughout Maplewood State Park, this one along a trail to a scenic overlook.


Last Wednesday, only days before that predicted winter storm (which also edged into western Minnesota), we toured this park that features scenic overlooks, miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, and a five-mile driving loop.


Driving into Maplewood State Park.


A glorious fall scene repeated throughout the park.


Trees ablaze at the picnic grounds.


We hit the park at the peak of fall color. So did many others—busloads of school children, generations of families, couples, horseback riders…


Wildflowers on the prairie.


Acres and acres of prairie grass wave in the wind.


Even dried seed heads hold beauty.


When you live in Minnesota or the Dakotas, you need to take in every single last glorious day of autumn before the snow flies, the leaves fall and winter settles in for months.




We enjoyed a sunshine-filled, albeit windy, afternoon exploring Maplewood. There’s something incredibly soothing about immersing one’s self in the outdoors, far from work and worries. Spirits soar in sunshine in a place that is spectacularly beautiful in this season of autumn.



TELL ME: What’s your favorite location to view fall colors?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Autumn ablaze at Maplewood State Park”

  1. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    Beautiful Audrey! Wednesday was a beautiful day. I took our dog on three different walks in between house cleaning with the windows open. I’d love to take another walk or drive through Lake Herman State Park.

  2. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Now there’s a state park we haven’t been to yet! Thanks for sharing these photos of it. One of my favorite places to drink in fall color is along the parkway on the St. Paul side of the Mississippi not far from the St. Paul Seminary. That stretch is just glorious when the colors are at their peak. I also love being up along the north shore, up toward Lutsen. Beautiful! I think their colors are done up there by now, though.

  3. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Beautiful photo’s Audrey. I especially like the one with the one with the prairie grasses and the colors on the hill behind it. Thanks for sharing. I’m about to update my blog with fall-color photos in the north land.

  4. Neil Says:

    The fall colors in New England are the most vibrant and long-lasting that I’ve seen anywhere in the country. The North Shore is also good, but the autumn season is far too short in Northern Minnesota! Down here in Missouri, the Ozarks are nice, although the coloring is very muted by comparison.

  5. Susan Ready Says:

    I enjoyed your pictorial album of fall colors. I did not know these particular park had restored prairies and seeing horseback riders. was an added bonus. And yes outdoors and autumn sunshine can lift one spirits. Good to enjoy it all while it lasts.

  6. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’m glad you were able to see such a beautiful array of fall colors, and to capture wonderful photos of God’s amazing creation.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed your fall colors. Our colors in NC are yet to really pop but we usually don’t see full color until November so I will patiently wait. We did get out and enjoy the fall like weather over the weekend which was nice and included apple orchards and hiking a little bit at Chimney Rock .

  8. It’s so pretty, Audrey! We are currently in a National Park in Kentucky. While the leaves are falling, there doesn’t seem to be much vibrant color this year. I’m hoping it changes in the next couple of days before we head to the land of one seasons (Florida). Fall is my favorite, so I’m going to enjoy every second. Thank you for sharing the lovely colors!

  9. I haven’t visited this State Park so thanks for the wonderful pictures and narrative. I will have to add to my “Need to Visit” list.
    Jay Cooke is my favorite fall color location. The scenic overlook of the St Louis River Valley is spectacular in the fall.

  10. Brian Says:

    Beautiful pictures Audrey. My wife and I moved to Shakopee from the prairies of western North Dakota 2 years ago. The trees on those prairies are remote and lonely, as a rural UPS driver I’d see a herd of cows trying to huddle under a single tree in the scorching sun. Moving here amongst all the beautiful trees we haven’t selected a favorite place to see the changing colors yet, but we never get tired of seeing all the fall foliage right in our own neighborhood. We are planning on going on a scenic river cruise at Taylor’s Falls this Saturday, we look forward to that.


    • Brian, you give a vivid description of the western North Dakota landscape. I can see those cows in my mind huddling under that lone tree. I grew up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, thus can fully understand. I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new tree-filled home in Minnesota. Have a wonderful river cruise.

  11. Wyonne Long Says:

    Maplewood State Park is definitely one of my favorite “fall color” destinations! It’s been several years since I’ve been there and your photo essay is much appreciated! The yellow birch trees in my front yard by Oslo, Norway, are radiant this year – no need to travel to find “fall colors” this autumn!!

    • We absolutely loved Maplewood. What a glorious place in the autumn. You are right to appreciate what you have right in your yard. I feel the same about Faribault. We have so many stunning fall colors right here in town. No need to travel if you don’t want to do so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.