Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The sounds of silence at Rice Lake State Park May 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A lengthy dock takes visitors to expansive views of Rice Lake.


IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME since I’ve experienced such silence, broken only by the occasional music of songbirds, the honking of geese, the rustling of wind. Nature’s sounds. I heard, too, other sounds. Of voices, of a child crying, of steel ringing against steel to set a fence post.


Rice Lake State Park is known for its birds and waterfowl.


But mostly, between the trill of red-winged blackbirds, I heard nothing at Rice Lake State Park east of Owatonna. Randy and I arrived there around noonish last Friday with plans to hike and picnic in celebration of our 38th wedding anniversary.


I aimed my camera upward to the canopy of greening trees.


Lake and sky meet at Rice Lake State Park.


Randy reads signs about waterfowl posted by the lake.


Morning broke in sunshine, warming the air as the day advanced. Blue skies stretched wide above greening trees and over Rice Lake. At water’s edge, dried rushes and grasses showed new spring growth.


We waited for this group to clear the dock before walking onto it.


It was, in every way, the loveliest of May days. I mentally prepared myself for crowds at the park as the DNR website warned possible. But Rice Lake proved an uncrowded destination. We waited only once for several people to leave a dock before walking there to view the lake.


This sign is posted by the path to the dock.


Another social distancing reminder at the picnic shelter.


No camping is allowed yet, so sites like this one sit empty. Phased reopening of campgrounds begins June 1.


Social distancing signs reminded us of the realities of COVID-19. And empty camping sites did likewise.


Spring wildflowers abound in the park.


We followed this narrow lakeside trail, which Randy termed a “cow path.”


Another lake perspective, photographed from the dock.


But we were not there to camp, only to walk the trails, eat our picnic lunch lakeside and simply enjoy being outdoors. The bonus came in the quiet of this park, a quiet I needed. I live along a busy city street where the sound of traffic rarely stops. In the noise of today’s world—the noise of COVID news and COVID concerns and COVID always running in the mind’s background, this nature respite soothed, calmed, gave me peace.


This chipmunk paused just long enough for me to snap a photo.


Walking into the woods.


The water kept drawing me back.


I didn’t realize how much I needed this quiet until I heard it.


© Copyright 2020 Minnesota Prairie Roots


14 Responses to “The sounds of silence at Rice Lake State Park”

  1. Jillian Says:

    Beautiful pictures. I love to see nature coming to life after a long rest.

  2. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    I enjoyed the visit to Rice Lake State Park. It took me back to the 1950s/60s when our family might go there for a drive from our farm near Owatonna. It looks much more developed now but still has the “cowpath.” So peaceful, as you wrote.

    • I’m happy to have taken you back to a beloved spot near your childhood home. Randy called the trail a “cow path.” He’s familiar with pastures and bringing the cows home. I’m not as all land on our dairy farmer was open and plowed for fields. Our cows “lived” in the cow yard. I would have loved to have grown up on a farm with pasture land.

  3. Sheila Ehrich Says:

    Thank you! It is cheering to know that there is something like this available without a crushing crowd. A friend and I did the drive through at the Arboretum, but you weren’t allowed to get out of your car at all. Just to be able to walk in nature would be a relief!


    • Rice Lake Park, on the day we visited, was definitely not crowded. It was lovely.

      I haven’t been to the Arboretum in decades. I hope you enjoyed the drive through, although I’m sure you would have preferred a walk-through.

  4. Walter Says:

    Path, cow’s path, it’s my favorite picture.
    As always excellent post.

  5. valeriebollinger Says:

    Years ago we were in Zion National Park and I still remember a sign there. It read, “Silence alone is worthy to be heard.”

  6. Enjoying the silence is something I do often, just on my back deck. Lots of bird sounds and an occasional dog barking, it’s just enough to enjoy! Loved that cute little wildflower picture. 🙂

  7. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    Beautiful pictures and yes that does look like a cow path.

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