All About Archery

With summer knocking on the door we at River Bend are getting excited to start our summer camp program season! One of my favorite camps last summer to teach and one of our most popular was our four whole-day camps Adventure is Out There! The kids in the camp get to do a wide variety of things like canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, zip-lining, low ropes courses, archery, and more! Archery is one of my favorite hobbies in this line up of activities and I loved teaching it to kids and adults over the last year of working at River Bend Nature Center. So below is a blog post to help all of you get pumped up for doing archery in our summer camps and to encourage you to sign up for these or pre-register for our basics of archery public program Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. Here is the link to the River Bend Public Programs page ( ) and the link to the summer camps page ( ). I even have included some tips at the bottom to help improve your archery skills or impress the instructors when you come to the programs. So read on to learn some of the cool history and things all about archery!


Adventure is Out There Summer Camp!

What is Archery?

Very briefly archery is using a bow to propel arrows toward something you aim at. Archery was traditionally used as a way to hunt animals for food. Later it was used as a weapon of combat, to fight and wage wars between opposing forces. Today it is still used for hunting but also as a recreational and competitive sport.


Parts of an Arrow 1) Arrowhead/Tip: point that pierces target 2) Shaft: body of the arrow 3) Feathers/Fletching: creates drag helping arrow spin and fly straight 4) Nock: opposite end where string rests and is pulled back


Parts of a Bow A) Limbs: upper and lower that the string is attached to B) Nocking Point: a knot where the arrow is attached under on the string C) String: attached to limbs is what is pulled back to send the arrow D) Grip: where your hand holds the bow E) Arrow Rest: where the arrow rests on the bow

Early History of Archery

The first records of archery date back to 10,000 to 9,000 B.C. and bows and arrows were made out of wood usually and the arrow had a stone tip. Bows and arrow artifacts eventually replaced the use of spears on every continent except Australia. Archery was used as a weapon for war throughout the world for thousands of years. Archers played a major role in armies and war strategy from classical civilizations like the Greeks all the way to the mid-late 1800’s; when their use as a weapon of war slowly came to an end as guns and other weapons became quicker to reload. The Romans owed much of their military superiority to their archers and even though the bow is no longer a weapon of choice for warfare it still makes appearances into the 19th and 20th centuries in smaller conflicts throughout the world.



Men getting ready to fire arrows using an English longbow.

Archery as a Sport

Archery was revived in the 1800’s as a competitive sport for men and women. Although the earliest Archery Societies began in the 1600’s and 1700’s in England with the oldest archery tournament still going today is the Ancient Scorton Arrow which was started in Yorkshire in 1673. The first Olympics to have archery was the summer Olympics in Paris in 1900 and this was the second Olympics held. In the 1920’s engineers started developing the modern recurve and compound bows making archery a more accessible sport. Additionally there is now a competition called the World Nomad Games that has different traditional archery skills for competitions. The World Nomad Games started in 2014 in Kyrgyzstan with mostly countries from central Asia competing and was again held in 2016 at same place and it looks like it will take place every 2 years with the 2018 location still to be determined. Look below for pictures from the competitions that involve some amazing archery skills!


A girl in traditional dress perform and impressive display at the World Nomad Games. Image by Viktor Drachev/TASS/Getty Images)


Hungarian Natalia Suarez Friedrichs participates in women’s archery at the World Nomad Games (RFE/RL)

Bow Hunting

Today archery is still used as a technique for hunting animals similar to its use in the centuries before although a more modified tool made of metals and plastics. In Minnesota you can hunt a variety of animals using a bow and arrows everything from deer and turkeys to carp and rabbits, the ones you may be more familiar with are the spring and fall turkey hunt and the fall deer hunt using bows. However, before you go out hunting it’s best to check the DNR hunting regulations book to make sure you are following the rules and to check out the DNR’s bow hunter education webpage if you are new to bow hunting or maybe looking to get you kids involved!

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Archery in Modern Culture

In the last 10 years archery has become popular in movies and tv shows in American culture. Mostly with super heroes like the Green Arrow on the TV show Arrow, Artemis on the TV show Young Justice, and Hawkeye in the Marvel Avengers movies. We also can’t forget about Merida from Brave and her awesome archery skills from horseback and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games books and movies. All are great examples of gifted archers in addition to hundreds of other who show that even in the movies and TV shows you don’t need super strength or speed to save the day. In fact you don’t even need arms to do archery check out Matt Stutzman aka the “Armless Archer” a real life person who shows that archery is an accessible activity for even the most unlikely people. I would even go as far to say he is a bit of a super hero since he originally took up archery in 2009 not to become a famous athlete but to help feed his family. In a typical American story he went from depressed, unemployed, and a stay at home dad and by putting in the effort to learn how to shoot with his feet to help provide for his family; he then took that same desire and determination to become a professional athlete and make a living doing archery! So I highly recommend to watch him compete at the next Paralympics, or maybe even the regular Olympics!


Matt Stutzman, 29, of Fairfield and formerly of Kalona (Iowa), is competing for the U.S. Paralympic team in next month’s Paralympics in London. Stutzman, who was born without arms, came within one point of breaking the world record in archery during the Paralympic trials in April. (Josie Hannes)

How to improve your archery skills!

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. It cannot be expressed enough that the more you practice the better you become at something. In fact, there was a study done that found evidence that people who became experts at something only became experts after at least 10,000 hours of practice!
  2. Make sure you are shooting with your dominate eye. It will be much easier and your accuracy will improve much quicker when using the eye that is stronger.
  3. Proper form will increase your accuracy and power. So before you shoot make sure your feet are a little less than shoulder length apart and perpendicular to the target your hip should be pointing at the target. Also you should be using your back muscles to pull with equal force on the bow string to the pressure you put on the bow to help the arrow fly straight and smooth.
  4. To improve your aiming there is a lot of advice out there. So here is one for erring on the side of caution before even lifting your bow look at your target and then don’t focus on what you are aiming for until fully drawn and then only give yourself 3 to 5 seconds to aim before releasing the arrow to help prevent over aiming.
  5. Follow through is where a good archer can become a great archer. By follow through we mean keeping your eye on the target and holding your stance until the arrow has hit the target to help create muscle memory and prevent you from dropping the bow too soon.
  6. Lastly take breaks and know when to quit. Practicing archery is only beneficial as long as you have good form and the strength to help create muscle memory. So know when you are done for the day to rest up for the next practice.

Adventure is Out There Summer Camp


The Heroes of River Bend Nature Center Part 1: Early Heroes


“Share a Dream”

Orwin-RustadPhotoHQ (2)

Orwin Rustad sharing his knowledge with students on a hike


It now has been almost a year since I started working at River Bend Nature Center and over the last year I have learned a lot of the facts about the history of River Bend Nature Center. Information like when it was founded, when its first building was built, and the names of the people who helped make this Nature Center a reality. It wasn’t until my last blogpost about quiet places at River Bend Nature Center seeing just how many plaques by trees and benches we have honoring people, which made me realize just how many people helped create this place we all love so very much. I began to wonder more about the people who worked to make this place a reality. What were they like? What dreams did they first have for this place when it was still old farm land? What things had we forgotten with time that the people who had come before us had done to make River Bend Nature Center?

Before white settlers the land was natural prairies and forests, and the Wahpekutey band of the Dakota lived here in Faribault with some possibly have been living where Rustad Road is today. Then after Alexander Faribault created a town here and the Dakota were moved to a reservation as a result of the Treaty of Mendota in 1851 the land was divided up to farmers and one farmer sold his land to the state and the Faribault Regional Center was created. The residents of the state hospital farmed this land from the late 1800’s to the late 1960’s this farm land provided food for all their residents as well as some of the other state institutions in the surrounding area. Through the 1970s until it was founded in 1978-79 and in 1980 when the opening and dedication of River Bend Nature Center and the Trailside Center building happened is when the story and the dream of the land becoming an Environmental Learning or Nature Center really began and is still being written.

If you are interested in learning more about all the steps that happened between 1970 and 1980 to make River Bend Nature Center than I highly recommend you check out chapter thirty of Orwin Rustad’s book “A Journal of Natural Events in Southeastern Minnesota” the chapter is titled River Bend Nature Center Early History . This chapter is written by Kay Janky who was one of the early people along with Orwin Rustad and so many others who worked to make River Bend Nature Center possible. From this chapter I actually found the title of one of their earliest publications a brochure called “Share a Dream” that was created to help build support for creating a nature center in Faribault. I decided to use it for the title of this blog in part because after reading a lot of the bios and history of these early River Bend leaders you could see how they all shared a dream for this place and worked together to make it possible. Share a Dream seemed appropriate for both the past and now the present because as River Bend Nature moves to celebrate our 40th Anniversary year from 2018 to 2019 we have done surveys with the community there have been a lot of discussions with the staff and the Board of Directors about what River Bend is and what we hope it will continue to be and become in the future.

Our Executive Director, Breanna Wheeler, has talked about gathering more of the history of River Bend and the stories of all the people who helped make River Bend whether they were an early founder, staff, board member, volunteer, or people a part of the River Bend community who have a story to share. So I decided with this week being Earth Week and to celebrate Earth Day today that it is an appropriate time to start a series of posts remembering the people who have made this place River Bend Nature Center. My intention is that this will be an on-going series of blog posts as we find more history and more people who have been a part of the River Bend story because we don’t know every single person who has been a part of River Bend Nature Center right now. Kay Janky had a great quote from the book about this “To begin to list all those who gave significantly of their time and support would most assuredly mean I would miss an important person.” So we ask that you please share the stories you know about the people who helped make River Bend Nature Center with us so that we can share the history accurately on our next blog posts and throughout our 40th Anniversary celebration. We also would really appreciate contact information to be able to get a hold of them in the future. So let us begin this series by learning about some of the early heroes of River Bend Nature Center.


Orwin Rustad, founder, ribbon cutting ceremony in 1980

Orwin Rustad – “The Father of River Bend Nature Center”

Orwin Rustad had been a native of Faribault and had grown up outdoors. Even before graduating from high school he was fascinated by birds and got his master bird banding permit while still in high school and did bird banding for 40 years recording what birds migrated through Faribault. He then went on to get a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in biology from St. Olaf College in 1942 and then a Master’s degree in biology and science education from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and did further studies at Cornell University and Oslo University in Norway. He then went on to teach biology and filed biology collectively for 42 years between Breck High School, St. Olaf College, and Shattuck St. Mary’s and was also Shattuck’s Naturalist after his retirement in 1988. In fact he first tried to get a nature center on Shattuck’s campus before turning to the land he loved to hike on. He was one of earliest founders of River Bend and he spent hours hiking on the land when it was still a part of the Faribault Regional Center. Before there were any committees for the Faribault Bicentennial and Nature Center he led the Faribault Area Committee for Environmental Quality (FACE-Q) on nature hikes. FACE-Q then became the Faribault Naturalists Club and then the core of this group became the group of people who ran and were a part of the committees and campaigns to start River Bend Nature Center and then the Board after it was started. Although Orwin was not well known for being active in committees as Kay Janky states he helped share the dream as the first dreamer and visionary for what River Bend could be. “However, his dream, his influence, his knowledge, his perseverance, his foresight, his unswerving devotion to the dream of a nature center kept us going.” This quote was from Kay Janky in the chapter of Orwin Rustad’s book about River Bend Nature Center. It is because of this and how even after retiring he continued to lead students and adults alike on nature hikes that he became known as “The Father of River Bend Nature Center” and is why the road leading into River Bend Nature Center was named Rustad Road. Orwin  was fascinated by birds and plants and the recording of natural events which led to his book “A Journal of Natural Events in Southeastern Minnesota” and thousands of dollars from the proceeds from this book went into River Bend’s Educational Endowment fund. Orwin Rustad received over the years many different rewards and recognition in honor of all the work he did including the Cum Laude Society at Shattuck-St.Mary’s, the Service to Mankind Award from the Faribault Sertoma Club, the Bicentennial Hall of Fame Award from the City of Faribault, WCCO Good Neighbor Award, and the Meritorious Service Award from the Association of Interpretive Naturalists to name a few. He passed away July 6th, 2008 but his legacy lives on in much of what River Bend is and still does today and all the people it has affected and will affect.


Charlie Turnbull from a recent editorial about his book “The Lean-To Boys of Bigfork, Minnesota”

Charlie Turnbull – The Organizer

Charlie Turnbull was the former Executive Director of the Faribault Regional Center and a co-founder of River Bend Nature Center.  He helped acquire the land from the State where the Faribault Regional Center used to be to create River Bend Nature Center on it. As Kay Janky said he “used his political savvy and organizational ability to help spearhead the dream.” In addition to Orwin Rustad, Turnbull was also credited by Kay Janky as being one of the two people who really made River Bend Nature Center possible. Charlie was a local citizen leader in Faribault with a lot of influence that he used to help get River Bend created.  Charlie helped lobby the Minnesota Legislature for River Bend Nature Center.  He also was the first do serve as 1st Vice-President for River Bend Nature Center from 1979 to 1980 and then was elected President and served from 1981 to 1983. During his time as President Charlie along with Ron Osterbauer one of the early Executive Directors of River Bend started the Endowment Funds which to this day insures the continuation of River Bend Nature Center. Additionally it was partly due to increasing these funds that he helped grow the employed staff at River Bend Nature Center from a single Executive Director to also including a secretary and a naturalist. In addition to helping found River Bend he wrote the book “The Lean-To Boys of Bigfork, Minnesota” about deer hunting in Northern Minnesota. Charlie still is alive today and lives with his wife in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Kay Janky Photo2

Kay Janky

Janice Kay Janky – “The Heart of River Bend”

Janice Kay Janky who went by Kay Janky was according to fellow River Bend co-founder and Kay’s friend Pat Rice: “Kay was really the heart of River Bend. Orwin Rustad had the original vision for River Bend and he sought out other people to carry his vision forward.” Orwin Rustad had the vision but he sought out people to make this dream a reality and just like Turnbull, Janky was one of these visionaries whose constant work made River Bend a reality. She put in many hours lobbying the Minnesota Legislature along with Charlie Turnbull and Greg Carlson, and reaching out to the community working over the years on different committees and positions to start River Bend. She was known for doing all the little things in between to the monthly meetings that added up and made River Bend possible. Then when River Bend Nature Center was created she served as 2nd Vice-President for the first Officer Board alongside Greg Carlson and Charlie Turnbull.  She spent years into the 1980s first creating the volunteer naturalist program that is still around today and then creating some of the earliest curriculum at River Bend Nature Center for teaching the children of Faribault. She also was a part of the first cohort of volunteer naturalists at River Bend Nature Center. Her friend Pat Rice has commented on how Janky was such a natural when it came to working with children. “She had a good eye to learning for children, could get down to their level and that made her a natural for developing the curriculum.” said Pat Rice in letter about Kay Janky. This letter was written when River Bend was looking for more information about Kay Janky to dedicate a memorial for her. The memorial that was dedicated to honor Janky and all the work she had done at River Bend Nature Center is the Big Woods Amphitheater which became the Kay Janky Amphitheater.

Gregory Carlson – the Adventurer

He was originally from Illinois where he also got his Law Degree before moving up to Minneapolis and then Faribault to work for the Rice County Attorney’s Office and then soon after opened up his own practice. He originally developed a love for rivers on the Mississippi in his Illinois and then continued this love in the Faribault area with all its rivers which was part of what drew him to the area. Greg was a passionate environmentalist. He volunteered on many projects to better the environment and community and it was because of all the work he did over the years for the years that earned him the Nature Conservancy of Minnesota Conservation award. He was involved with creating River Bend Nature Center from the beginning by helping build community support and lobbying the Minnesota legislature. Greg was instrumental in the land acquisition from the State of Minnesota for the River Bend Nature Center working with Charlie Turnbull to make this happen.  He served on the different committees Pre-River Bend and the River Bend Board throughout its inception until he died on February 13th 2017. Greg was the first President of River Bend Nature Center and served as president many times after that as well as other roles over the years on the Board. In his first letter as president he addressed the future members explaining what the new board hoped River Bend would become what they were working on and invited them at the end of his letter to “Come Grow With Us. Share Our Dream.” During his tenure as president he used his legal background to help create the bylaws, contracts, and handle other legal problems. He loved exploring the property at River Bend Nature Center and alongside Orwin Rustad and Charlie Turnbull helped cut and make some of the trails that we still use today. He was an adventurer going on many trips with his wife, Suzanne Gagnon Vininski, family, and friends. “Together they shared a common bond of enjoying life and nature to its fullest while raising their combined family. They loved to adventure travel to many unique destinations to experience nature” it was written in the pamphlets they had at memorial at River Bend Nature Center remembering and celebrating Greg Carlson.


Louise Wright, an active board member and volunteer naturalist

Louise Wright – Founder of the Prairie

Louise Coffey Wright was a member of the Board since its inception, serving as Chairperson for the Dedication and Grand Opening Committee in 1980, second vice-president from 1981 to 1983, secretary from 1984 to 1986, and president from 1986 to 1988. She also was an active volunteer naturalist, sharing her knowledge of nature with thousands of school children putting in hundreds of volunteer hours. She was a mentor and friend as well to many of the volunteer naturalists and teachers who came to River Bend Nature Center. Her friend Bev Finholt described the passion Louise had for educating children, how much knowledge she possessed and shared easily, and how she was never too busy for answering questions. “Louise had a special way of instilling in children, and adults, the desire to learn about our natural environment.” It was while she was president that the prairie was started she helped plant seeds, transplanting native wildflowers, collecting and sorting seeds, assisted with prairie burns, and provided educational materials about prairies for school children. As her friend Ron Osterbauer put it “Louise was at home with the prairie.” She was instrumental in creating the prairie at River Bend Nature Center and because of this in 1990 that the prairie she helped create and care for was dedicated in her honor. To this day a plaque and a bench honor her on the prairie loop trail. Memorial gifts that were received when she past went to her two passions at River Bend the “prairie and educating children about nature.”

Louise Wright prairie plaque wording (2)

These are only a few of the people off a list of countless people I have to do more research into to recognize the people who help built River Bend and to hopefully record the history accurately. So once again I would like to invite you to share any information you have about the people included above or anyone else you know who should be recognized for the work they did helping make River Bend Nature Center. I gathered my information from a sources listed below which includes RBNC publications and newsletters, articles, memorials, and obituaries. Please let us know if anything should be corrected because we were not using accurate information. So I hope you join us in the coming 2 years as we get ready to and celebrate River Bend Nature Center’s 40th Anniversary and all the people who made River Bend Nature Center possible we could not do it without all your help and support!


A Journal of Natural Events in Southeastern Minnesota – By Orwin Rustad

Memorial Pamphlet for Greg Carlson Memorial at River Bend Nature Center

Kay Janky Memorial Service & Amphitheater Dedication Press Release

Come Check Out the New Mural at River Bend Nature Center!


Hello everyone! As some of you may know I have been working on designing and painting the prairie mural of River Bend Nature Center’s north wall. The wall is coming along great and we are nearing the end of this project. However, before I go any further I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated paint and helped make this project possible; as well as Anne Foxen, Johanna Beam, Erika Tipp, and Liz Brown for all you help over the last two Sundays with painting the foreground, detail, plants, and animals you all are amazing artists so thank you for helping make the ideas and designs come to life! Below I have included more information of what has been going into making this prairie wall come to life; as well as some sneak preview pictures of the wall. If you haven’t had the chance to come to River Bend Nature Center yet and see the wall I highly recommend it!

Designing the Prairie Mural

When it came to designing the Prairie Mural there were a lot of things I had to take into account. We already had the river mural on the west wall and a small prairie wood edge mural in the Kid’s Corner to the east of the wall so it made the most sense to incorporate these both into the prairie mural so it could flow almost seamlessly from one mural to the next. Additionally we have a beautiful large painting by Dan Milbert on this wall called “Pre-Settlement Spring” – Sandhill cranes, so I did not want to design a scene or landscape that clashed with this painting. Lastly we also have many mounted animals on the wall that we wanted to keep out on display so I also had to incorporate these into the wall, sounds easy enough right?


So how I designed the concept sketch and eventually the wall was taking the river from the river wall and having it flow on the wall from the west across the north wall to connect with the river on Milbert’s painting. I then extended the landscape of the forested hills in the back of Milbert’s painting on to the wall and connected it with the landscape in the background on the river wall. After this it got easy. By relying on my knowledge of prairie ecosystems I had a natural change in the landscape between oak savannah, mesic prairie, and wet prairie. I sketched forest along the river and transitioned it to oak savannah as the river bluff got steeper and blending into the rolling hills of the mesic prairie and into the depressions of the wet prairie. Lastly when it came to designing the overall concept of the wall other River Bend Staff and I moved some of the taxidermy around the wall to spots that made more sense for the habitat that species lived in.


The process of moving the bison head to paint

Then came the fun part compiling lists of the plants and animals I have seen here at River Bend Nature Center or other restored prairies in Minnesota as well as what you would historically find in oak savannah, mesic prairie, and wet prairie. I then divided the mural up into sections and started dividing the different animals and plants into these sections on the wall that made the most sense to see them. This also made it easier to keep track of what volunteers were working where on the mural.


One of many concept sketches


Painting the Landscape

After the overall design was approved I did a rough sketch on to the wall for where things went and then the painting began! I and Jason, River Bend’s Land & Facility Assistant, then primed and painted the wall the base sky blue. From there it was the process of mixing colors and giving color, shape, and shadow to the landscape; and depth to the sky with increasingly darker blues and clouds. Once the rolling prairie was achieved I moved on to the more complicated section of the mural adding the tree covered bluffs and the trees to the oak savannah as well as the river flowing behind them. The landscape has turned out great and I will continue to add touch ups and details here and there but it is the next step that I am really excited for that will really make the painting coming to life!




Adding the Plants and Animals

So now for the last two weeks Anne, Johanna, Erika, Liz, and I have been working on painting the foreground and adding the detailed plants and animals to the mural. My big project that is pretty much done now was painting a body for our bison head mount which if I do say so myself has turned out very realistic! Depending on where you stand looking at the wall it looks like the bison really is coming right out of the wall which is pretty incredible.


Elsa finishing up painting the Bison body

Erika, Annie, and Liz worked on adding the detailed grass in the mesic prairie under the bison. Additionally Erika and Liz did all the detailed flowers and plants under the bison, Erika also did a tiger swallowtail butterfly, and Anne painted the rocks and the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Johanna took on the challenge of standing on a ladder painting a turkey vulture flying over the oak savanna which has turned out beautiful and so realistic!

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Lastly I did the foreground painting of the wetland and today and tomorrow I will be adding some wetland plants to it. The project is almost done with only some more detailed animals and plants that need to be added and each day we work on the mural it becomes more realistic and beautiful! So I hope you come to River Bend Nature Center to check it out as we finish it or when it is done!


Relaxation & Reflection at River Bend Nature Center


Hello everyone! As promised, here is my blog post about the quiet and less visited places at River Bend Nature Center. I hope your River Bend Bucket Lists are coming along great, and here is a post to help you check off another thing off your list! ( Recently, there has been a lot of research and news coming out about the health benefits of having quiet time in nature.  I have included links to some of the news articles that cover this research below but overall the research can be summarized into two groupings physical benefits and mental benefits.

The physical benefits make sense and include a lot of effects, from increased exercise outdoors, like a healthier physique, decreased risk for diabetes, decreased risk for asthma and respiratory disorders, and increased heart health. There is also growing evidence to support the mental benefits of being out in nature that may confirm your own personal experience of feeling mentally clear and emotionally better after spending time in nature. The list of mental benefits from spending time in nature includes: decreased risk for anxiety & depression, lower stress levels, increased cognition, and decreased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. Additionally, the last link I have included talks about how the brain benefits from silence because I am one of those people who likes to double dip on my health benefits, so in other words I meditate outside in nature.

List of some research on the health benefits of nature by topic

News Articles Covering Health Benefits of Outside

News Articles Covering Health Benefits of Silence


Below, I have included some great trails and spots for relaxation and reflection at River Bend. This is by no means a complete list, and each location has its pro’s and con’s. So I have divided them into 4 rough zones focusing more on the central part of the park that is easier to reach. I then have described the noise/traffic, how far/hard of a walk, and seating; and then the elements of the location views, sun, and mosquitoes so that you can pick the spots that fit you. I have also included a link to a map for places to park and trails to take to get to the spots. My personal opinion is that spring and fall are the best time of the year to sit in quiet places in nature because of the lack of bugs, the relatively warm temperatures, and if it’s a little damp in the spot you pick, all you need is a blanket or tarp and that makes it more fun. A quick thing to note is most of the locations I picked had benches, but some did not. When using the park at River Bend you should always use the trails and not create your own so if you plan on sitting on the ground, you can do so next to the trail. Additionally we want you to have a fun and safe time here so make sure to take the proper precautions depending on the time of year accounting for things like mosquitos, ticks, sunburn, ice, etc.

Here is the link to the Google map I have created with the different loops and spots labeled and more details about the spots as well as pictures to go with them when you click on them on the map!

Quiet Places at River Bend Nature Center

Here is an additional link to our trail map to help you find other trails and see exactly where the steep spots are located!


Overlook Loop – Prairie, sunnier, great views, more people, less mosquitos

The trails to the North Ridge Overlook, depending on the day and the trails you pick, can be busy. There is a nice mixture of habitat including prairie, woods, and some bluff habitat that at one time might have been oak savannah but now is a mixture of oak, aspens, and buckthorn. The trails can be a little steeper so you can get a mild work out in on your way up but the loop is only about 1 mile. The spot with the best view is the North Ridge Overlook itself, although close seconds are the Walnut & Overlook intersection and Ash & Raccoon intersection. I always find this loop very inspiring and invigorating and I feel that most of this comes from the views.  This loop gets a fair amount of traffic since most people like a spot with a view so my recommendation is to come during the early morning or work day if you want spots with views that are also quiet. Additional spots along the route I really enjoyed were the spring banding station that is the Ruth Wiberg Memorial, a collection of small hills by the North Ridge Overlook that were already dry after this most recent melt, and a bench hidden beneath some cedar by the Upper Parking Lot.


Walnut Loop – less people, can have more mosquitos, more peaceful scenery

The walnut trail gets its name from the stand of Walnut trees on the section of the trail that is a part of this loop. Walnut is less used by people so this makes it usually a quieter trail but there can be more mosquitos. The best way I can describe this loop is that the scenery is more peaceful – I always feel a calming effect when walking on or sitting along this trail. The whole loop is about 1.42 miles from the upper parking lot and back and at a gradual to steeper incline. There are also no benches so if you want to stop and sit for a while it will be on the ground next to the trail. There is however some great spots to sit on a blanket right next to the trail, just don’t forget to tuck your pants and wear bug spray!


Prairie Loop – more people, less mosquitos, sunny, great views

The Prairie Loop that I take has only three bench areas for sitting on, with two in the prairie and one sitting area on the Prairie Pond dock. There are, however, many spots next to the trail to sit down on the grass. The Prairie Pond dock is usually shadier and can have more mosquitos in the summer but in the spring and fall it has just as great views at the prairie spots. The prairie spots while they are the sunnier spots , but are more exposed to the wind and on a beautiful day can have a lot of traffic. This trail is also about a mile loop to and from the main parking lot by the interpretive center and is a pretty easy trail except for one steep part up into the prairie by Prairie Pond. The bench on the hill overlooking Prairie Pond is one of my favorite spots at River Bend Nature Center. It is a peaceful spot and I always have a hard time leaving this bench.


Cherry & Raspberry Trails Loop – less people, more mosquitos, mixture of sun & shade, great views, lots of peaceful spots

The Cherry & Raspberry trails loop had the least number of people I encountered at one of the peak times for people out in the park which is around 4 to 5 pm when everyone is getting off work. So if you are looking for less people on your quiet walk or coming by your quiet spot, I highly recommend this trail. This loop has a good mixture of habitat but the bulk of it is thick, damp, and shady woods, so the mosquitos can be a nuisance depending on the time of the year and the location so wearing bug spray in the summer is a good idea. Some highlights for this loop is that it takes you through some of the less visited restored prairie habitat and at the bend in raspberry there is a bench under a huge ancient tree that is a very quiet and peaceful spot. However, most of the sitting benches or spots with great views are near the road including the gravel pit, Upper Pond Dock, and the Waterfall. Depending on the time of the year the water falling is so loud it provides great background noise for covering up the sounds of cars. In the heat of summer it is a nice cool spot to visit, though there can be quite a few mosquitos and people there since it is close to the road. The Gravel Pit usually has wind blowing through it that pushes the sound of cars toward the prairie so it is not as noisy as it could be right next the road and it also tends to be more sunny are is one of the best spots for watching the sun set at River Bend Nature Center. This whole loop is about 1.25 miles and a mixture of gradual and steeper trail sections; I found the easier walk is going down cherry and up raspberry back along the road and you can either park at the waterfall or the upper parking lot. I have another favorite spot along this trail, but this one is a gem, so I challenge you to come out and hike it and see if you can find it!



River Trails Loop – less people, more mosquitoes, great river views, shady & cool in summer, calm and peaceful

In all honesty, I did not have the chance to explore the River trails as much I would have liked but they are what you would expect for floodplain forest trails along the river. They have great views and are very quiet. Maple trail seems to be less used by people and same with Trout Lily. In the summer I usually biked down trout lily so I don’t know how bad the mosquitoes were, but even with a good breeze from the river it probably would be a good idea to wear bug spray since it is a floodplain forest. There also are quite a few benches along these trails meaning if someone is on one bench you can walk farther down the trail to another one. The highlights for this loop I felt were the overlook bench on Maple trail above the river, the straight stretch of Trout Lily trail with all its benches where you know from the previous blog post was where the ice dam was located, and the view from Honor Point at the end of Trout Lily trail looking over the river and beach. Overall, this complete loop is about 1.65 miles starting and ending at the main parking lot; however with the multiple maple and owl trails connection to the loop you could break it up into shorter loops if you would like. The big thing to remember with the trails along the river is most of the trails leading down to the river are somewhat steep so it is going to be a work out getting back up to the parking lot either way.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about some of the quiet loops and spots closer to the parking lots in the main section of River Bend Nature. There still are many spots not mentioned here in the main part of the park as well in the outer trails just waiting to be found. So we hope you can come to River Bend Nature Center and explore some of the trails we mentioned and find some of your own favorite spots to read, relax, reflect, meditate, pray, etc. and as always enjoy being out in nature. I look forward to seeing you on the trails in these different spots, and good luck finding my other favorite spot!


Let Us Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions!


With the New Year starting I am sure many of you are getting started on your New Year’s resolutions and I am excited to announce that River Bend Nature Center is here to help you achieve your goals! Maybe this year you are trying to be more active or maybe it is to spend more time with family and friends, you can do this and more at River Bend Nature Center! We have included below some common New Year’s Resolutions and ways you can work toward these goals at River Bend Nature Center. We wish you the best of luck with your resolutions and hope we can help you achieve them!


#1 Be healthy – Get Fit – Stay Active!


River Bend Nature Center has 10 miles of trails open year round from 6 am to 10 pm for skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, and biking! Starting this spring after the mud dries, you will be able to rent mountain bikes at River Bend Nature Center. To learn more click the following link.

If skiing is what you are interested in, you may be excited to hear that we also groom some of our trails for skiing at River Bend Nature Center. Check out the link for the map to see what trails are groomed when there is enough snow! So grab your MN Ski Pass ($20 for 1 year pass) that you can purchase at any MN State Park or location where you can buy a hunting or fishing license. For more information about the MN Ski Pass check out the DNR’s website  We hope to see you out skiing on the trails!


If attaching your feet to skis is not your activity, you can snowshoe, hike, run, bike, or walk your dog (always on a leash) on any trail at RBNC with no entrance fee. River Bend offers some beautiful views to accompany you on your run or bike ride check out some of our favorite loops on our post about running at River Bend!


If you need some additional encouragement to get out running, watch for details and sign up for our Maple Syrup 5K/10K/1 mile walk fun run on May 6th! These are just some of the most common ways people are being active at River Bend Nature Center so keep your eyes open for more outdoor recreation opportunities in the future!



#2 Spend More Time with Friends, Family & Your Significant Other


River Bend Nature Center also offers a great place and lots of options for getting together with friends, family, and significant others. If you are looking to come and do an activity as a family or be active come and rent some snowshoes, cross country skis, or mountain bikes.

If you are looking for something a little less active or that is free to do come out and walk on our trails and take the kids to the wild play area where kids and the kid in all of us can build forts, bridges and dams on the small stream that runs through the area, and play to your heart’s content!

We also have more relaxed programs like Bagels and Birds on the first Saturday of the month at 9:30 am where you can come and have a bagel and watch the birds have their breakfast while hanging out with family and friends in the interpretive center. The next birds and bagels is February 4th, 2017! Check out more at the included link

If you are looking to get the family together for a birthday party you can have it at our Nature Center for 2 hours with 1 hour for your party and an hour for a naturalist led activities of your choice! Learn more at .

Are you looking to get together family and friends for a reunion, graduation party, or some other get together? River Bend offers different rental spaces that range in fees. To learn more about renting spaces at River Bend click here !

Looking for more ways to hang out with friends and family or for date ideas for you and your significant other? River Bend has a lot of great picnic spots in the summer and for those who are prepared with a thermos of hot cocoa and a blanket, some great winter spots as well. We will also be having a Candle Light Hike from 6:30 to 8:00 on Saturday, February 11th great for you and your significant other, friends, and families to come and attend! To register click the link! There are always great events happening at River Bend Nature Center for you to get out and be social with the people you care about!



#3 Learn Something New

Another great thing about River Bend Nature Center is since its focus is Environmental Education there are always new things to learn about! In addition to learning something new from one of our interpretive displays or brochures we also have different public programs offered throughout the month that you can attend and learn something new!

We offer a monthly lunch and learn program call Older Wiser Livelier Seniors (OWLS) with the next topic on Astronomy happening on Wednesday, February 15th from noon to 2 pm. Pre-register here!

We also offer a monthly home school class the next one happening on February 22nd is called Coping with the Cold! Please pre-register at the included link!

Another monthly program we have where you can come and learn something new and meet our interpretive animals is our Animal Ambassadors program and the next one is on Saturday, February 18th!

Check our website’s events page with more awesome public programs coming in the future for you to learn about new topics or learn a new skill!

There are also lot of apps you can use on your phone to learn new things while out hiking the trails. Here are a few apps that the naturalists use here at River Bend Nature Center including: iNaturalist, E-Bird, Sky Map, or a different science/nature app.

#4 Volunteer & Other Ways to Make the World a Better Place!


River Bend Nature Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit which means there are always plenty of volunteer opportunities and ways to help! In fact we even have a whole webpage devoted to volunteering to help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you at River Bend Nature Center. We have 8 on-going volunteer positions at River Bend Nature Center including: Volunteer Naturalists, Office Volunteers, Weekend Building Volunteers, Restoration Club Volunteers, River Bend Rangers, Cross Country Ski Groomers, River Bend Mowers, and Maple Syruping volunteers! You can learn more about these positions at our website page for volunteering at River Bend Nature Center at the following link!


Restoration Club meets every Wednesday afternoon and is always looking for new people interested in helping us work on the land doing activities like invasive species removal, trail repair and more. Come learn new restoration techniques to take home to implement on your own property. You can learn more by emailing Emily Greger, our Public Program Coordinator at and to be added to an email alert list.

The Board of Directors and its committees are always looking for people who are interested in joining them. Current committees that are looking for volunteer committee members include Membership, Development, Ramble, Land/Facilities, Programs/Events, and 40th Anniversary. Watch our website for committee applications or contact Breanna, our Executive Director at 332-7151 or to express your interest.

We are always looking for special event volunteers for our larger events like Winterfest, Maple Syrup Fun Run/Pancake Breakfast, and Bats, Bones, & Bonfires! Currently we are looking for special project volunteers to help paint the Prairie Mural at our Nature Center! If you are interested in volunteering please email Elsa Litecky, our Environmental Educator in charge of this project at .

If you do not have the time to come out and volunteer there are still plenty of other ways to help support River Bend Nature Center and make the world a better place! Become a member – see or make a financial contribution – see You can make a general donation or for something more specific like having a loved one’s name engraved on a brick and installed at Honor Point. Another specific donation you can make is to the Partners Scholarship Fund to help offer reduced enrollment fees for kids to attend summer camps whose families have financial hardships.

You can help by donating things that we need for programs like cardboard toilet paper rolls or item for special events and projects. You can also donate plastic gallon size milk containers to help build a plastic reusable igloo. Stephanie Rathsack one of our environmental educators is leading this awesome project! If you are excited about the prairie mural but don’t want to paint, another way you can help is by donating old interior house paint or acrylic paint in greens, yellows, browns, blues, blacks, and whites to River Bend from now until February 15th!


#5 Spend Less Money

There is no parking permit or entry fee required to visit River Bend Nature Center! Additionally, River Bend offers many affordable programs and rentals. You can rent a Nordic ski package (boots, poles, skis) or snowshoes for $10 a person for 24 hours on site at River Bend Nature Center. If you are a River Bend Member you can spend $5 per a ski package or snowshoe rental. Check out more information on renting gear here!

Becoming a member and making donations to River Bend Nature Center is tax deductible, which helps save money on your taxes. See #4. And, members receive discounts on summer camps, equipment rentals, public programs, and special events.

#6 Read More


If your resolution is to read more stop by River Bend Nature Center and check out our bird watching and reading nook. It’s a quiet place to sit and enjoy a book you brought and maybe some of the tea we offer, we provide hot water, mugs, and a selection of teas but you are welcome to bring your own hot cocoa. You can also borrow one of the books off of the bookshelves that were once a part of the River Bend library that some of you may remember. The books and bookshelves were donated by members and founders in some cases honoring loved ones, and there is even a collection of Orwin Rustad’s books. We also still allow people to check out some of these books from River Bend Nature Center so we welcome you to come check it out!

If you are also looking for a group to join so you can read and enjoy books with another group of people check out the Nature Book Club that meets from 7 to 8 pm the last Tuesday of the month with the next meeting happening February 28th reading “The end of the night: Searching for natural darkness in an age of artificial light” by Paul Bogard.


#7 Improve Your Mental & Emotional Health

As you may know from different studies being outside in nature is great for your mental health. It can help you relax and improve your mood. There are plenty of benches and spots around River Bend that you can walk to and spend some time alone doing whatever helps your mental & emotional health. So we invite you to come to River Bend Nature Center and walk out to one of our many quiet places to meditate, write, pray, read, draw, paint, do yoga, walk or whatever helps you destress and focus on your well-being. Stay tuned for a future article from me on finding the best quiet spots at River Bend and how to get to them but for now I invite you to my favorite quiet spot a bench on a hill overlooking some of the prairie.


#8 Get Off Your Electronics

If you are looking for a place to come and unplug, this is a great place for you! Spending time outside is a great way to recharge and reconnect with what is happening off-screen. There are lots of fun activities for you to do out here at River Bend Nature Center that don’t require a phone. Unless you want to use it to take pictures then your secret is safe with us.

Some of my favorite things to do here are River Bend in the winter is to search for animal tracks, mimic bird whistles, and go exploring. Having snow and little vegetation makes it easier to see things you wouldn’t normally be able to see in the summer months like where two coyotes played off the trail or where a mouse was suddenly snatched up by a hawk. There are plenty of other fun things to do at River Bend that don’t require a phone so if you are looking for ideas take a peek at our attached list below!


#9 Live Life to the Fullest

There is plenty to do at River Bend Nature Center and always something new to learn or do. If your goal is to live life to the fullest, I challenge you to turn this list into a kind of River Bend Nature Center Bucket List and come back and see how many of these things and others that you can check off over the next year! The link to our River Bend Nature Center Bucket list is below. I hope this helps you with your New Year’s Resolutions and that I see you some time out at River Bend Nature Center!

River Bend Nature Center Bucket List