Lake Maria State Park – Lake Maria & Bjorkland Lake

Beautiful weather welcomed my in-laws to Minnesota for a weekend trip to see their first granddaughter (er, at least a belly containing said granddaughter).  Thinking the weekend would be busy around town and lacking in paddling, I was delighted when my wonderful wife proposed visiting nearby Lake Maria State Park.  Everyone was quite supportive of me throwing the kayak in the back of the car for some quick paddling on a new lake.

Having the flexibility to bring a kayak in the trunk of a full car is a definite upside to inflatable kayaking.  A few weeks back, I passed some paddlers asking how I liked my inflatable kayak.  Sitting in their larger, plastic kayaks that they hauled off the roof of their car, they definitely agreed any loss in performance was made up for in ease of transportation and storage.

After less than an hour drive northwest from the Twin Cities, we arrived at Lake Maria State Park.  A fisherman looking for bass from his powerboat was disappointed to hear the ranger tell him that this wasn’t necessarily the lake for him.  After the reasonable $5 vehicle permit, we headed west to the largest lake of the park, Lake Maria.

Lake Maria Dock

Lake Maria Dock with Picnic Table

My first impressions of the lake were not so great, as the water was very cloudy and brown.  Naturally that wouldn’t prevent me from getting some paddling in, as I really didn’t plan on going for a swim.

Lake Maria 180 degree panorama

The weather was perfect as always, and I tried to take one of those panoramic pictures covering about 180 degrees from the main boat launch on the east side of Lake Maria.

Lake Maria Island

Just off from the boat launch was an island surrounded by lily pads and creatures splashing around in the weeds.  I later found out they were most likely very large carp fighting or mating in the shallow waters.

Putting the kayak in at Lake Maria

Launched at Lake Maria

Having not yet made a wet entry into the kayak, I launched from the small boat dock.  I decided to try out my MacGuyver’ed front deck bracing (glimpsed in the left image) and I am very happy to report it worked extremely well.  Despite a slightly wet front deck, the water never pooled along the front zipper and I never got a drop of water in the boat.  Not bad for $3 in parts from Menards and Ikea.

Paddling out in Lake Maria

Off I go on Lake Maria

Having forgotten to bring a second camera, my wife and in-laws took my paddling camera along for their hike along the trails surrounding Lake Maria.  I did see a few things I would have liked to photograph, but maybe next time.  Just to the south of the boat launch is shallow water filled with lily pads and giganticcarp.  The bottom mud of the lake is incredibly black, and both my paddle and the tails of these huge fish produced black swirls in the water around my boat.  When I drifted over a carp and disconcertedly felt him bump the low point of the boat (i.e. my butt), I decided to head for open water.

Lake Maria Hike

Lake Maria Hike

These next few photos are from my wife and her parents as they enjoyed the sun and trails around Lake Maria.  I’m not sure if they got a glimpse of the bald eagle flying over the lake.  It was being harassed by a smaller bird, so it soared over my boat and headed west for some trees.  There were some people at the dock with a telescope muttering something about a nest, so perhaps there is a pair of bald eagles within the lake.  I’m still amazed every time I see a bald eagle flying around the Twin Cities.

Lake Maria Hike

Lake Maria Hike

From the top of a hill, you can see a few yellow pixels that correspond to my yellow kayak in the right image above.  I believe I was trying to decide if the two giant white things floating in the far western end of Lake Maria were birds or boaters.  I later found out they were huge white birds with long necks.  Yet again I think I need to get a book describing the flora and fauna of Minnesota.

Picnic lunch after paddling at Lake Maria

Kayak drying after paddling in Lake Maria

We joined up again at the boat dock after about an hour of paddling.  We enjoyed a quick picnic lunch while I dried out the boat in the pleasant daytime sun.  The kayak did have an ugly yellowish residue from the water, which I should wipe off after I get home.  Definitely not one of the clearest lakes in Minnesota.

Grass by Lake Maria

A large white bird had glided in for a water landing behind some tall grass while we were eating.  I tried to grab a picture, but he was quite a bit back from the shore.

Lillypads on Lake Maria

Lillypad flowers on Lake Maria

The lily pads were in bloom, but the flowers next to shore were still mostly closed.  These shots give a good glimpse at the murky water of Lake Maria.

Bjorkland Lake Trail

This marked the end of today’s paddling, but there were a number of smaller lakes surrounding Lake Maria.  One such lake, called Bjorkland Lake, caught my interest.  The primary reason is that – much to the confusion of my friends and family – I do like the icelandic musician Bjork.  She is definitely a quirky personality, but has an interesting sound.  As a side note, Bjorkland Lake was originally called Lake Maria, but was renamed by the DNR.  We packed up our lunch & kayak and headed off for Bjorkland Lake.

Bjorkland Lake

Dock on Bjorkland Lake

We had not prepared sufficiently for this short walk through the woods.  Although Minnesotans frequently refer to the mosquito as the State Bird of Minnesota, I had never noticed any significant mosquito presence during my time in the Twin Cities.  The mosquitos came out in force to welcome us to the Bjorkland Lake Trail.  That marks the last time we travel anywhere without DEET.  Arriving at the Bjorkland Lake missing a few ounces of blood, I was pleasantly surprised at how much nicer Bjorkland Lake was compared to Lake Maria.

Bjorkland Lake panorama

I grabbed another 180 degree panorama shot to capture the view of Bjorkland Lake from the canoe dock.  The water was beautiful and blue, in stark comparison to Lake Maria.

Clear water with fish on Bjorkland Lake

Fish in clear water on Bjorkland Lake

Just off of the canoe launch was clear water teeming with small fish.  Quite a few little nests were being guarded by watchful sunfish, as hundreds of smaller fish flitted about.  This was certainly nicer than watching huge carp stir up black mud as they lumbered about the opaque broth of Lake Maria.

Bjorkland Lake Trail is home to many pests

Having already packed up the kayak, I didn’t get a chance to paddle around Bjorkland Lake.  The sun, mosquitos and trails had taken its toll on our energy for the morning, so we decided to head back to the Twin Cities.  Later that evening, we did head over to Lake Minnetonka for dinner in Excelsior.  Much to our surprise, Excelsior was hosting an art fair.  No pictures, but we did get good food, good Celtic music and even more sun.  I look forward to paddling the massive Lake Minnetonka, but I’m afraid I will avoid the busy, boat-laden waterways near the docks.

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