Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Prairie, Lake, Forest by Chris Niskanen

Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota's State Parks
Chris Niskanen (author) and Doug Ohman (photographer)
Minnesota Historical Society Press
ISBN 978-0873517713
Hardcover, 11 x 8.8 x 0.9
224 pages; $29.95

It’s that teetering time between spring and summer and I have the mind for planning roadtrips and getaways. Recently, I’ve been thinking about county and state parks, both locally and away, as I consider what travel options we have this season. I don’t know that we’ll venture to Minnesota this summer but, in my brainstorming activities, I was reminded of a gorgeous book I discovered a few years ago, when it was first released in 2010.

Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota's State Parks has the beauty of a coffee table book but the details of an elaborate guidebook. The preface invites, “the words state park are an invitation to hit the open road,” and author Chris Niskanen has ensured travelers will be well prepared by including a detailed map of Minnesota’s state park system. This map acts as a quick reference to Minnesota’s 66 state parks and is a resourceful accompaniment to the breathtaking photography of Doug Ohman.

More than 200 photographs accompany the 16 essays that offer a balance of the author’s experiences and tales from long-time visitors, rangers, and naturalists. They present a reminiscent portrayal about the joys of visiting state parks as a youngster, while also reveling in the beauty as an adventurous adult.

Road enthusiasts will appreciate the historical details offered throughout. Niskanen shares how the eight parks lined along Lake Superior’s North Shore weren’t “seriously considered for state parks until the construction of U.S. Highway 61 in the 1920s.” Readers will also enjoy the story of how Robert Barnwell Roosevelt—uncle of a future President—enjoyed fly fishing trips to Minnesota’s North Shore in the 1860s.

Niskanen and Ohman readily declare they were not interested in creating a guidebook. Rather, they set out to capture the beauty of Minnesota’s natural resources and history by sharing intimate experiences. Still, for those who are visiting Minnesota’s parks for the first time – and, indeed, for the repeat visitor – this book will inspire weekend getaways and offer incentive to explore the gems of Minnesota’s natural landscape.

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