July–August 2023


Bloomington resident Scott Sharkey turned his passion for a Minnesota River marsh into a decades-long photo project.

On a September day some 30 years ago, Scott Sharkey was hiking near his home in Bloomington when he came across a marsh adorned with cattails and ringed by silver maples and cottonwoods. Sharkey was struck by the humble beauty of this 100-acre wetland and began photographing the area—first with a 35mm film camera and later with a digital setup. “In essence, I adopted this marsh as an open-air studio for observation, photography, and recharging,” he says. “What I saw prompted me to return, time and again, with camera gear and tripod in tow, to document my experiences with this amazing place.”

What he saw was a unique ecosystem tucked into the Minnesota River Valley and teeming with life—everything from bald eagles and bitterns to otters and mink. Sharkey also noticed a variety of vegetation. In addition to cattails, he photographed wild rice, water lilies, arrowhead, and reed grasses. 

“Periodic flooding of the Minnesota River defines this marsh and is at the heart of its biologic diversity,” says Sharkey. “The river provides nutrients and a natural stocking of fish species including northern pike, crappie, bullheads, and carp.” All those fish act as a valuable food source for the wetland’s resident birds and mammals. 

Sharkey describes his photo project at the marsh as a “30-year odyssey.” 

“This was not a planned natural history documentary,” he says. “Rather, it’s been a series of spontaneous explorations when time allowed, over days, months, and eventually years. What I have seen must be shared with others.”