July–August 2024

From the Editor

Trivial Pursuit

One of the perks of my job is that I learn something new, and often unexpected, nearly every day. Prior to this latest issue of MCV, for example, I had no idea that Minnesota is home to three native cactus species (“On Pins and Needles"). I was vaguely aware of the prickly pear cacti that dot our southern prairies, but my knowledge stopped there.

“Northern cacti” sounds like a contradiction in terms, which makes it a great bit of nature-nerd trivia. You never know when you’ll need to bust out random info on the outdoors. To boost morale on a long road trip? To enlighten a student in your life? Here are a few more surprising facts to save for just the right moment.  

  • Our state is one of a handful of places in North America with a triple continental divide—that is, an intersection of three drainage basins. Located near Hibbing, the so-called Hill of Three Waters is a geological unicorn. Water that falls here could flow in one of three directions: north to Hudson Bay, south to the Gulf of Mexico, or northeast to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Please note: The site is on private land that’s not accessible to the general public.)    
  • Located in Minnesota’s Lac qui Parle County, Salt Lake is the most alkaline water body between Utah’s more iconic version and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also a migratory pit stop for scores of different birds that gorge on the tiny brine shrimp that live there. And where birds flock, so do folks with binoculars and fancy cameras. Salt Lake is among Minnesota’s most popular birding destination.
  • Thought to be unique to the Driftless area of the Midwest and the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, an algific talus slope is a micro-ecosystem where the air temperature stays at roughly 30 to 55 degrees between spring and fall. This environment avoids extreme heat and cold thanks to its north-facing orientation and sinkholes that lead to subterranean ice caves, which act as a kind of natural HVAC system. Adding to the singular vibes are rare flora and fauna, including relict snails and flowers that call this ecosystem home.

Do you have your own list of amazing facts about Minnesota’s outdoors? Share them with me via email. Happy dog days of summer.

Chris Clayton, editor in chief