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Tamarack Swamp once covered miles across Woodbury

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Bulletin staff will check out some of the area’s parks in the coming months.

This week: Tamarack Nature Preserve, 1225 Bielenberg Drive

Born: 1986

Size: 180 acres

As far as new trails go, last week’s first trek on one of the Tamarack Nature Preserve trails did not disappoint. 

I chose the nature preserve because Woodbury Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt had told me some intriguing things about the area, and I wanted to check it out for myself. 

The Tamarack Nature Preserve covers about 180 acres of land, much of which is more or less swamp land. The trail head, parking lot and play structure for the nature preserve is located off of Tower Drive. 

The whole area, including a 2-mile trail loop that goes around and through the park, was built in 1986. But the history goes back so much further.

Apparently, when Woodbury’s earliest settlers arrived, much of what we now know to be Woodbury was, in fact, a swamp. The swamp area, Klatt said, covered the entire area from the wetland near city hall over to Battle Creek Lake. 

“The old history books talk about how it was a major obstacle,” Klatt said. 

Early settlers were faced with the option of going around the swamp to get to St. Paul, or going across it. As such, the area’s earliest settlers used the tamarack trees, growing nearby, to construct corduroy pole bridges across the swamp. 

As we all know, development eventually came to the area, and much of the swamp area was filled in and built out. But Tamarack Nature Preserve maintains some of the area’s history, too, because the vegetation growing in the swamp is indicative of what grew there in Woodbury’s earliest days.

So there we were, my little dog Rissa and I, stepping out on a new trail system. I had thought, before, that I should print out a map of the trail so I knew where we were going. But of course, I forgot. So when we started out, I really had no idea where we would end up. 

Mind you, the temperature was 67 degrees, but the humidity level was at 86 percent. Suffice it to say, I was a little nervous about bringing my little dog onto a trail I didn’t know, because she gets tuckered out pretty fast in high humidity.

But it turns out I didn’t have to worry so much. We crossed the boardwalk across part of the swamp, stopping here and there so I could take pictures (she was not interested in stopping, unless she could sniff at something nearby) of the endless green that surrounded us. Cattails sprung up between the boards here and there. It was pretty cool.

We turned left, and just kept going. The trail kept going, but in some places, it was wider and covered in wood chips; other places it was narrow enough for one to walk through, with nothing but grass beneath. 

In any event, it was nicely shaded the entire route, so both Riss and I stayed nice and cool on our journey.

We kept walking and walking. And walking. At some point, I came into something that looked like more of a neighborhood.

And then, our trail ended. We stepped out onto a street under construction. Lots of houses nearby, a park across the street. And I distinctly remember thinking, OK, so where am I?

Turns out, we had managed to walk over to the edge of Evergreen West Park. Huh. 

So we turned around and went back the way we came. Eventually, we wound up back near the swamp and the trail system that I was apparently supposed to be on in the first place. At that point, though, Riss was starting to slow down a bit, and I figured I’d better get back to work, so we went back to the car and left. 

I noticed, at the end of our jaunt, that I only had two little mosquito bites on my ankle. Not bad, considering that we were along shallow water for most of our trek. When I asked, Klatt told me that the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District does do treatments at the swamp, as well as the other bodies of water in Woodbury. So that explains that.

I’m a little bit disappointed I didn’t follow the Tamarack Nature Preserve trail – apparently there is another boardwalk that crosses the swamp and takes you to Woodpark Boulevard – in its entirety. But on the upswing, I can always do it another time, and at least now I know how to get to Evergreen Park West, on foot.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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