“I love to ride into Whitewater Park from Olmsted County Road 9. I love to feel the rush of oxygen into my lungs, and I love to sing a song like You are My Sunshine. In spring and summer, the green trees and brush climb up both sides of State Highway 74 to make canyon walls. As you descend the bluff, you catch glimpses of the bedrock, millions of years old. In the fall and winter, after the leaves disappear, the color changes to black. Only the bedrock is yellow.
“No matter the weather, I roll the car windows down and breathe deep before taking off. I give myself permission to speed a little. Fifty years ago I did it. Twenty years ago I did it. And I still do it. I hurry to return to Whitewater year after year because it’s my Backyard Canyon.
“As you level out on Route 74 into the Whitewater State Park, there’s a mile marker and an open field. Once this field was a golf course. Long ago it was a powwow site.
“Don, my ninety-five-year-old friend, recalled an Indian powwow.
“‘The Indians came dressed in war paint and feathers. Scared the hell out of me,’ he’d chuckled. ‘They came for days and danced, sang what I heard as war hoops, and howled while they pounded their drums. They were probably Sioux, Sioux the Snakes the French called them. There were plenty of snakes in Whitewater.’
“Today the Timber Snakes in the Whitewater Park are in trouble. Endangered.” —Peg Bauernfeind 2017
Publication of Return to Backyard Canyon was made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.