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Abandoned rail bed overlooking Seminary Fen. Dirt trail ideal for biking, walking, skiing, snowshoeing. Parking available at N 44 48.823, W 093 33.097.
In the distance you see the bluffs of the Minnesota River Valley between the bridges of Chaska and Shakopee, which close due to flooding most springs.
Seminary Fen is most of the low area between the railroad bed underfoot and the radio towers. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources purchased the property in 2008, because this fen (swamp) is spring-fed and is home to eight unique plant species. DNR is currently attempting to control the invasive species, mostly buckthorn, in order to maintain this rare habitat.
Historically, this area was used by Dakota medicine men as a place of healing due to the high sulfur content in the springs. It is possible Henry Thoreau, who suffered from TB, stopped here in 1861. His steamboat passed this location as he traveled 150 miles upstream from St Paul to study the prairie wildlife and the Dakota culture. European settlers also recognized the area as a place of healing. In 1909 a beautiful brick sanitarium (health spa) was built and attracted customers from across the US and Canada. Typically, guests were treated for arthritis and other ailments by lying in hot mud baths, followed by a bath of warmed sulfur spring water and then given a massage. In 1951 the Franciscans transformed the building into a Seminary where they taught college level philosophy and theology classes. The property was sold again in 1970 but was never occupied. The building rapidly deteriorated, was burned by arson(s) and later demolished. Unattended for several years, the DNR has a lot of work to do to preserve the fen’s rare character.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum