170th St SE, Granite Falls, MN 56241, USA
| +1 507-831-2900
Photo courtesy of Clean Up the River Environment
Sun - Sat 12am - 11:30pm
Gneiss OutcropsIf you’ve been driving the byway for a while, a stop at the Gneiss Outcrops will be a welcome—and beautiful—change of pace. Located within a large meander in the Minnesota River, the designated Scientific and Natural Area features ancient rocks that have survived Paleozoic seas, the migration of continents, and the weight of glacial ice. Formed approximately 3.6 billion years ago, the outcrops are among the oldest known rocks on the earth’s surface. Over the past few decades, they’ve become even more significant as other outcrops along the Minnesota River have been exploited for granite mining, housing, and recreational use. Explore the area in early July to see the yellow blossoms of the rare plains prickly pear cacti anchored in the crevices of lichen-covered rocks.
Between the two major rock outcrops lies a natural lake where you can enjoy sweeping views across the Minnesota River Valley. While the surrounding area has no maintained trails or other recreational facilities, it’s popular for hiking and bird-watching in the summer, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Adjacent to the outcrops is the Minnesota River Water Trail, a 318-mile route that runs from St. Paul to Ortonville and is perfect for paddlers of all skill levels.