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Hidden Gems of the Arboretum

Quinn discusses their favorite "off the beaten trail" areas of the arboretum.

Quinn discusses their favorite "off the beaten trail" areas of the arboretum.

To my friends, it is no secret that I love the arboretum here. With about 880 acres and 15 miles of trails, it is a great resource for both academics and recreational activities. As an avid walker, I have traversed every path (and even a few off-trail paths) exploring the area. In fact, I have discovered that many of the most interesting parts of the arb are off the beaten trail. To save you the walk (and to keep you away from the bugs) I will be giving you a virtual highlight reel of some hidden places in the arb!

The Tree Over the Creek

One of the closest places to my old dorm (Watson) is this tree that fell across the Spring Creek, which feeds into the Lyman Lakes. This is one of the most relaxing places on campus, where I often lie on my back and look at the canopy above me. The stream bubbling beneath me always adds a nice ambiance to the environment. It is also a great place to watch the seasons change, as well as watch the depth of the creek change based on seasons and rainfall.

the tree over the Spring Creek
Me navigating the snow-covered tree

The Abutments

As both a fan of the arb and a history minor, the history of the arb has been a passion of mine. In some of my research, I read about two old suspension bridges that crossed the river. Erected by Harvey Stork, a botany professor and key player in the restoration of the arb, they served as part of a self-guided nature tour. After deterioration, both bridges were removed in 1987, and the arb paths no longer follow the old tour routes. While the bridges no longer exist, the large abutments remain today. 

the abutments by the Cannon River
A pair of abutments by the Cannon (water bottle for scale)

The Old Rope Swing

Winter is often an opportune time to explore the arb off-trail, because you don’t have to fight through dense undergrowth or worry about ticks. That is how I discovered the old rope swing, along the Cannon River. Invisible from other arb trails, and without so much as a deer path going to it, I believe this to be one of the most secretive spots in the arb. Despite looking haunting during the winter, I returned two months later to find that the rope swing, and the branch it was attached to, vanished. I can only hope that it broke off naturally and not because someone tried one last swing…

the old rope swing in winter
The old rope swing (potentially the last photo of it intact)

The Beaver Dam

While the Turtle Pond appears on maps of the arboretum, not many people know that it is also the residence of the two beavers around campus. All around this area, you can find a collection of felled trees and paths where the beavers have dragged sticks and branches to the pond. The area around the Turtle Pond also has a ton of different flora, giving the entire area a unique atmosphere. The dam itself is difficult to snap a picture of, so instead, here is a photo I took of the beaver. 

two beavers in the winter
Two beavers by the riverside

Final Thoughts

There are countless places to discover in the arb, many of which I’m hoping to stumble upon in the coming years. There are also many great places to find along the trails that I didn’t include on this list. You never know what you’ll find!

Quinn (he/they) is a junior studying Political Science and International RelationsEnvironmental Studies, and History. Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, they enjoy walking barefoot in the Arb, looking for free snacks in department lounges, and searching for their next favorite book in the library. Outside of work and school, they are the Treasurer of the Carleton Student Association (student government). There, they oversee the budget as well as work with the Student Activities Office to manage clubs on campus. Meet the other Bloggers!