on the shores of Oak Leaf Lake (on Highway 99 west of St. Peter) provides
a glimpse of what this area might have looked like historically. Oak Leaf
is an example of one of the many lakes and wetlands that once dotted the
watershed (see wetlands). The presettlement
vegetation map is based on Public Land Survey notes describing landscape
patterns of 1895. Before widespread Euro-American settlement, the watershed
was covered with prairie and wet prairie grasses, lakes and wetlands, and
groves of hardwood trees—oaks, maple, basswood, and hickory.
Settlers moved into the area to farm the rich prairie soils. They modified the landscape to make it more suitable for farming by clearing the prairie and draining the wetlands (historical distribution of wetlands) Public funds were available for drainage projects to attract new settlers and help already established farmers.
Today, the 36.8 square mile watershed has more than 24 miles of open ditches and over 600 miles of public and private drain tile. An extensive network of underground tiles and open drainage ditches were constructed to move excess water away from the fields (natural versus altered drainage map). Next
Find out the
history of wetlands in
Turn of the century photo showing a
trench crew installing
hand-dug clay tile.
Installing modern day plastic tile.
Hundreds of miles of subsurface tile
drain the watershed.
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