As I was preparing for a new listing in the Golden Valley hills east of Highway 100 I was struck by the fact that it was nestled between two nature areas, one which we had never explored. With two grandchildren in tow, we went off to discover Golden Valley's Rice Lake Nature Area, just north of Golden Valley Road east of Highway 100.
Though located in a residential neighborhood, the woods and wetland provide more seclusion than expected for a small urban nature area 9.23 acres in size. Laced with trails of all sorts from narrow footpaths to dirt bike jumping trails to paved trails, it is an exploring and adventure opportunity as well as a biking nature trail. In the words of our granddaughter, "it feels like we are in the woods."
Access to the park is through a pedestrian bridge crossing of Bassett Creek off Bassett Creek Drive. The creek is bordered by a hardwood floodplain forest and hardwood swamp. We've walked wilderness trails before, but it's amazing to have it right in the middle of our urban area. Adventure awaits you in the Nature Area. Rice Lake land can be accessed by walking an aggregate path, and a boardwalk leading to a floating dock into Rice Lake. As we walked through this area we found very old and over-grown trails that just stop at impassable places. So, when taking some small trails be watchful. From the man-made rubble on some of the trails you can see that improvements have been ongoing over many years.
The Rice Lake Nature Area provides a unique opportunity for an unobstructed view of nature's work around creeks and waterways.
The southern portion of the Rice Lake Nature Area is composed of a mixture of floodplain forest and hardwood swamp. Box elder trees are mixed with silver maple, American elm, and some green ash trees. The Rice Lake Nature Area is within the floodplain of Bassett Creek and provides both flood way and flood storage functions that are critical to the area.
South Rice Pond likely freezes out on a regular basis so fish are scarce. It does, however, support abundant waterfowl, as the habitat and isolated nature of the pond make ideal nesting and an important protected spot for layovers during spring and fall migration.
It reminds me of the General Mills Research Nature Area on the opposite end of Golden Valley, another nature area largely unknown except by the people who live in the area and love it, accessing it by small trails from the neighborhood.