Chapter VI.
Prairies and Natural Parks.

A large part of Becker County was originally covered with natural forests. The surface of about twenty of forty townships in the county was clothed almost exclusively with a good growth of timber. In the other twenty townships there were tracts of prairie land, varying in size of from one, two or three sections in a township, like Lake View or Green Valley, to those occupying a whole township like Walworth, and I make the proportion of the prairie land to the timber land in these twenty townships in the ratio of about four to three, or four-sevenths prairie and three-sevenths timer, and as the other twenty townships were almost exclusively timbered it would leave the surface of the whole county about two-sevenths prairie and five-sevenths timber, or what in a little nearer the true proportion, four-thirteenths prairie and nine-thirteenths timber.

The famous Park Region of Northwestern Minnesota occupies a large part of the western portion of Becker County.

Charles Carleton Coffin, correspondent of the Boston Journal, who came with the first Northern Pacific Railroad exploring expedition through the region in 1869, first gave it the name of the Park Region, and he sounded the praises of the Park Region and Becker County throughout the length and breadth of the land. His letters were copied in other newspapers far and wide, and his descriptions and pen pictures were neither overdrawn nor exaggerated. It was reading on of these letters in a Chicago paper that started me on the road to Minnesota in September, 1869, and to Becker County the succeeding year. A copy of this letter will be found, later on, in the article giving an account of the first Northern Pacific Exploring Expedition.

Bayard Taylor, the celebrated traveler, visited this region a short time afterwards, and pictured the Park Region in colors equally glowing. On the 11th of August, 1873, Ex-Vice President Colfax spent a day in our county, and he pronounced the country about Detroit and Audubon the most beautiful he had ever laid his eyes upon.

Of the region about Detroit Lake, ex-Governor Bross of Illinois, a world-wide traveler, writing in the Chicago Tribune says: "There is scarcely a section without a beautiful lake; small prairies, rich and rolling, alternate with groves of oak and other hard wood; and certainly, if any more inviting region can be found, we have never had the good fortune to see it."

But there in another park region in the eastern part of our county, that was never seen by either of these eloquent writers, that is still more beautiful. I refer to the region of the country known as the Shell Prairies. The nearest approach to level land in Becker County is on these prairies. These prairies begin at the Crow Wing River in Hubbard County, and extending in a northwesterly direction, this beautiful stretch of prairie land enters Becker County, at the southeast corner of Osage Township and Carsonville, varying in width from two to five miles, widening out as it enters the Reservation, and occupies nearly all of Township No. 141, Range 37. These stretches of prairie land are dotted with evergreen groves, consisting chiefly of jack pine, with an intermixture of bur-oak as you proceed to the west, and add greatly to the beauty of the landscape. The surface of these prairies is smooth and unbroken by sloughs or other obstructions. This is especially the case with the southeast corner township of the White Earth Reservation, which is so smooth and unbroken that, barring an occassional [sic] small grove of timber you can plough a furrow across the township in almost any direction. If you wish to see the most beautiful township of land in Minnesota, the greater part of which is still in a state of nature, and but slightly marred by the hand of civilization, take a drive over Township 141, Range 37, the southeast corner township of the White Earth Reservation, and I think you will find it there. There are some fine farms in the south part of the township but they add to rather than detract from its natural beauty.