Monticello swans

wooden park sign with two swans, two cattails, and the words Swan Park

Swan Park is a small viewing area overlooking the Mississippi River in the middle of a neighborhood in Monticello. The water is relatively warm in this spot downstream from a nuclear power plant. We visited on Presidents Day, along with about two dozen other people, and we heard the sounds of the swans long before we saw them.

Trumpeter swans have made a terrific comeback in this area, thanks in part to the dedication of Sheila Lawrence. She was feeding ducks and geese in the mid-1980s when a few swans started showing up too, part of an effort by Hennepin County Parks (Three Rivers Park District) and the DNR to bring these native birds back from a Minnesota population of zero.

interpretive sign with Sheila Lawrence's story and a picture of her throwing corn to the swans

In an article for the Trumpeter Swan Society (PDF), she talked about seeing a tv report about a swan release: “I was amazed at such a sight and thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to work with those beautiful swans? You know the old saying, ‘Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’ Little did I know then what fate had in store for me or just how much the Trumpeter Swans would change my life.” Now, about 2,000 swans reportedly visit Monticello every winter. Her husband has taken over feeding the swans since her death five years ago.

a man holding an orange bucket at the edge of the river, with dozens of swans watching him

A truck was there to refill the corn supply…

Munson Lake Nutrition truck and a man standing next to a large red bin

…which is carried down a pipe to the river’s edge.

thin pipe above a snow-covered lawn

There were some squabbles, but not as many as I thought we’d see for so many birds so close together.

31 swans, three of them flapping their wings, plus geese and mallards

Lots of wing-stretching.

closeup of one swan stretching in shallow water

Canada geese and mallards also take advantage of the free food.

a dozen mallards on the snowy shore, plus a mixture of geese and swans at the edge and in the water

I’ve always thought of Canada geese as really large birds – but compared to swans, they’re tiny.

wide photo of dozens of big white birds, plus many smaller darker birds

A pair of swans coming in for a landing:

two swans banking to the right a few feet above the river

straightening out and gliding a foot down

just touched the water and it looks like they're standing up

one swimming swan with a water trail behind it, and the other already lost in the crowd

We visited the park in the morning, on our way to Sauk Centre. At that point there were hundreds of each bird.

cloudy view downriver, with many birds

On the way back to the Cities, about four hours later, the sun had appeared but there were no more swans in the water, though some of the ducks were still around.

sunny view of the same spot, with ducks barely visible at the far right

We did spot several pairs and groups of swans flying in the area.

two swans flying against a pale blue sky

More information about Minnesota’s trumpeter swans

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