Minnesota’s Big Bog State Recreation Area
By Polly Keith Scotland
In 1908, the county government tried to tame the wetlands and sell the drained land to homesteaders for the amount of the ditch tax—the cost of a ditch as determined by a local governmental unit. From 1905 to 1922, over fifteen hundred miles of ditches were dredged in an attempt to change wetland into farmland. Despite tremendous efforts by Beltrami County, the area’s topography would not stay drained. Settlers tried to clear the wetlands for planting by burning it. Peatland may seem waterlogged, but moss and layers of peat can be two to twenty feet deep.
At the end of the boardwalk is an open muskeg (Algonquin for “bog”) with low-lying shrubs of cranberries, carnivorous pitcher plants, sphagnum moss, and saturated areas of iron-red water, a view the early Woodland Indians once gazed upon.
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