Just down the road from the Gustavus campus is a 628 acre park beloved by many Gusties. Seven Mile Creek is a Nicollet County Park that is home to wild turkey, deer, squirrels and the occasional Gustavus student going for a hike. Over the years, Gustavus athletics teams and clubs have utilized the vast and beautiful park in many different ways.
The park offers opportunities for a wide variety of activities. Steep hills for hiking, miles of trails for jogging, fields for playing spikeball and a creek for fly fishing. These are just some of the things Gustavus students have been able to do since the park was officially opened in 1967.
“The cross country team does a barnburner of a workout every year in August during our early camp. The trails at Seven Mile Creek are crazy hilly, so it’s a great hill workout. We normally do two sets of two mile runs at race pace with an all-out mile around the flat part of the park at the end. You can definitely tell the difference between being on the steep trails and running around the fields,” Senior Cross Country Runner Nick Kerbeshian said.
Seven Mile Creek offers those looking for a challenging workout plenty of hills to utilize. For those looking to go for a more peaceful nature walk, the park also has less demanding trails and plenty of nice views.
“The creek is an amazing place to hang out with friends, go on a date or play yard games. Looking at the beautiful fall landscape there is a great time. I’ve made a lot of good memories with the cross country team at Seven Mile. Every year we get out there for a campfire during our early camp and just have great talks and tell stories which is always a great time,” Kerbeshian said.
The park has the facilities for practically every outdoor activity. In addition to the hills and trails, there is also the creek for which the park is named. The creek was called Seven Mile by early settlers not for the length of the stream, but for the distance between where it crosses an old trail (now Highway 99) and the county courthouse in St. Peter. The creek is a naturally cold-water stream that makes it habitable for trout. The Gustavus Fly Fishing club has enjoyed fishing in the park for years.
“The club usually goes to Seven Mile for spontaneous fishing outings and teaching new club members how to flyfish. It’s a pretty forgiving place to fish since it’s so open and fairly shallow. I’d say the club typically has good luck fishing there, but it depends who you ask. The fish aren’t huge, but there are decent sized ones in there,” Senior Fly Fishing Club President Alec Donald said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocks the creek with fingerling (about four inch long) brown trout every year. The good fishing combined with the relative location of the creek to Gustavus has made it a favorite spot for the fly fishing club.
“It’s the perfect place for teaching people how to fly fish. There’s not much to get your line caught on and the fish are fairly easy to catch since they’re farm-raised, although they definitely get smarter as the year goes on due to how popular of a fishing spot it is. Seven Mile provides us with a great way to partner with the DNR too. Over the years they have given the club experiences with the stocking process and an opportunity to learn about how habitat restoration can impact fishing,” Donald said.
Seven Mile Creek has become the destination for Gustavus fly fishermen to go catch some fish, but it’s also a good place to learn about the ecosystem. Working with the DNR has given the fly fishing club many opportunities to learn more about the activity they love. The creek has also become a common spot for Gustavus professors to take their students on short field trips.
“I’ve had several classes take trips there over the years. I collected aquatic insects and other invertebrates from the creek for one of my biology classes last year, and we explored the eroding ravines for a geology class,” Donald said.
Since it opened to the public roughly 53 years ago, Seven Mile Creek has given many Gustavus a place to get away from campus for a while, without going too far. The diverse and scenic park provides many opportunities to participate in activities both in the water and in the hills.