A Star Tribune photographer captures stunning views of Minnesota from above

When a photographer sets his sights high (and has a drone camera), we are rewarded with views that take our state to new heights. These images show the variety of topography the Land of 10,000 Lakes has to offer. 


Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. The first contest was held in January of 1991 and has become the world's largest ice fishing contest and put Brainerd on the map. The winter event generates over $1 million in revenue for area businesses and over $150,000 for area charities annually.
Thoreau in his writings on Walden Pond described these "dark figures, shaped somewhat like a spider's web, what you may call ice rosettes" in Walden Pond's frozen surface. Others have speculated that the stars can form when water flows up and out onto ice that has an overlying layer of snow. The water might flow in this branching way because of a kind of wicking or capillary action through the slush, seen here in Cotton.
Ice break-up on Mille Lacs Lake takes many forms, a constantly moving kaleidoscope of shapes and forms, seen here in Onamia. Minnesota is fortunate to lie at the center of four major North American ecological biomes: aspen parklands, prairie grasslands, deciduous forest, and coniferous forest. From the boreal forest and Big Bog of the north to the Driftless Area of the South East. Minnesota has a many unique landscapes, lakes and rivers, many of which can only be truly appreciated from above.
Kayakers on Rice Creek in Shoreview. Rice Creek has been altered dramatically over the years. The creek was straightened in the early 1900s, presumably for agricultural purposes, and since that time, development has begun crowding the stream. Rice Creek had many twists and turns which kept water moving slowly. The creek was restored to a more natural, meandering path, and to stabilize stream banks with native plants and trees.
The US Military pilots used the peat bogs north of Red Lake as a bombing range from 1947 to 1952 and a few of the craters that formed small ponds are still visible from the air. From 1949 to 1951, the Naval Reserve entered into a cooperative project with the Minnesota Department of Conservation. The goal of this project, known as Operation Woosh, was to produce wallowing holes for some 5,000 moose to help them find refuge from biting insects.
This is Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA. Scientists estimate that these dunes were formed 14,000 to 18,000 years ago, as the glacial river that carved the Mississippi valley receded. Sands were deposited along the river basin and blown by wind into the dune complex's present location. Some of the dunes are as high as 30 feet above the surrounding dry barrens prairie. Today open sand blowouts, dry ridges and sheltered swales support plants and animals uniquely adapted to the hot dry environment of a sand prairie, seen here in Kellogg.
Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is home to some of the state's largest intact stretches of oak savanna. This ecosystem, a transitional habitat between oak woodlands and grassy prairies, requires fire (Shown here after a burn) and grazing. At Cedar Creek, we use a combination of prescribed burning at various frequencies and grazing by a seasonal herd of bison (in one section of the oak savanna) to maintain and restore this unique habitat.
With more miles of cross-country ski trails than a drive from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, Minnesota is a destination for novice and pro skiers alike. And with local skier Jessie Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall, who won the United States' first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 2018, the sport has never been more popular. But you don't need to be an Olympic athlete to participate in this fun and family-friendly winter activity.