Otter Creek – The Life Line of the Park

jims cornerI find it hard to believe that I have not written about the importance of one of the most prominent aspects of the Bertram Chain of Lakes, Otter Creek. There are many details about the creek (probably even more than I know) so I will mention several.

First of all, Otter Creek begins in the southwest swamp area of Birch Lake. There may be other minor sources but it is hard to tell. It begins and passes through the land that in 1879 belonged to Juilia Bertram, wife of George Bertram. It should be noted that George Bertram died in 1879, leaving this land and several plots of land on West River Street to his wife.

Otter Creek enters Bertram Lake on the west side. In the spring, bow fishermen can be seen hunting suckers because this is a major area for spawning. I hope that is all they hunt. The dam is located where Otter Creek exits Bertram Lake. It was placed there to control the water level of the lake and has done so for almost 100 years (since 1922).

Since the parkland falls in the center of a glaciated area, there are many springs that feed Otter Creek. Between the dam and Long Lake, there are a few minor springs but south of where the creek enters Long Lake, there is an underwater artesian well. If you are ever canoeing or kayaking on Long Lake, feel the water in the middle of the lake and then paddle to south end and feel the water again, you will find a noticeable difference in the temperature between the two.

After Otter Creek exits Long Lake, it flows through Mud and First Lakes. On the north side of these lakes the Portland Cement Company had a processing plant for marl, which is the main ingredient for cement. Over the centuries the fine textured marl would wash off the land and settle in the bottom of the lakes. Portland Cement Co. mined the bottom and eventually enlarged the lakes. Otter Creek then was allowed to flow through them and clean much of the debris.

From First Lake, the creek flows to the Mississippi River passing under County Road 39, under Interstate 94, through the golf course, through Otter Creek Park, under County Road 75, and finally down to the Mississippi River. To my knowledge, Otter Creek has never been dry. Due to the many springs and the Artesian well, it is constantly flowing and because of this, the creek is day after day, year after year, mixing with the waters of the lakes and keeping them clean. This is a wonderful resource and we need to protect it as long as we can.

otter creek






The George Bertram Family Tree

To begin looking at George Bertram’s family, we must back up one generation to his parents, Andrew Bartram and his wife, Alison Monilaws Bartram.  Andrew and Alison Bartram immigrated to the United States from Glasgow, Scotland in 1812.  George was one of four boys and six girls born to Andrew and Alison, and he was born March 4, 1820.
George married Julia Hamilton on September 30, 1841 in Newark, New Jersey and their family tree is as follows:


* Thomas was born 4 months after Minnesota became a state!




872597c84e4bf785846956cc60d10819There are times in life’s journey when we are traveling along just fine and all of a sudden … Oops!

This happened at the YMCA Camp on September 26, 1986 – The “Gas Spill”.

Let me back up. In September of 1946, the Standard Oil Company received a right-of-way easement to install a gasoline pipeline through the NE corner of the property. The easement was re-assigned to the American Oil Company in 1960. There were no incidents with the pipeline for the next 26 years, until the “oops” occurred.

In September of 1986, a landscape company was given permission by the YMCA to purchase and remove larger 10′ to 15′ spruce trees from the property for use in their business. The landscaper was shown where to dig the trees and was also shown the location of the pipeline. But, if you have ever been to a Christmas tree farm in search of the “perfect” live tree, you know that the one “over there” looks better and soon you are far from where you started.

Eventually, the landscaper found the better tree and dug one up right over the pipeline. As a result, he cut into the pipeline and created the gas spill. In all, 23,000 gallons of unleaded premium gasoline were released into the sandy soil before the line could be shut down!

The cleanup of the land lasted over the next several years. However, due to the technology used, the extraction of the gasoline was nearly 100% and cleaner soil was hauled in to replace the contaminated soil.

All in all, it was an unfortunately “Oops” but fortunately was remedied properly!

Winter Block Party 2014 a Success!

Thanks to the hundreds of folks who came out for the
1st Annual Monticello Winter Block Party
Friends of Bertram Snow Sculpting Event!
Although it was a bit chilly, there were four snow sculptures carved on the front lawn of the Community Center and lots of warm conversation and fun inside the building.
Snow sculptures were judged with cash prizes going to
1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners!
Kids snowman building contest winner received an
MCC Gift Card and Certificate!
This was a great event for introducing and updating the Monticello Community on the growing park and its activities.

Hope to see you next year!




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