WORTHINGTON -- Someone told me Nobles County has more towns/villages/communities (16) than any other county in Minnesota. Is this true? There is a way to check, but I don't want to do it. You can study a Minnesota map and count the communities inside each county outline. There are 87 counties.
We are so close together in Nobles County, so intertwined, that when the U.S. census is made next year the Bureau of Census is going to count us all as one. We are, together, residents of the Worthington Micropolitan Area. (Micropolitan. True. Like a mini metropolitan.)
One thing slightly strange:
In my years in the Worthington schools we never studied Nobles County geography, My brother never studied Nobles County geography. I don't know anyone who did.
The closest I came was when I was doing work for a Boy Scout merit badge. I had to go to good Mr. Hoffman at his little store across from the entrance to Chautauqua Park. I believe Mr. Hoffman also was a member of the Worthington school board.
"Name the 16 communities in Nobles County ..."
I did it. I had been studying. (Adrian, Bigelow, Brewster, Dundee, Ellsworth, Kinbrae, Leota, Lismore, Reading, Round Lake, Rushmore, Wilmont, Worthington, plus Org, Pfingsten and St. Kilian. It's a bunch.)
I guess I always have been interested in the creeks of Nobles County. (In my family we say "crick," not, "creek." In other places people say, "run," as in Bull Run, or they say stream, brook, rill, rivulet.)
I have been interested in creeks because my Dad was a boy on a farm in Section 26, Bloom Township. Jack Creek cuts through that place. The Elmer Crippen family house was no more than 50 feet from a notably high creek bank. There were five boys. The brothers spent summer days and winter days sliding down that creek bank as on a toboggan slide, splashing in the creek, swimming in the creek, trying for bullheads. I know this because I heard the stories often.
I was back at that place a couple of weeks ago. The house and the buildings are gone, but Jack Creek and the high bank are unchanged. I took to scouting all the creeks.
Sixteen communities. Seven creeks. Champepadan, Elk, Jack, Kanaranzi, Little Rock, Okabena, Norwegian. There actually are a couple of others that seem not to be accounted for, one which is the headwater of the Ocheyedan River in Bigelow Township and another to the north of East and West Graham lakes.
I'll tell you, here and there along these waterways are some dramatic views, some uncommon scenery. The flat lands and the square patterns of corn fields and bean fields are lost.
I think the most uncommon, the most interesting in several ways, is Champepadan Creek in northwest Nobles County. The explorer Joseph Nicollet called this Thorny Wood River. I was checking a book. What we call river banks or creek banks are escarpments. (We keep changing words, if not in the Holy Bible then in engineering manuals. I know a retired engineer. What we called water towers are, he says, hydro columns. Worthington has a new hydro column.)
Well -- take a camera. The escarpments here and there along Champepadan Creek are something.
Then Kanaranzi, on the county's west side, brushing Adrian. I don't know the real difference between a creek and a river. Along some turns Kanaranzi surely meets river standards. The flooding, raging Kanaranzi is a Nobles County legend.
Elk Creek has notable vistas, as does Jack Creek. Little Rock Creek. They all do.
I think there is no question that with a kayak someone could wind through long stretches of Nobles County's creeks as no one in our history ever has done. Like going to the moon.
Jim Wychor used to remind that all the rain that falls on the studios of KWOA flows away, west to the Missouri River or east to the Mississippi River. A drive along our creeks is evidence of this. Champepadan, Kanaranzi, Little Rock, Norwegian are flowing west, racing to the Missouri. The others -- the creeks on the east -- are gushing to the Des Moines and on to the Mississippi.
Nobles County has fascinating geography.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column runs each Saturday.