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Open Daily, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Open Daily, 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM
The idea of a new park for Olmsted County was fostered by the Olmsted County Park Board, county residents, and civic leaders from the city of Rochester and the town of Byron. Their intent was two fold – to expand the amount of public green space available to county citizens, and as a means for the rural community in Olmsted County to maintain an identity in response to Rochester's growth. The initial process of purchasing 465 acres of land began in 1967. Located in the Zumbro River valley, the area offered ideal passive recreational opportunities such as hiking, camping, and nature study. The park derived its name in reference to the meander of the river. Early settlers noted that the river bent almost on to itself, forming a near circle that reminded them of an oxen harness, or Oxbow. One "oxbow" has been preserved through bank stabilization and now surrounds the Main picnic area.
During the years since 1967 the park has been transformed from farm fields and degraded forests into a beautifully preserved area. A zoo was established in the early 70's with the donation of native Minnesota animals from Mr. John Gilbertson, the local game warden at the time. The zoo is now an integral part of the environmental education programming activities offered by staff and volunteers. In 1974, an additional 107 acres north of the park was purchased to prevent bluff land development and to increase the parks total area to 572 acres.
In August of 2004 the park received an incredible gift of land upon the passing of Dr. David and Geraldine Donald. Mrs. Donald preceded her husband in death. The Donald's, longtime park neighbors, gifted over 50 acres of their land to the park for the better public good. The land, and the home that the Donald's built and lived in for over 40 years has increased the parks total acreage to over 620 acres.