Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens are very beautiful, internationally-known gardens located along the Mississippi River in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. Found in the central part of the state, these gardens are nestled within a city of about 80,000 people, and are less than a two hour drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Although these gardens are located next to each other, they are split into upper and lower sections by a quiet, dead-end city road that ends at another park. The lower section is Munsinger Gardens which has a long trail next to the wide Mississippi River. This trail extends down the entire length of the park, and on one end leads to the dam and another park. Clemens Gardens is sometimes referred to as the ‘upper gardens or upper section’ because there is a somewhat short yet long hill along the city street with beautiful trails leading up to Clemens Gardens.
Over the years, millions of dollars have been put into maintaining the gardens, and numerous volunteers help with the various gardening tasks every spring, summer, and autumn. It is a lot of work maintaining the gardens, yet year after year the volunteers do an impressive job at keeping the gardens looking amazingly gorgeous.
Both gardens are stunningly beautiful! The Mississippi River, variety of trees, trails, and water fountains only adds to the beauty. Clemens Gardens has the most water fountains, but Munsinger Gardens also has a fountain which is surrounded by plants and flowers inside a pool of water. Sometimes people can even see mallard ducks swimming in circles in the pool of water around fountains.
Munsinger Gardens contains rock-lined trails, paved trails, a trail made up of granite slabs, and a gravel trail along the river. The rock-lined trails meander through flowers, tall trees, water fountains, and around an old log cabin. Next to the log cabin there are very tall evergreens that can make a people feel as if they are walking through a forest when looking up towards the sky.
Along two parts of the rock-lined trails, people will find tiny bridges that cross over a man-made creek. One of the small bridges has a wishing well next to it. The other tiny bridge is made up of granite for quick access to the other trails. The gardens over here are composed of unique patterns, circles, and even a heart. Next to one of the many entrances into Munsinger Gardens, there are rock-lined trails where people can see rocks in the shape of a heart. This trail allows people to completely walk around the heart which has flowers filling up the entire heart. It can be challenging to photograph flowers in the shape of the heart, but it is very beautiful to observe.
Several swings and benches offer a comfortable place to sit and relax along the river, plus there are decorative benches uniquely placed within the gardens. The attractive benches are surrounded by flowers, plants, and trees; and are easily accessible by walking on the lawn through openings in the rock-lined trails. All of the swings near the river are surrounded by red bricks, and they all have a great view of the Mississippi River. Munsinger Gardens is a wonderful place to take a walk or sit outside to enjoy nature for hours on beautiful sunny days.
A large variety of fully-grown trees living within both gardens includes various evergreen trees, oak trees, maple trees, white cedar trees, bean trees, willow trees, and more. Munsinger and Clemens Gardens are elegantly filled with beauty from nature and human-planted flowers. The gardens can get busy during the summer especially on weekends, but beautiful weekdays often do not have too many visitors. It always seems easy to find a swing, bench, or picnic table to sit on except during special events and when weddings are held at the gardens.
Munsinger Gardens also has a few peacocks living in a cage for people to observe and enjoy. Canadian geese and mallard ducks can commonly be found walking around, resting on the grass, playing, and swimming in the river.
The shoreline along the wide Mississippi River is very short in width and contains large boulders that are easily accessible for those who want to explore the river up close. It is not uncommon to see people sitting on a boulder reading a book or posing for pictures with the Mighty Mississippi in the background. On the other side of the river there is a very steep bank completely filled with thick, tall trees. St. Cloud State University is across the river from Munsinger Gardens, and parts of some buildings can be seen from the walking trail. On weekdays people will hear short, beautiful chimes being played on church bells every half hour. The ringing bells come from a church just off of the university’s campus so they are not very loud. The chimes are nice to listen to and also serve as a great reminder that another half hour has passed for people who are reading, studying, or relaxing near the trail by the river.
Families and large groups can enjoy a picnic at the picnic area by the river at Munsinger Gardens. There is a tiny parking lot located next to the picnic area with a half dozen spots for vehicles. This is the only parking lot for the gardens; most people just park along the quiet city road in between both gardens or along the city streets at the top of the hill by Clemens Gardens. The picnic area is completely shaded thanks to several tall trees that are spaced nicely apart within the entire picnic area.
The trail next to the picnic area at Munsinger Gardens leads people up to the dam and another park, Riverside Park. It only takes about 30 seconds walk to the dam where local people are often fishing. Riverside Park is a huge park where people enjoy disc golf, volleyball, tennis, and kids have a playground area plus a splash pad. By following the trail from Munsinger Gardens along the river and through Riverside Park, people will end up by some stone steps leading down to more trails by the river. Farther back in this wooded area bald eagles can be seen flying, catching fish, and hanging out in the trees on the islands.
Unlike the meandering trails at Munsinger Gardens, the walking trails at Clemens Gardens are straight and are made of colorful bricks. The majority of the bricks are red, but other colors of bricks can be found along the edges of trails and around water fountains. Clemens Gardens is also different from Munsinger Gardens in that it has sections that separate various flowers (such as the rose garden, white garden, perennial garden, sections of only yellow flowers, all red flowers, all purple flowers, etc).
Clemens Gardens has a gift shop, handicap-accessible restrooms, several benches, and water fountains scattered throughout the gardens. There are fewer trees at Clemens Gardens (except for on the hill side), so expect to be in direct sunlight when visiting Clemens Gardens. If the direct sunlight gets too hot though, it is only a short walk down the hill to find lots of shade and trees usually with a nice breeze alongside the river.
The walking trails on the hill that separate Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens have three trails. Two of these trails are paved and a little steep in some spots. The other trail is composed of gravel, is gorgeously lined with rocks on both sides, and is a gentle trail that traverses across, up, and down the hill. It is nice to walk slowly along the gravel trail, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and view a variety of plants, trees, and shade flowers. The entire hill area is shaded by tall trees, has flowering bushes that bloom during spring, and the sea of large-leafed shade plants wave in the wind and have large trees popping out of the sea of plants.
Both Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens contain unique plants and some decorative grasses in addition to a large variety of flowers. Some years corn has even been planted in the gardens which looks beautiful next to tall prairie grasses (that were also planted). For people who like the color purple, there are always purple-leafed plants (Persian Shields) at Munsinger Gardens from spring through autumn. During summer months many monarch butterflies visit both gardens, and other butterflies can occasionally be seen exploring the area too.
Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens are wonderful places to take pictures, relax, see unique flowers and plants, and enjoy the surrounding beauty nature has provided us. I highly recommend visiting Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens especially for anyone who enjoys seeing beautiful, elegant, and spectacular places. After spending a few hours at the gardens, it is not uncommon for most people to leave the area feeling a lasting happiness and peace that extends beyond their visit to these stunningly beautiful gardens.