Undine Region

On September 14, 1838, Nicollet began his expedition from Fort Snelling, Minnesota to Spirit Lake, Iowa. The expedition ended on October 17, 1838 with his return to Fort Snelling. He was accompanied by at least 8-9 other men, including David Faribault as an interpreter and Charles Geyer as the botanist and a number of Dakota including his guide Cut Nose.

He labeled the region they traveled through the Undine (which literally is German for water spirit) which stretched from Martin and Jackson counties in southwest Minnesota to Rice and Dakota the travel journals of Baron Lahontan who Nicollet was convinced had previously visited this region. Nicollet named what we know as the Cannon River after Lahontan. At the time of Nicollet's expedition the core of this region would have been a mix of elm, basswood, maple, and oak forest stretching from present-day Mankato north to St. Cloud and from St. Peter, on the Minnesota River, east to Northfield. Prairie and oak savanna surrounded this core of forest on all but the north side. As Nicollet traveled south from Fort Snelling he skirted the southern edge of the Big Woods until he got to present-day Elysian where he headed south and west to Spirit Lake.

As on their other expeditions, he and Geyer, made extensive notes on the plants of the area, lakes and rivers and a range of geographical features. Nicollet recorded latitudes and longitudes (taking sightings of the sun or stars) as well as elevation using a large mercury-filled barometer. The detail provided by these accounts and data are unparalleled for the time and provide a wealth of detail for understanding the 1830s landscape and at least some of the changes that have happened since then.

View a mosaic of plat maps from the Undine Region