Dale Setterholm

Geologist Dale Setterholm took cyclists from various communities around Scandia and Marine on St. Croix for the first Cycling Scandia “Rocks and Rolls” event. Riders would stop at different geological formations and let Setterholm explain the significance of each.


Cycling and geology are often not thought of as combinable activities, but Cycling Scandia’s first Rocks and Rolls event successfully put them together for a fun new activity. Janie O’Connor worked with geologist Dale Setterholm to create this unique occasion.

“About 15 years ago I was a University of Minnesota master naturalist,” said O’Connor. “The capstone project that I picked had to do with cycling. My idea was to ride your bike in a 30-mile loop and stop and have someone describe what you’re looking at in terms of geological formations.” 

Living in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota at the time, O’Connor’s first project traveled around White Bear Lake, Hugo and into Washington County. In order to find a qualified geologist for the project, she called the U.S. Geological Survey.

“I say that Dale had the misfortune of answering the phone,” she laughed. “He listened and said that he would do it. Well, It turned out to be a wonderful experience that many cyclists have done and followed that route.” After moving to Scandia in 2012, O’Conner decided to bring that successful project with her in the form of Scandia Rocks and Rolls.

Launched this year, Rocks and Rolls has two events - one in the spring, and one in the fall. Not knowing how well the event would go, O’Connor and Setterholm were pleasantly surprised to see that both events filled up very quickly by local residents, and visitors from out of town.

Cyclists who participated in the event rode 15 miles around Scandia and Marine on St. Croix looking at various geological formations all of which are explained in detail by Setterholm.

“My family grew up loving the outdoors, and we always took an interest in what it was we were seeing out there,” says Setterholm on his start in geology. He worked the Minnesota Geological Survey for 40 years before retiring. 

“Geology is everywhere,” he says. “It’s the study of the earth, and we all live on the earth. It’s not just the description of the formations we see, but how they affect how we live here in Scandia.” 

On the tour, Setterholm explained the significance of geological formations like the St. Croix River, Big Marine Lake, tunnel valleys, large hills and more. While he was uncertain at first what level of interest those attending would have, Setterholm was pleasantly surprised to see that spots sold out quickly and were attended by cyclists from many Minnesota communities.

“People are interested in geology from a couple of perspectives,” says Setterholm. “One is that it’s a record of earth’s history, and you can learn something about how our planet formed and why it looks the way it looks now. Then there’s the natural resource aspect particularly related to groundwater. Where do we find it? How do we protect it? How does it relate to lakes and rivers?”

With the success of this first event, Cycling Scandia plans to continue a spring and fall riding event. While Rocks and Rolls may continue in the future, O’Connor says that plans for other kinds of events are in the works, too.

“We’re looking at different tour options coming up,” says O’Conner. “Maybe we’ll have a barn quilt tour, or a goat farm tour, or a garden tour – we’ll explore some other options as we look forward to a fall event for 2020. We would welcome people to join our tour committee to share ideas for upcoming events”

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