It’s hard to know just what Minnesota’s wilderness is best known for: its fishing, its hunting, its snow sports, its camping, or something else entirely. There’s just so much to do in the Land of a Thousand Lakes.
Whitewater State Park’s name is deceiving: it’s not referring to whitewater rafting, but was named by the Dakota because of the white clay deposits on its banks. Camping in the park is an angler’s paradise, boasting brown, brook, and rainbow trout in the Whitewater River and Trout Run Creek. If you’re not interested in fishing, the beach is lovely, and there are hiking trails that range from easy to challenging. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are big, and don’t forget the wildlife: 50 species of mammals and 250 species of birds frequent the area, including both wild turkeys and bald eagles.
If you’re interested in launching yourself onto a journey, start at Jay Cooke Bridge. Best known for its famous swinging bridge, this is a park that is made for the trailblazers--backpackers, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and even skiers. 50 miles of trails lead through the park, with eight of them paved (and okay for rollerblading). A wintering area for white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolf and coyote, you can also see woodpeckers, marsh hawks and great blue herons (along with 170 other species of birds). Camping here will bring you back to nature.
At Minnesota’s northeastern-most tip a 120 foot waterfall, High Falls, crashes down into the Pigeon River. These falls are the second tallest in the state, and historically they presented a problem for trappers headed up river, so this portage, or “carrying place”, was established to carry boats and supplies up the rocky slope to reach the top of the falls. Camping is available six miles south of the falls at the Grand Portage Marina, and campers will be excited to see osprey, eagles, otters, beavers, moose, and great blue herons, as well as the occasional black bear spotting.
For a completely different view of what Minnesota camping has to offer, in the exact opposite corner of the state, Blue Mound has 100 foot-tall Sioux Quartzite cliffs and bison graze on the prairie grasses. Deep in the heart of the hunting grounds where Plains Indians depended on bison to survive, today, the Blue Mounds herd is only about 100 strong.
Campers will be entranced by the abundance of prairie wildflowers and the tall grasses that show what the Great Plains used to look like: the big bluestem grasses grow seven feet tall, almost an inch a day. It is also one of the few places in Minnesota where cactus grows: prickly pear can be found atop the quartzite cliffs.
Minnesota is truly a land that needs to be experienced in its entirety, as it covers so much geological and historical ground. Camping in Minnesota is a treat for anyone who loves the outdoors and there is truly something to be found for everyone.