New State Park and Visitor Centers
Summer travelers can explore Minnesota's newest state park and visitor centers to access remarkable natural resources, cultural programs, and historic sites. Lake Vermilion State Park, established in June 2010, includes 3,000 acres of land and shoreline access to Lake Vermilion, the fifth largest lake in Minnesota. U.S. Steel had owned the property for 128 years and the land sale was an extraordinary opportunity to ensure public access to this breathtaking body of water, over 350 islands, great fishing, and abundant area wildlife.
While Lake Vermilion State Park is a work in progress, it welcomes visitors with two access options. From the adjacent Soudan Underground Mine State Park, hikers on the 2.4-mile Alaska Shaft trail can follow a spur featuring an interior overlook of the rolling terrain of Lake Vermilion State Park. Boaters arriving from the lake can take a daytime visit for a picnic on the park shoreline near Armstrong Bay. A fire ring, picnic tables, and portable toilet are available. Updates on the development of park amenities can be found on the DNR website.
Grand Portage State Park's new visitor center, unveiled in fall 2010, is not only a gateway to the park's scenery and a state travel information center, it is also a destination to learn about the culture of the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa on whose land the park is located. Ojibwe themes and beliefs are integrated into the site's design, including circular forms, panels representing clans, and the lobby's large, colorful mosaic turtle symbolizing the continent. Exhibits explore aspects of the Grand Portage Band's culture and life. Also new are an open-air shelter for programs and picnics and an observation deck. The visitor center is the access point for hiking trails and a half-mile walk leading to the Pigeon River's impressive High Falls, the highest in Minnesota.
A new visitor center at the Big Bog State Recreation Area opens May 1 with interpretive resources, a nature store, classroom, and year-round showers and restrooms for off-season campers. A 100-foot fire tower next to the visitor center has been restored, offering an incredible view of Upper Red Lake and the surrounding area. Located near Waskish in northern Minnesota, Big Bog features a 500-square mile peat bog with orchids, carnivorous plants, and rare birds. Other park amenities include a boardwalk through the bog, campsites, camper cabins, beach, canoe and kayak rental, picnic grounds, and excellent fishing.
The historic River Inn visitor center at Jay Cooke State Park, southwest of Duluth, will reopen at the end of June with expanded displays and education programs, new energy efficiencies, and rehabbed restrooms.
To explore more Minnesota State Parks, visit the DNR website or call 888-MINNDNR or 651-296-6157 in the metro area.