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Behold Minnesota’s Varied Beauty In Its State Parks System

Whether it’s the stunning abstract mosaic structure of the famed Weisman Art Museum, the classical architecture of the Mendota Bridge, or the Palisade Head Cliffs that edge alongside Lake Superior, the great state of Minnesota is simply put: a sight to behold.

Minnesota, the 32nd state in the union, admitted just three years shy of the start of the Civil War, is so much more than just a pretty picture in a frame. It sits at a crossroads of America geographically and spiritually. 

The northern part of the state is almost as Canadian as it is American. To the south, it is as Midwestern as Iowa or Wisconsin. On its eastern border, where the famed “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul sit, it’s as cosmopolitan as New York or San Francisco, if a bit slower-paced. And its western border abutting the Dakotas is still untamed as any stretch of Montana or Wyoming. 

Indeed, Minnesota is where all the patches in the American tapestry meet.

It should come as no surprise that a state with this much to offer — referred to as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” — would encompass within it all the natural wonder, beauty, and adventure any outdoor lover could handle.

Many of these uniquely Minnesotan wonders can be found within its vast State Park system. Below are some can’t-miss spots!

Buffalo River State Park: Prairie lovers from miles around flock to this park by the thousands yearly! The stunning vistas resemble a page from a Willa Cather novel, and its prairies, and the adjoining Bluestem Prairie and Scientific Area, are some of the largest in the state. While wildflower enthusiasts consider the site a top-tier attraction, wildlife lovers will also find something to marvel at. It has a diverse variety of birds, such as prairie chickens, sandpipers, and marbled godwits, and a vast array of deer, beaver, foxes, badgers, coyotes, and jackrabbits as welcome company when taking a stroll on one of the park’s many hiking trails. This destination personifies prairie wilderness and is a must-see when traveling through the upper midwest in Minnesota.

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Garden Island State Recreation Area: For the adventurer who craves solitude, hardship, and true remote wilderness, this site on Minnesota’s northern border with Canada is the perfect fit! Accessible by boat only, this undeveloped island is Minnesota’s northernmost State Park. Leaving the shores of Lake of the Woods heading north, the island isn’t even visible for much of the 23-mile journey to reach it, but once there, it is a nature lover’s paradise. Intrepid visitors can walk its beaches and fish for walleye or commune with all manner of deer, mink, otter, fox, and even grey wolves and bears. While not the most welcoming destination in the Minnesota Parks system, it may be the most rewarding.

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Gooseberry Falls State Park: Known locally as the “gateway to the North Shore,” this spectacular park is a dream for those seeking the majesty and beauty of rushing water and crashing falls! While the namesake falls provide incredible views of the Gooseberry River’s crashing path down the upper, middle, and lower falls, a quick hike — or ski during the winter months — leads to Fifth Falls, set in a lush forest of aspen, evergreens, and birch that is popular for campers. Hiking, camping, and picnicking are favorite activities here, but some visitors simply park on the shores of Lake Superior and watch the waves roll in, the ships pass by, and the moon rise over Canada. This spot is not to be passed by!

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