Spring into Wellness

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parks and rec


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May 2020

Just What the Doctor Prescribed

Virginia Bluebells

One of our editors' favorite wildflowers, Virginia Bluebells.

Stop to Smell the Flowers

In mid-April Gov. Walz issued an executive order clarifying and expanding allowable outdoor recreational activities under the Stay At Home order. That's a good thing, because extensive research shows that nature exposure is associated with better mental and physical health: The more time you spend outdoors, the better you'll feel. Many healthcare professionals have been even prescribing patients time outdoors. As little as five minutes around trees or in green spaces can improve health and reduce stress.

And, boy, do we need that now. 

girl looking at flowers

Please do follow all the guidelines so we can all keep enjoying public outdoor spaces safely and help mitigate the spread of the virus. Bookmark the DNR COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information.

All our programming is canceled or postponed for the time being—so we bring you ideas to enjoy nature wherever you are (stay there!) including activities for the young ones in your life, a podcast to learn all about our prairies, and a sweet poem about a fox. While we wait to travel to new destinations in our state, we can also share the love for these special places with others: What better gift for the 2020 grads (or Mother's Day or Father's Day) than a Minnesota State Parks and Trails gift card and a promise for future adventures together?

In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and six feet away from others!

Safety Header


We have a dedicated web page to keep you up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 operation changes at Minnesota state parks, trails, and forests: mndnr.gov/COVID-19

What You Can Do

Our top 6 tips for keeping yourself and others safe...

🌿  Stay close to home. Explore a new park, trail or public land in your area (emphasis in YOUR, aka "local.")
🌿  Practice social distancing. Stay 6-10 feet from others, including park staff.
🌿  Avoid peak state park hours: 11 am – 4 pm weekdays, all the time on weekends
🌿  Check park pages before visiting for updates on visitation, flood, and construction.
🌿  Be prepared to change your plans. If your destination looks too busy when you arrive, go elsewhere.
🌿 Some hiking trails might be too narrow to maintain social distancing—avoid these trails.

How-to icon

Buy Your Permit Online

Online permit purchasing

State parks remain open for local day use only. Offices, camping and lodging are closed until May 4, 2020. Vehicle permits can be purchased online *before* going to the park.

(1)   Place your order

  (2)   Print your temporary or daily permit

(3)   Look for your permit sticker in the mail (*)

(*) Year-round permit only

Give the gift(card) of Minnesota's spectacular natural world

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Ideas for the shorties

When you can't go see the naturalists...

... we bring the naturalists' activities to you!

Naturalist programs at state parks are canceled for now, so we asked our team to share ideas for backyard exploration.

Micro Hike

Lake Carlos State Park naturalist Ben Eckhoff recommends using a hula-hoop or empty picture frame to mark a small space on the ground and explore everything within it.  Write or draw your observations in a nature journal.

Child exploring within a circle

I Spy...

Sit outside and take turns giving clues about things you see in nature. "Bring it to the next level and see what you can 'spy' with binoculars," suggests Linda Radimecky, the naturalist at Afton State Park.

Tree Friend

Kris Hiller at Jay Cooke State Park suggested making friends with a tree: Guide the kid(s) to a tree with their eyes closed, let them explore it (still without looking,) guide them away from the tree and see if they can guess which one was their tree.

Photo Scavenger Hunt

Sara Holger at Whitewater State Park encourages families to take a phone or camera and head outside to photograph things that start with each letter of your full name.  Back at home, make a book of your adventure.

Make a Recycled Bird Feeder

Amber Brooks at Blue Mounds State Park made a bird feeder to attract birds to her apartment deck. You can make a simple pine cone bird feeder with peanut butter (or shortening) and bird seed.  Track sightings in a phenology journal.  

boy holding pine cone bird feeder

BONUS: Prairie Podcast

Interested in prairies, grasslands, and the wildlife that live there?  Mussel mania, stream restoration, diversity, seed mixes, bees and other pollinators, roots, and places to explore, are only a few of the many topics you can binge listen to on DNR's Prairie Pod podcast. 


The Spring Fox

Fox running in snow. Photo credit Travis Novitsky

It is spring
And I finally saw her
Crossing the snow patched yard…
Then I heard her digging

With determination
her claws flinging the soil
burnt red fur glistening
as she makes her summer den.

Firstly, I stood silent
admiring her beauty
as did my curious dog.
Then she looked my way.

And our eyes met
in a pure and honest moment.
What was she thinking?

Not a single thing mattered

Not even the snow and mud
or the coronavirus
sweeping the land.

And we have the trees and ravens
Lake Superior
offering comfort and sunlit hope
in weary moments.

Out here in the wilds
the moments matter
they heal and comfort
when the soul mourns deeply.

~Tor Torkildson

When not writing poems or traveling the world, you can find Tor working on trails at Judge Magney State Park, near his home of Hovland, MN.

Out and about icon

The faces and stories of our visitors and staff.

Megan Benage

Regional Ecologist, Minnesota DNR

Favorite Outdoor Activity: Watching fireflies. Hiking is a close second, but there’s something about seeing those little lightning bugs rise up to the stars in the sky that speaks to something deep within me, and makes me feel like magic still exists.

While at Home: I have been converting my entire yard to miniature ecosystems for the past few years so I have everything I need right here—a tiny restored prairie,
savanna, and woodland. Flowers are up, sedges are green and my warm-season grasses have just started to emerge. 

Favorite State Trail: Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. Hills that sing, what more could you want?

Claim to Fame: Was on Emmy-award winning show for my work with pollinator-friendly solar and I co-host the Prairie Pod

Megan with her partner Sam at Minneopa State Park
From the MCV Archives

See Nature’s Magic in Your Own Backyard

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Through a series of walks during which they may or may not have seen an alligator, a father and son learn to appreciate their neighborhood in new ways. Full story.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a print magazine dedicated to Minnesota’s wild places and creatures. For more stories, visit mnDNR.gov/MCV or subscribe.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer
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Interpretive Naturalist Programs Canceled

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in accordance with guidance from state health officials, is postponing, adjusting, and canceling a variety of public events, including open houses, safety education training, interpretive naturalist programs and other meetings.