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December 2020

2020 in Review

Back in the day, radio programs used to spend most of December looking back at the year that was ending, replaying the best radio moments and top music hits. (Do they still do that?) Inspired by that old format, we present "The Best of 2020." 

Throughout the year, Minnesota State Parks and Trails continued its work to connect people to the outdoors and conserve and manage the state's natural resources. Your purchase of a state park permit or license plate, or anything from our Nature Store, helps not only with operations that directly support recreation but also conservation work.

Highlights of this work in 2020 include new pollinator exhibits, restoration of the Mississippi headwaters, and new lodging opportunities. Minnesotans turned to the outdoors for a safe respite during challenging times. One of our "regulars" visited all state parks and recreation areas for the 10th time and we mark this milestone by sharing his story.

Thanks for celebrating this year's achievements with us. We look forward to serving you in 2021.

Until then, remember: Wash your hands, be kind, and stay six feet away from others.

"Give the gift of Minnesota's natural world" with image of gift card

Unseen Seen

For the Love of Pollinators

Monarch butterflies on dark green leaves

Pollinators are animals with the superpower to turn flowers into seeds.

You’ve likely heard the “buzz” about pollinators and how important they are in helping plants grow and create fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. This year, we began installation of pollinator plantings and exhibits at 10 state parks. The plantings help pollinators thrive and provide examples of native wildflowers visitors can plant at home.

Streaming: Improved Prairie Habitat

Aerial image of stream

By removing the dam and allowing the stream to meander naturally, we are improving water quality for the animals that live in it, as well as the people who recreate there.

The dam at Blue Mounds State Park was removed to reconnect the upstream and downstream habitats and allow the stream to meander naturally. This benefits native species such as mussels, turtles and fish (including the endangered Topeka Shiner) that can now access the habitat upstream. With the stream reconnected to its floodplain and natural vegetation restored, the water can now be filtered while it flows, improving water quality and reducing erosion

More on this and other projects that help prepare for climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.

Team standing in stream

A team of staff from Parks and Trails, Eco Waters, and US Fish and Wildlife working on fish relocation in Mound Creek.

Origin Story

Team posing at the Headwaters of the Mississippi

The shoreline restoration project addressed erosion at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, restoring the original river channel width and stabilizing the streambank at the headwaters site.

Nearly half a million people every year marvel at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park. But that heavy foot traffic carried soil and other material from the shoreline into the river and the dam below the surface had become ineffective. A restoration project this fall used boulders atop the original dam to re-shape the channel to produce natural water flow. This helps reduce bank erosion by directing water away from the shoreline to prevent scouring of the streambanks. Other benefits? A healthy stream system that supports a diversity of fish and aquatic animals, plus, clean water upstream means less treatment for our drinking water downstream.

Headwaters restoration before and after

The shoreline is stabilized with a combination of boulders and natural vegetation that will grow and root quickly to provide erosion protection.

Our state trails icon

Reaching New Heights along Minnesota's South Shore

Waconia cliffs view

While there is currently no signage or official maps, visitors can walk more than two miles of trails in the new property.

The Waconia Cliffs were added to Frontenac State Park  with help from Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota. These additional 159 acres of land offer a unique experience to visitors, with views overlooking the Pleasant Valley Lakelet and Lake Pepin in one direction, and the scenic hills of the park entrance in the other. 

Accessible Fishing at Duck Lake

Photo of pier

The fishing pier is 80 feet long, accessible and adjacent to a paved parking lot and path that includes a bike rack area at Duck Lake County Park..

The idea for the new fishing pier came from local resident Andy Frederick, who saw a congested fishing spot as an opportunity to honor the Hodapp family’s legacy of community leadership and commitment to the outdoors. Funding was made possible with contributions from local residents, businesses and nonprofits, and a grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Glamping at State Parks

Image of walled tent with woods in background

Between mid-April and October, and for $40/night, you can spend a night glamping.

Wall tents were added at two state parks, Myre Big Island and Afton. Tents are secured to a raised wooden deck platform, complete with accessibility ramp and an entrance area wide enough to set up a couple of lawn chairs and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. 

Historic Lodge Renovation

Image of historic building

The historic lodge is located on the Redwood River and available to reserve year-round.

Renovation breathed new life into a pre-World War II structure at Camden State Park. Built in 1934 and currently on the National Registry of Historic Places, this lodge presents an attractive option for history buffs. Improvements were completed in February and include locally-made log furniture, plumbing, and ADA(*) accessibility features. More info and reservations.

(*) American with Disabilities Act

Creative Outlet

Staying in Touch

This humble little newsletter has been growing and we are wrapping up the year with over 186,000 readers. One of the many additions we've made in response to your emails was the Creative Out(let) section. Did you know that time in nature helps increase creativity?  Poetry —and incredible photography— graced the virtual pages of this publication. Today we share visitor Amy Barrett's sketches, documenting her observations this past fall season. Share your art.

Sketch showing nature and parks images

Sketches of fall leaves and parks sights


New Camping and Lodging Reservation Policies

 To improve fairness and equity for visitors, reservation policies are now as follows:

  • Cancellation fees eliminated for cancellations that occur 14 days or more before arrival.
  • Reservations will be canceled by park staff if holders do not call or occupy the site within the first day of arrival. This will allow others to reserve the site.
  • Customers who make a reservation at the maximum reservation window (i.e., 120 days in advance of the arrival date) will be required to wait 21 days before they are able to modify or cancel their reservation.

All the details.

Over 22K Miles of Sledding

Snowmobilers through the forest

For the 2019-2020 snowmobile season, we registered over 69,000 snowmobiles, allowing snowmobilers to enjoy over 22,000 miles of grant-in-aid and state-maintained trails. More about snowmobiling.

Getting Groomed

Deer crossing groomed ski trail

We sold 14,000 ski passes last season (2019-20), contributing over $285,000 to 40 ski clubs for the grooming and maintenance of ski trails across the state and $75,000 for operations at state trails and parks.  

Don't let the next snowstorm catch you off-guard. Get your ski pass.

Out and about with image of a hiker

The faces and stories of our visitors and staff.

The Name's Werner. Roger Werner.

Not a secret agent but has multiple passports.
State park passports, that is.

Man in the woods on a rainy day

Born and raised in Duluth, completing the Passport Club 10 times, the Hiking Club nine times and all of the geocaching challenges to date has given me a reason to explore all the diversity that Minnesota has to offer. From the farmlands in western Minnesota, the trees and woodlands of the northeast, and the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in the southeast, Minnesota state parks are designed to truly highlight all that Minnesota has to offer.

Exploring and hiking in state parks —my favorite outdoor activity— gives me a chance to see new things. It's interesting to look at each park and the significance of its location. Some parks have ties to the Civilian Conservation Corps, some to sites of Native American importance, and others were chosen for their unparalleled scenic beauty. Every park provides the opportunity to relax, enjoy the peace and quiet, and collect my thoughts.

Because of the large number of parks, it can seem daunting to complete the Loyalty Clubs or the geocaching challenge. My advice: Visit a few neighboring parks on a free weekend, be patient (as it can take a few years,) and make sure you take the time to enjoy all the parks have to offer.

PHOTO: Selfie at Milacs Kathio State Park: "As a widower, my journeys are mostly done solo."

Safety Header

A Safe Respite

Minnesota State Parks and Trails provided a safe respite for visitors during stressful times. As of September, we've seen estimated increases of 13% for state park visitation and 48% for state trail use over previous years. Our team has been working tirelessly, adjusting operations for the influx of visitors and the COVID-19 pandemic.

To keep things safe during the ongoing pandemic, we all need to keep doing our part:

  1. Plan ahead. Buy permits and passes in advance. (*)
  2. Be prepared. Buildings may be closed. Dress appropriately for the weather and bring extra supplies.
  3. Follow rules. Practice social distancing -- even outdoors.

(*) Online vehicle permit sales increased by 1000% in 2020, helping to limit contact to keep everyone safe! 

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From the MCV Archives

Field of Dreams

Dream of Wild Health farm manager Jessika Greendeer

Dream of Wild Health farm manager Jessika Greendeer. PHOTO: Caroline Yang

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

The Native-led farm Dream of Wild Health expands to meet crucial conservation and public health needs. Full story.

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


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