100th birthday celebration at Lake Bemidji State Park ⭐ 🎂 ⭐

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

parks and rec
Icons representing different spring outdoor recreation. Text in the center reads "Trailblazer."

April 2023

Section header reads "conservation." Icon shows image of an Earth globe.

Lake Bemidji State Park, a park for all seasons

We're celebrating 100 years of protecting trees and providing a space for year-round outdoor recreation for all. 

Northern Lights over the entrance sign for Lake Bemidji State Park.

Come for the majestic pines, stay up for the lights. PHOTO: Shannon Bungart

When Itasca State Park was established in 1891, Minnesota became the second oldest state park system in the country. Before flowing south, the Mississippi River travels north and west from the first state park toward Lake Bemidji. The name Bemidji comes from the Ojibwe word "bemijigamaag" meaning "lake with crossing waters," alluding to the river's path. On the lake is another of Minnesota's oldest state parks, established only 32 years after Itasca, Lake Bemidji State Park.

Antique photo of a young child with a hat laughing while wading on Lake Bemidji.

Lake Bemidji State Park was established in 1923 to protect the virgin pine forests, and to provide access to the lake and opportunities for recreation. These virgin forests of red, white and jack pine were not affected by logging, which means visitors today can see the same forest that existed hundreds of years ago. Park naturalist Christa Drake told us she found a pine tree along the Paul Bunyan State Trail that she estimates is at least 170 years old. She added: "There are likely older ones in the park that I haven’t found yet!"

Keep reading for more stories from park staff, who gave us the scoop on Lake Bemidji State Park and all the celebrations planned for the centennial.

Visit our website for a full timeline of the park's history.

Section header in green reads "Out & about." Icon shows a person with a walking stick and a backpack.

Christa Drake, naturalist

I love discovering botanical treasures, like wildflowers and interesting plants, along Lake Bemidji State Park’s trails and bog.

Wooden boardwalk on a bog, plants are green and there are Ladyslippers blooming.

Summer is the perfect season to hike the quarter-mile boardwalk to explore the beauty of a tamarack bog carpeted with blooming showy ladyslippers, pitcher plants, insect-eating sundews and other flowering bog plants.

A woman smiling and hugging a tree.

I've always loved nature and the outdoors and grew up camping, hiking, fishing, foraging and exploring. My love for outdoor recreation led me to my current job, where I have the privilege of connecting more people to the great outdoors. I collaborate with the local Indigenous groups so I can include Ojibwe culture and language in interpretive programs and signs. It's important to acknowledge and learn from those who came before us. 

There's something to do year-round at Lake Bemidji State Park. Come in late spring or summer for a picnic or to swim, fish or watch wildflowers bloom in the bog. Visit in the fall to bike, hike or roll on a wheelchair enveloped in bright colors. Return to the bog for the bright orange tamaracks, Minnesota's only deciduous conifers (pine trees that shed their needles). In the winter we have groomed trails for cross county skiing and skate skiing, and the rest of the park for snowshoeing. You can stay the night at a drive-in campsite, a group camp, or a camper cabin.

Bog lake with pines lining the horizon. A blue sky with white clouds is reflected on the still waters.

Walk the half-mile bog boardwalk at Lake Bemidji State Park to get a close-up view of the bog and Big Bog Lake. PHOTO: Christa Drake. Click on the photo to take a virtual tour!

Dan Ess, lead maintenance worker

The best kept secret of Lake Bemidji State Park is that we have a park naturalist.

Man with a beard and plaid shirt looking at the camera, a snowy forest can be seen in the background.

I didn’t know that that there was such thing as a park naturalist until I started working here about 16 years ago. I wish I knew that when my kid was younger because I would have brought him here all the time. Christa plans so many great activities for kids and families! There's a playground and a nature play area, yet another plus for families with kids.

Lake Bemidji's great, and we have amenities to support water recreation whether it's frozen or liquid. We have a sandy swimming beach and a marina where you can moor your boat on a summer day. Lake Bemidji State Park is conveniently located close to town. 

If you run into Dan, make sure to say thank you! He's the one plowing, clearing trails and readying sites and cabins for your overnight visit. Dan's also known for his excellent wood-working skills.  

Marina and bridge on a cloudy fall evening.

The marina includes a loading ramp and eight docks. Campers may leave their boats at a dock for no additional charge during their stay. PHOTO: T. Bobrowsky

Pete Harrison, park manager

Lake Bemidji State Park is a hub for biking. Whether you want to explore the park and its surroundings or start your trip on the longest of Minnesota's state trails, we have something for you.

Two young adults biking on a bridge on a state trail by the lake on an overcast day.

A paved trail takes you around Lake Bemidji and to the city of Bemidji.

Man in Minnesota state park uniform, with beard and jacket lapels covered in snow.

You can bike all around the park! Ride the paved trails or mountain bike the natural-surface trails. If you don't own a bike or don't have a way to carry one, you can rent a bike at the park to use during your stay. 

If you're looking for a longer trip, you can travel the 123 miles of the Paul Bunyan State Trail, from Lake Bemidji State Park to Crow Wing State Park. From the Paul Bunyan State Trail, you can also take the Heartland State Trail to visit Cass Lake or Park Rapids. 

Birding is another big draw, as you can see many different bird species throughout the year, as they migrate one way or the other, or make a home here for the summer.

Shannon Bungart, assistant park manager

Lake Bemidji State Park is a true hidden gem, very close to a city, but with abundant nature all around you to get a good dose of "green" and "blue."

People snowshoeing.

No snowshoes? No problem. You can rent a pair at the park and explore the snowy woods.

A woman in park ranger uniform, wearing sunglasses and posing by a lake.

The park is a great place to visit and recreate at any time of year! Being from Florida, I thought people in the Midwest just stayed inside in the winter. But I’ve learned that there's a lot to do even when it is cold outside. You can ski, snowshoe, ice fish, hike and even winter camp at Lake Bemidji State Park!

In summer, hiking through the pines and paddling around Rocky Point are truly amazing. We rent canoes, kayaks and rowboats, so everyone can enjoy the lake, whether they own a boat or not. You can also check out the park's all-terrain track chair to explore trails not suitable for your regular wheelchair.  

Rental canoes and kayaks by a marina.
Section header reads ''naturalist events." Icon shows a calendar with a star.

April 22: Earth Day and birthday

Tall pine seen from below looking up to the sky.

We invite you to celebrate the park and the visionaries who fought to protect the trees and public access to the lake.

10 AM - Noon: Earth Day clean-up

1 PM - 2 PM: Presentation on the park's history

2 PM - 4 PM: Birthday cake, ice cream and live music!

June 10: Summer picnic, music, and archery

Return in June for a summer picnic hosted by the Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park, while enjoying live music and an Archery in the Parks program.

April 22 and June 10 are Free Park Days at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas: No fee or vehicle permit needed!

There will be more events announced. Check the park's website for updates.