Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Minnesota camping: not just state parks...
I admit it. I really like the state parks. No, I love them. We have learned so much about our state history and many times they have interpretative programs that we can participate in. When we went to Voyageur's last fall for camping, we initially stayed at McCarthy Beach State Park so that we could drive to the Forest History Center and the Vincent Shute Bear Sanctuary with relative ease. The park was the best compromise between Orr and Grand Rapids. Since the bear Sanctuary was north of the state park and halfway to the visitor center in International Falls, it seemed rather pointless to return to the park where we had stayed the night before. We knew we would arrive rather late in the evening at our new site, but we are pros when pitching a tent in the dark and we have learned to stay focused when nightfall approaches at a new campsite. The problem is that there are not many state parks right in the area of Voyageur's National Park.
We opted to try a go at the Minnesota State Forest Campgrounds instead; Woodenfrog campground is very close to Voyageur's and is managed by Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely. We even managed to arrive in time to have light to locate the essentials and pitch our tents in record time. Now, it is important to remember that state forest campgrounds are not state parks. They do not have electricity, running water, indoor toilets or showers. Not everyone wants to live without these amenities. However, they are very cheap: only $12 per night. It is also important to remember that the state forests campgrounds do not take reservations--this is both helpful and detrimental. I do not like leaving for an eight hour drive not knowing we have accommodations. Weekends on nice summer weekends can be almost impossible to find a spot at the state parks. However, the campgrounds and their primitive sites keep many away; it takes a special person to like these campgrounds and it usually means a more peaceful and relaxing stay when you find yourself there. No blaring music is a plus any day you find yourself in a tent.
There are also many other options for camping beyond the state parks, forests and private campgrounds. While we have never stayed in a campsite operated by the federal government there are many opportunities. You may elect to stay at a site within the national forest, national park or even sites operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. By searching this site, you may also look for opportunities in different states just by narrowing the search by state on the left side of the screen. The important thing to remember about these sites is that they too, are often unimproved beyond the basic privy. Unless you are an adventurous soul that doesn't mind forgoing showers or dealing with the occasional smell, you should really know what you are getting yourself into.