Hello from Minnesota! Our time in South Carolina had to come to an end eventually and it feels surreal that 4 months could fly by so fast. But being back in Minnesota means that we can resume our mission of visiting every State Park.
We had a big road trip planned over the week of the 4th (which you will be hearing about very soon) but felt like we needed to get a warm-up camping trip under our belts first.
Everyone and their brother has taken up outdoor activities since the pandemic so it’s not easy reserving a campsite in Minnesota. We ended up heading 3 hours north of Minneapolis to a small state park tucked along the Mississippi River called Schoolcraft State Park.
It was created in 1959 and named for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who charted the headwaters of the Mississippi River with a Native American guide named Ozawindib. So basically we should have named it Ozawindib State Park…but I digress. There are 28 campsites and a boat launch/dock.
We hiked the only trail that is about 1.75 miles and unsuccessfully fished for our dinner in the Mississippi River. On Saturday we drove up to Scenic State Park. Scenic was created to protect virgin pines along the shores of Coon and Sandwick Lakes. It has 14 miles of hiking trails and tons of camping options including canoe-in and backpack-in sites.
The Fire Tower Trail was closed when we visited so we hiked the Chase Point and Tell Lake Trails. Chase Point takes you out on a peninsula between the two lakes and offers incredible views. You can understand why they called is “Scenic.”
After that, we decided to check off one more state park by stopping by Hill Annex Mine State Park. It was one of the saddest state parks I’ve been to. It is day-use only with no hiking or camping and due to the pandemic, tours of the mine and activities were suspended.
A brief history of the mine taken from the DNR’s website:
Mining began in 1913 and continued until 1978 and produced 63 million tons of iron ore, and was the sixth largest producer in the state.
When the mine shut down in 1978, the pumps that kept it dry over the decades were stopped, and the water seeped back in. The tour offers visitors panoramic views of the mine pit lakes and the rock walls in their various hues of red.
Here’s the silver lining: Trees and plants have grown back to revegetate this area scarred by the effects of open pit mining. Wildlife has also made a comeback and once again, the landscape includes deer, coyotes, timber wolves, bear and grouse. Most impressive is the return of birds of prey including eagles and hawks that come back to hunt and nest in the park. The park is also a release site for peregrine falcons.
When the high-grade ore finally played out, the mine was sold to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB)for $1. The IRRRB developed the tour route, converted the clubhouse into a museum/visitor center, and gave tours of the mine for 10 years. In 1988, the Minnesota Legislature made Hill Annex Mine a state park. We met an extremely sweet old man working in the museum but didn’t stick around very long.
All-in-all the weekend was a very successful warm-up to all of the plans we have the rest of the summer. I can’t wait to share all of it with you guys!