Welcome back to another episode of Casey’s Weekend Warrior Camping Trips! My boyfriend Glenn and I are still on our mission to visit every state park in Minnesota and last weekend we headed west to three of the least visited parks in the state. It was a semi-successful weekend, definitely not as big of a disaster as Flandrau State Park but we did run into a few roadblocks…literally.
The mosquitos, gnats and ticks were pretty bad all weekend so just assume we were covered in bug spray and swatting at bugs the entire time. Let’s get into it!
Our home base was a campsite in the Upper Campground at Lac qui Parle State Park, about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive straight west from Minneapolis. Lac qui Parle Lake is a widening of the Minnesota River created by a flood control project that involved building a dam at the south end of the lake. Recent storms have caused a lot of flooding along the Minnesota River so the Lower Campground, beach and hiking trails along the water were all closed.
The lack of activities was a nice change of pace and forced us to take it easy and relax at our campsite more than we normally would.
There was one hiking trail open in the Upper Campground area that is 1.5 miles out and back and takes you to Fort Renville and the largest cottonwood tree in the state. The tree was so much bigger than I expected!
On Saturday, we drove an hour north to Big Stone Lake State Park. Big Stone Lake is 26 miles long and is the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. We did another short hike along the lake and stopped at a few overlooks to appreciate the lush scenery.
We’re far enough north that the sun sets well after 9 p.m. so after watching the stunning sunset we were all ready to hit the hay….well, hit the sleeping pad.
On our way back to the city we stopped at Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Most of the stories behind the state parks in Minnesota involve white people stealing land from the natives but this park was especially depressing in my opinion because it goes into more detail about how they did it.
American Indian agencies existed to implement U.S. government policies in the mid-1800s. The U.S. government was trying to assimilate the native people into English-speaking, textbook-education American society. They reduced the Dakota landholdings from millions of acres to just a few reservations.
This Upper Sioux Agency was established in 1854 with buildings that reflected the government’s goals for assimilation. Some of the buildings included a school, brick warehouse, stables and a jail as well as trader stores and Christian missions nearby. It contained at least 100 houses for Dakota farmers but anger over the unfairness caused the buildings to be looted and burned in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
While I appreciate that they preserved this beautiful area where the Minnesota and Yellow Medicine rivers meet, I do wonder why we couldn’t just give the natives their freakin’ land back.
A large portion of the road was closed due to major fissures in the pavement and half the park, including most of the hiking trails and campground, was closed because of flooding. So we just drove through and hopped out of the car to learn about the history before continuing on our way.
One of the best stops of the trip was at a little diner in Sacred Heart called Kathy’s Place. It was just about the only thing in Sacred Heart and it was a lovely way to end the weekend!