By Jim Umhoefer
Lyon County. About 10 miles southwest of Marshall on Highway 23. Highway map index: D-19.
The Redwood River Valley in present-day Camden State Park traditionally provided refuge for Indians, settlers and travelers. The narrow, steep valley is blanketed with dense woods and blessed with free-flowing spring water. The powerful prairie winds that occasionally blast across the open land tend to barrel up and over the river valley.
The park has three historic sites relating to its early history. The first one is the site of an American Fur Company trading post. One fur trader, Joseph La Framboise, was the first white settler in this area. He left his trading post when George Catlin, an artist known for his paintings of American Indians, asked him to be a guide and interpreter on a journey to the famous Indian pipestone quarries. The quarries, sacred to the Indians, are now preserved at Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota.
The second historic site at Camden is the Sioux Lookout, where the Indians had a commanding view of the river valley. The third site marks the location of the Jones Mill.
Camden's upper and lower semi-modern campgrounds are located at opposite ends of the park (93 total sites, 29 electric). The primitive horse camp is down in the valley at the south end of the park. The group camp, near the south picnic area, may be reserved by calling the park office.
The 4 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails at Camden are worth a return visit in winter. There's a fun mixture of beginner trails in the valley and some challenging intermediate loops through the hillside forest. While the ski trails are concentrated in the park's southern end, the 10 miles of snowmobile trails take you up and down the valley from the open prairie to the wooded slopes and the frozen river.