By Jim Umhoefer
Otter Tail County. About 4 miles north of Battle Lake off of Highway 78.
Highway map index: D-12.
Prior to becoming a state park in the mid-1990s, this 2,000-acre mix of elm and basswood forests, fields, hills and unspoiled lakes had been managed as a natural wildlife preserve. Land stewardship continues to be a hallmark of Glendalough State Park.
Glendalough was established as an 80-acre camping retreat in 1927. Named for a monastery and city in Ireland, Glendalough was first owned by Fred Murphy, publisher of the Minneapolis Tribune. During the Depression, Murphy expanded the original acreage, establishing a turkey and game farm. When the Cowles family purchased the Tribune in 1941, Glendalough came with it. The family soon started vacationing here in a cluster of cabins known as the Glendalough Camp. Cowles Media also used Glendalough Camp for entertaining corporate guests and occasional VIPs (including Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon). Visitors hunted waterfowl and walked the fields for upland game.
On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, Cowles Media Company donated Glendalough to the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit conservation group. The Nature Conservancy then turned over the land to the DNR, as it has done with more than 40,000 acres in its 30-year history.
Glendalough's five lakes are its shining jewels. The park includes about 30,000 feet of lakeshore, with two lakes entirely within the park. Recreation includes swimming, fishing, canoeing and boating.
Blanche Lake, whose southern shore forms the northwestern border of Glendalough, is the park's largest lake and a popular fishing destination. The park's lakeshore is a natural stretch of sand and wetland vegetation that merges into the lowland hardwood forest. Of the other lakes in the park, only Annie Battle has seen any development (Glendalough Camp). The clear, uncluttered lakes (especially Annie Battle and Molly Stark) are precious because of their rarity.
A special way to see Glendalough and part of the surrounding area is by canoeing on a chain of lakes that begins south of the park on East or West Battle Lake. From there, you can paddle into Molly Stark Lake, on to Annie Battle Lake and Blanche Lake, and then continue north into Otter Tail Lake.
Wildlife is abundant at Glendalough State Park. Previous waterfowl management practices have attracted large duck populations and over 4,000 migrating geese. Though eagles, moose and even a timber wolf have been spotted in the area, you're more likely to see deer, fox, otter and beaver.