By Jim Umhoefer
Carlton County. One mile east of I-35 at the Moose Lake exit. Park entrance is off County 137. Highway map index: L-11.
The 1,200-acre Moose Lake Park attracts both vacationers passing through and those who return for the intimate atmosphere. All the park's development is wrapped around one section of three-armed Echo Lake. Though the campground is small and lacks a shower building, plans call for new sanitation facilities that will upgrade its classification from rustic to semi-modern. A trail swings from the campground down to the lake and around one of the arms to the day-use area. Visitors can enjoy a shoreline picnic on Echo Lake or a leisurely afternoon on the swimming beach.
Canoes and boats launch onto Echo Lake from the park's landing. Northern, sunfish and largemouth bass are the most common catches. The T-shaped lake is ideal for canoeists, who can enjoy a lazy afternoon paddling along the shoreline. If you don't have a boat or canoe for fishing or exploring, you can rent one in the park. Dawn and dusk are good times to scout for wildlife along the shore. Deer and even black bear are occasionally spotted. Birds that have been observed at Moose Lake include bobolinks, bluebirds, swallows and eastern kingbirds.
The community of Moose Lake is a popular year-round vacation destination. Water-skiers and anglers can launch onto Moosehead Lake from a landing in town. Moose Lake State Park borders this lake, but there is no developed access from the park.
Moose Lake State Park maintains over six miles of beginning to intermediate cross-country ski trails. The park's four miles of snowmobile trails connect to several local trail systems. One of the park's snowmobile routes heads east toward Nemadji State Forest. Park routes also link with the Moose Lake Trail, a network of more than 100 miles of groomed trails with accesses in Moose Lake, Barnum, Iverson and Mahtowa. This system, in turn, links with the Willard Munger State Trail and the Aitkin County trails.
You can camp year-round at Moose Lake (water is available). Ice fishing attracts cold-weather anglers, who try fro panfish and northern.