By Jim Umhoefer
Lake of the Woods County. 10 miles northeast of Williams on Lake of the Woods. Park entrance is off of County 8. Highway map index: F-3.
If you time it right, the wild blueberries will be ripe when you visit Zippel Bay State Park. Add some to your breakfast pancakes for a savory memory of your stay here.
Take a walk along the 3-mile sand beach on Lake of the Woods. The scale of the lake is hard to imagine: 1,485 square miles of water, 65,000 miles of shoreline, and 14,000 islands. From the park beach, it's 80 miles to the northern tip of the lake. The lake is 55 miles wide at its widest and varies from 4 to 35 feet deep in the southern bays to over 150 feet deep in northern areas.
While hiking or horseback riding on the six-mile trail system at the 3,000-acre park, you might spot some ruffed or sharptail grouse. The rustic campsites at Zippel Bay are divided into four separate wooded loops. Although most campers come up here for Lake of the Woods fishing, the campground is rarely full. The primitive group camp is available for riding clubs and other special gatherings on a reservation basis.
When people talk about winter around Lake of the Woods, they usually mention ice fishing. You can rent an ice-fishing shanty at any nearby resort and even fly into your favorite spot to catch your limit of walleyes and northern. Each winter the Baudette VFW sponsors a fishing derby with prizes in several categories, including largest and smallest fish, and oldest fisherman.
Zippel Bay State Park has groomed snowmobile and beginner cross-country ski trails. Snowmobilers can extend their ride on local Grant-in-Aid trails. A growing number of hardy souls enjoy winter camping. They combine camping with skiing, ice fishing or snowmobiling. If you wish to try winter camping, ask the manager about water and where to camp when you register.