Minnesota State Park Highlights for Memorial Day Weekend

Have fun Memorial Day weekend with special events at park in every corner of the state.

Summer starts now. If you want to celebrate with a hike, a paddle, a bike ride, or maybe just a picnic, there’s an opportunity in a state park not far away. Here are our picks for the commencement of Minnesota’s finest season.

Southeast: The Squirrels of Forestville State Park

That’s right, squirrels. Forestville has ‘em. Seven varieties, actually. Enjoy a slideshow and learn where you might see the different species.

Friday, May 24

8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Forestville State Park, near Preston

Meet at the park amphitheater

Make a weekend of it: Want more than rodents? Go trout fishing, canoeing or hiking in and near the park. Explore historic Forestville, where life continues just as it did when it was a farming village in 1899.

St. Croix Valley: Monarch Butterflies at Wild River

There is growing concern that the beautiful monarchs, which migrate between Minnesota and Mexico, are dwindling in numbers. Scientists report that the number of butterflies in Mexico this year was down 60 percent.

Learn about the butterflies and how you can help them by planting a butterfly garden at home during this seminar.

Saturday, May 25

1 to 2:30 p.m.

Wild River State Park, north of Taylors Falls

Meet at the amphitheater (visitor center in case of rain)

Make a weekend of it: Come the night before for a full moon paddle (reservations required, limited to 10 canoes, call 651-583-2125 x227), or rent a canoe and enjoy a float on your own.

Central: Break out the bike at Lake Carlos

Let’s ride. Get help from bike experts on maintenance and getting in shape, as well as learning how to be safe. Then you can hop on and ride the nearby Central Lakes State Trail.

Saturday, May 25

1 to 4 p.m.

Lake Carlos State Park, near Alexandria

Make a weekend of it: After riding the scenic 55-mile Central Lakes Trail, hopefully it will be warm enough for a dip in clean, clear, 150-foot deep Lake Carlos (which also happens to be full of fish, if you’re into that).

Duluth: Flood’s destruction at Jay Cooke

Last June, the St. Louis River raged during the historic Duluth flood. It swept away Jay Cooke State Park’s historic swinging bridge, and otherwise wreaked havoc on the park. It’s open again, and you can see firsthand the impact, and then learn more about it at a video and photo presentation.

Saturday, May 25

8 to 9 p.m.

Jay Cooke State Park, south of Duluth

Meet at the River Inn Interpretive Center.

Make a weekend of it: Bring your bike or your boots and enjoy spring wildflowers, or just sit in awe of the river gorge and rapids. Lots of campsites -- though the backpacking sites are closed this season, the three walk-in sites are open.

North Shore: Nature photography at Gooseberry Falls

Digital cameras have made it possible for anyone to try being the next Ansel Adams. There’s lots more than just pointing and shooting, though. Learn the basics, and then hike down to the shore of Lake Superior for hands-on experience.

Sunday, May 26

Noon to 1 p.m.

Gooseberry Falls State Park, northeast of Two Harbors

Make a weekend of it: Kayak on the greatest Great Lake, hike the park’s 18 miles of trails, or ride your bike to Split Rock Lighthouse and beyond to Beaver Bay on the new 14.5 mile section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail.

Northwest: Bogs of Bemidji

Ever seen an insect-eating plant? Browse the bog boardwalk at Lake Bemidji State Park, where a naturalist will be on hand to point out the unique plants, many of which will likely be flowering.

Sunday, May 27

11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lake Bemidji State Park, near Bemidji

Make a weekend of it: Rent a boat to play on Lake Bemidji, have a picnic in the shade at water’s edge, paddle the Mississippi River down from its headwaters, and camp at one of the park’s 95 sites.

Southwest: Strolling at Blue Mounds

There are two days of leisurely walking on the calendar for the weekend. The unique “Folkssports” program, inspired by German recreation, features “no competition but plenty of awards.”

Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Blue Mounds State Park, near Luverne

Make a weekend of it: Bring your binoculars to the bison viewing stand to see the park’s newest residents, camping at drive-in or walk-in sites.

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