Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota

Carley State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
Carley is one of the smaller Minnesota State Parks at just over 200 acres in size, but it makes up for it with a dazzling display of spring flowers, including bluebells (mertensia virginica). The north branch of the undulating Whitewater River is the main attraction in this southern Minnesota Bluffland region park. Carley State Park is located 4 miles south of Plainview in Minnesota’s Wabasha County.

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Virginia Bluebells bloom in early May at Carley State Park

Virginia Bluebells bloom in early May

 

One of the many river crossing on Carley's hiking trails

One of the many river crossing on Carley’s hiking trails

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Trails
The small park’s five-mile trail system is woodsy and quiet and crosses the river many times. You can explore the bottomlands and the steep-sloped river valley, and one trail leads through a grove of white pines, unusual this far south. The picnic area is the main family gathering spot in the park.
Landscape and wildlife
The hardwood/softwood forest at Carley State Park provides good cover for ruffed grouse and a variety of birds and wildlife. Beaver lodges can be spotted from hiking trails that follow the north branch of the Whitewater River, one of southeastern Minnesota’s famous trout streams. One unusual feature for southern Minnesota is a stand of white pines.
Camping
Carley’s 20 rustic campsites are separated by trees which add to the park’s intimate appeal. Two group camps have room for 15 and 20 sites.
Winter
Two miles of ungroomed trails are accessible to skiers and snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park.
Bluebell Festival
Every May, early in the month, Virginia bluebells carpet the forest floor of Carley State Park near Plainview, Minnesota and the local Lions Club and the Minnesota DNR host a party. The Bluebell Festival is certainly worthy attending. Activities include trout fishing for kids, archery for everyone, guided wildflower walks and a glimpse of Boy Scout Troop 57 from Plainview enjoying its Indian tee-pee construction and axe throwing events.

Mertensia Virginica in bloom at Carley State Park

Mertensia Virginica in bloom

Archery event at the annual Bluebell Festival at Carley State Park

Archery event at the annual Bluebell Festival

Teepee building demonstration at the annual Carley Bluebell Festival

Teepee building demonstration at the annual Carley Bluebell Festival

Harmony Chamber
Root River Trail
Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota