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Lac Qui Parle State Park

French explorers living with the Native Americans along the upper Minnesota River gave Lac Qui Parle Lake its musical name based on Dakota Indian legend. Lac Qui Parle, or the “lake that talks,” really does seem to talk when you listen to the collected voices of thousands of geese during spring and fall migrations. Lac Qui Parle State Park is located five miles northwest of Watson on the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway in Minnesota’s Lac Qui Parle County.

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Lac Qui Parle Dam at Lac Qui Parle State Park

Lac Qui Parle Dam

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Trails
Because of the water recreation and network of seven miles of hiking and seven miles of horseback riding trails at Lac Qui Parle, the park is a popular day-use destination. Families like to come here because there’s enough to do to satisfy everybody. You can spread out a noontime feast at a lakeshore picnic table, go for a swim at the beach, or do some canoeing or fishing on the lake. Easy hiking and horseback riding trails link the lakeshore to the dense woods that line the convoluted Lac Qui Parle River.
Camping and Lodging
Two campgrounds, an upper and a lower area, offer a combined 67 drive-in sites. Three more secluded, cart-in sites are available at the upper campground while two group campsites offer space for 50 people each. There are also three camper cabins at this park.
Fishing
Fish thrive in Lac Qui Parle. At times, the action is good for walleye, northern, perch or panfish. The lake level fluctuates during the open season because of the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ flood control efforts at Lac Qui Parle Dam. At lower water levels, submerged reefs, floating logs and other debris make boating hazardous. You can launch directly into the lake from one of the two recreation area landings or from a landing on the Lac Qui Parle River.
Plants and Wildlife
The 530-acre state park at the foot of the lake lies next to the 27,000-acre Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, which stretches to the northwest. When the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge was created, it transformed the upper Minnesota River Valley into a vast game preserve that harbors deer, geese, prairie chickens, pheasants and other game.
Watching the seasonal waterfowl migrations is a favorite visitor activity at Lac Qui Parle. Spring migrations last from early March to the end of April, while fall flights begin in September and continue until December. During some years, more than 200,000 geese have noisily assembled here for their flight south, making this one of the biggest goose management areas in the country. The Canada geese are banded at Lac Qui Parle to determine where they spend each season.
The native prairie, upland grasslands and farm fields form one of the best pheasant areas in the state.
The wetlands of this region are rich in food for waterfowl. Grasses, sedges and trees like willow and cottonwood provide food and shelter for water-loving birds. Ducks, pelican, cormorants and herons thrive in the low, marshy areas of the upper Minnesota River. Special restrictions apply to human use of the Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area in order to preserve it as a refuge.
Area History
Two nearby historic sites across the river are worth a visit. Fort Renville was a fur-trading post built by Joseph Renville in the 1820s. Born in 1779 in Kaposia, an Indian village below present-day St. Paul, Renville grew up with Dakota Indian children and became one of the Northwest’s most influential people. He served as a captain in the British army during the War of 1812 and later became a “coureur de bois” (independent fur trader) along the Dakota Indians along the upper Minnesota River.
In 1835, Renville invited Protestant missionary and physician Thomas S. Williamson to found a school and church near the trading post. For the next 20 years, missionaries worked at this remote settlement, attempting to convert the Dakota. The missionaries translated the Gospel and several hymns into the Dakota language and completed its first official grammar and dictionary.
The Lac Qui Parle Mission was the first church in the state. Today, visitors can see a replica of the original abode chapel at the mission site owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and operated by the Chippewa County Historical Society.
Winter
The flat terrain gives visitors a chance for an easy outing on snowshoes while observing winter wildlife such as bald eagles and deer. Besides the late fall waterfowl migrations, ice fishing attracts many cold-weather visitors to Lac Qui Parle. An enclosed picnic shelter with fireplace keeps visitors warm.

Visit these trail-friendly sponsors:

Harmony Chamber
Root River Trail
Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota

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