MNDNR license plate

Rice Lake State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
Local residents know Rice Lake State Park is a good place to see wildlife. The mix of marsh, lake, meadow and woods attracts large numbers of birds, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Because Rice Lake is the only lake of any size in the vicinity, geese, swans and ducks stop here to feed and nest.

Rice Lake State Park is located 7 miles east of Owatonna In Minnesota’s Steele County.

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Rice Lake in the fall at Rice Lake State Park

Rice Lake in the fall

Picnic shelter near the cart-in campsites at Rice Lake State Park

Picnic shelter near the cart-in campsites

Tall hardwoods shade the spacious picnic area on a peninsula jutting into Rice Lake. The cross-breeze refreshes while keeping insects at bay. A small swimming area and a drive-in boat access are on the west side of the peninsula.

Beautiful views across Rice Lake in the fall at Rice Lake State Park

Beautiful views across Rice Lake in the fall

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Trails
Hikers have up to five miles of easy trails to explore at Rice Lake. They consist of some small loops and one big loop around the perimeter of the park, including about a mile along the shores of Rice Lake.

A fall hike on the trails near the lake at Rice Lake State Park

A fall hike on the trails near the lake

Camping/Lodging
The campground is shaded by hardwoods and offers 40 well-screened sites. A primitive group camp, available by reservation, is connected to the main campground by road and trail and has room for 60. Rice Lake also has four cart-in campsites on the lake shore. You can rent canoes in the park for an outing on the lake or to paddle across Rice Lake to one of the five canoe campsites.
Area History
Rice Lake is named for the wild rice that generations of native Americans gathered here. The lake is one of the Zumbro River’s sources, forming the South Branch of the Middle Fork. The village of Rice Lake, which once flourished north of the park, is marked today only by the Rive Lake Church, built in 1857 and located along Dodge County highway 20, about ten miles from the park.
Winter
Snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park. No groomed ski trails here, but you can break your own trail on some of the hiking trails.

Visit these trail-friendly sponsors:

Root River Trail
Harmony Chamber
Visit Decorah

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