DNR provides links to oodles of summer fun opportunities

Blue Mounds State Park’s prairie and bison tours are a new offering among many summer activities from the Minnesota DNR. PHOTO COURTESY OF MINNESOTA DNR

Blue Mounds State Park transports tour participants in an open truck bed so they may view the prairie and bison more easily. PHOTO COURTESY OF MINNESOTA DNR
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Bluff Country Reader

Oh my!! My eyes just got real big as I discovered a secret to just all types of amazing summer fun!

Best of all, it’s readily accessible to all at Minnesota state parks – and you can find the information online. Just go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/starter_kit/index.html. That site contains all kinds of web links to summer park programs and events in its Summer Activities Guide.

Let’s see what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tells us on the guide’s home page:

Get out in Minnesota state parks and trails! There's nothing quite like spending time outdoors in Minnesota during the summertime. Whatever summer adventures you are searching for, Minnesota state parks and trails are the best place to start. Lounge on a beach or paddle out onto one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. Climb a bluff to see from new heights or go underground with a mine tour. Stay up to study the night sky or sleep peacefully in a camper cabin.

Browse the list below for outdoor activities and adventures to keep you and your family active and engaged all season long. Minnesota's state parks and trails are for everyone — no matter your skill level or physical ability. Find something interesting and get out there! Here are tips and tricks:

Use ParkFinder to browse all activities in state parks and recreation areas at www.dnr.state.mn.us/parkfinder/index.html

Get a sneak peek before you go with a virtual tour at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/virtual_tours.html

Need a break from steamy summer adventures? Visit the winter activities guide, www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/winter_guide/index.html

Make a weekend of it! Rent a campsite or cabin and get the full experience, www.dnr.state.mn.us/camping/index.html

Purchase a vehicle permit today and get a year of unlimited visits to all of Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas. Go to https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html

Then, the Summer Activities Guide page offers up links to 25 categories of possibilities, each with a link to more info. Just go to that first link noted above in this column. Whoa, I think I’m near faint from amazement at the offerings! I’ve touched on a number of activities in columns over the years, but it’s good to have a yearly reminder. Plus, you never know when something new might turn up.

There’s a new geocaching Aquatic Quest in all the parks. It runs through Oct. 31, 2020, so there’s plenty of time to grab your GPS and then challenge yourself to hit all the state parks and trails. Find the geocaches to earn cool educational cards on the fascinating plants and animals in the state’s waters. Get more info at www.dnr.state.mn.us/geocaching/geocaching-aquatic-quest.html. And there’s a list of geocaching programs in selected parks at www.dnr.state.mn.us/geocaching/events.html. Hint: in our area, Whitewater State Park near St. Charles is the go-to location with four programs on various dates yet this year.

Now, let’s turn to tours offered in state parks. We all know about cave tours at Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park, centrally located between Wykoff, Preston, Spring Valley and the villages of Greenleafton and Cherry Grove. If you’d like to learn about ALL the tours available, or make reservations online, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/mystery_cave/index.html

And finally, here’s a new tour I personally would love to take at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne – a prairie and bison tour! An overview from the DNR at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/blue_mounds/prairie-and-bison-tour.html states:

“Historically, one-third of Minnesota was covered in prairie and tens of thousands of bison once roamed. Everything changed in the late 1800s, when bison were hunted to the brink of extinction and the prairie was exploited by European settlers. Today, only 1 percent of Minnesota’s native prairies remain.

“Thanks to conservationists, both bison and prairies can still be found at Blue Mounds State Park. You can come and experience both on the one-and-a-half-hour-long prairie and bison tour, where you can experience the sights and smells of the prairie and the bison!”

Find even more about the tour and bison in a June 14 DNR press release at http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2018/06/14/online-reservations-to-open-for-blue-mounds-state-park-prairie-and-bison-tour/

There you have it! Minnesota DNR has you linked to near limitless summer fun!

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.