History, rocks and ATVs are among early September options

By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

Summer fun doesn’t end just because Labor Day weekend comes and goes. In fact, the next weekend in September is just plain full of fun things to do.

Opportunities include a rock swap and a history day at an area state park. Then, we’ll look at a great opportunity to try Minnesota state trails free on your ATV!

Saturday, Sept. 8 – The Coulee Rock and Mineral Club will hold its annual Rock Swap at Stoddard, Wis., from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Stop by the Stoddard Village Park at 500 Division St. to help satisfy your need for MORE PRETTY ROCKS!

Saturday, Sept. 8 (Why are the cool events I want to attend on this same day?) – The Whitewater Valley Archaeology and History Festival will be held from noon until 3 p.m. at Whitewater State Park, north of Saint Charles on Highway 74. Celebrate the fascinating history of the Whitewater River valley. Through demonstrations, hands-on activities and special guest presenters, visitors will be transported back in time. Hike the historic Elba Fire Tower or take a self-guided walk through a nearby pioneer cemetery. Try your hand at atlatl throwing, paddling a canoe or making twine from wood nettle fibers. Check out flint knapping demonstrations. Or, have the kids play pioneer games. End the day with a guided walk around the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp and home of the German POWs (prisoners of war) who stayed there. Pick up a schedule at the park office.

Free ATV trail riding

Friday, Sept. 7-Sunday, Sept. 9 – ATV (all-terrain vehicle) users registered in Minnesota for private or agricultural use can explore both the old and new trails without cost this weekend. Typically, they would pay the registration fee ($60 for three years) to ride the public trails.

Minnesota has 3,000 miles of state forest and grant-in-aid trails available to ATV users. The state also has more than 200 miles of new trails that were completed this year. Out-of-state riders also can explore Minnesota ATV trails that weekend as well, without the need for a nonresident trail pass ($30 annually).

This is the fifth year Minnesota is providing ATV riders with free access during “No Registration Weekend.” The date was pushed back from June so new trails could be completed, including the 159-mile route connecting communities in northwestern Itasca County, as well as a trail connecting Balsam and Bigfork.

“The September weekend gives us a great opportunity to introduce a wide variety of state and grant-in-aid trails across Minnesota,” said Mary Straka, off-highway vehicle (OHV) program consultant for the Parks and Trails Division at the DNR,

Minnesota’s two newest trails are:

1. The Alvwood to Squaw Lake trail, which makes a 159-mile scenic tour through Bowstring State Forest and the Chippewa National Forest. Enjoy the many communities along the route. The trail is provided by Itasca County and the Alvwood-Squaw Lake ATV Club.

2. The Bigfork to Balsam (B&B) 33-mile trail is full of diverse northern landscapes.  It connects to the Little Moose ATV Trail off Co. Road 336.

Other recreational favorites include the following:

The Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area, a 1,200-acre OHV park in Gilbert with 36 miles of scenic trails for riders of all abilities.

The 100-mile trail system in Nemadji State Forest, which connects to the Matthew Lourey State Trail and the Gandy Dancer Trail.

The 29-mile Spider Lake trail system in Foot Hills State Forest, where riders will curve around lakes and ponds, go up and down a variety of hills, and view overlooks from the ridges throughout the forest.

The 200-mile Northwoods Regional Trail System in Aitkin and Itasca counties, where riders will use the Soo Line Trail to connect to local communities and trail loops.

And remember, locally we have 19 miles on the Chatfield Trail, located one mile northeast of Chatfield on Highway 74, with parking on the right side of the highway. Get trail information at www.dnr.state.mn.us/ohv/trail_detail.html?id=35

Safety training is recommended for everyone that operates an ATV. It is required for ATV riders born after July 1, 1987. Children under age 18 must wear a DOT-certified helmet. Children age 16 and under must fit the ATV they are operating and be able to properly reach and control the handlebars and reach the foot pegs while sitting upright on the ATV. Trail maps, updates on trail conditions, Youth ATV Safety training and other OHV information can be found online at www.mndnr.gov/ohv

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.