Father Hennepin State Park

Of all the state parks in Minnesota, a handful always find a way to the top of my list when looking for a weekend away.

Enter, Father Hennepin State Park in Isle.

Located on the southeast shore of Mille Lacs Lake, the hideaway park is gorgeous.

Long, sandy beaches and rocky shoreline; a campground and picnic site with panoramic views; windy hiking trails mixed into the marsh and pine – hard to beat that list on a warm day. 

If you are in the area, I recommend checking out the Pope Point overlook located at the end of the hiking trails.

You can bask in the stunning sunset or you can be like me and hang out with the sandpipers while they peck at the water in search of small prey.

Interesting fact about the park moniker: The park is named after Father Louis Hennepin, a priest who visited the area with a French expedition in 1680. 

While he didn’t actually make it to the area that is now the park, he was the first to write about the Mille Lacs area. 

In the spring of 1680 he and two companions encountered a group of Dakota Native Americans and were captured, about 15 miles from today’s Father Hennepin State Park. 

Their release was negotiated eight months later by Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut (Duluth’s namesake). 

Throughout the experience, Father Hennepin kept a journal describing the lakes, rivers, landscapes, and the lifestyle of his hosts, the Mdewakanton Dakota. 

In 1683 his writings were published in the book Description de la Louisiane.

Franz Jevne State Park

My favorite state parks are those that are obscure, hard to get to, and have less foot traffic.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another that fits the bill as well as Franz Jevne State Park in Birchdale.

The 118-acre park is located on the south banks of Rainy River (which demarks the Canada–United States border) between International Falls and Baudette.

Secluded and peaceful, you’ll find picturesque views of Ontario and the Rainy River where there are a host of things to do as far away from the city as you can get.

There are short, rocky hiking paths that lead you to a picnic area that overlooks Sault Rapids, a low, rocky outcrop in the otherwise serene river.

A boat launch immediately at the entrance offers access to the river for fishing, best-loved for walleye, northern, smallmouth bass, and sturgeon.

If you stick around long enough, you might see beaver, timber wolf, moose, woodpeckers, pelicans, and bald eagles

A quick note on the history: The park is named for Franz Jevne, a lawyer in International Falls and later, in Minneapolis. Late in 1966, the sons of Franz Jevne offered to donate the acreage to the state; the park was created in 1967 by the Minnesota Legislature.

Have you ever been to Franz Jevne?

Lake Superior Helicopters

If you love the North Shore, there is no better way to see it than from above.

Lake Superior Helicopters opened in 2009 and allow you to see one of the largest tourist destinations in the midwest.

I loved the experience, from the office staff to the pilot. Worth snagging a tour this summer.

They offer three different tours: Duluth (60 miles), North Shore (30 miles), and an Aerial (15 miles).

The Duluth Tour takes you to Jay Cooke State Park, one of the ten most-visited state parks in Minnesota.

The western half of the park contains part of a rocky, 13-mile gorge. This was a major barrier to Native Americans and early Europeans traveling by canoe, which they bypassed with the challenging Grand Portage of the St. Louis River.

The tour follows the River, flies by Ely’s Peak, Spirit Mountain, and into Duluth over the Aerial Lift Bridge, which is adjacent to Canal Park and spans the Duluth Ship Canal into the Duluth–Superior harbor.

The North Shore Tour takes you over the Port Terminal, Aerial Lift Bridge, and Canal Park waterways. You will also see the Glensheen Mansion, the Historic Congdon Estate is a 20,000 square foot mansion on 12 acres of waterfront property with 39 rooms that cost a total of $854,000, equivalent to more than $22 million in 2017, Hawk Ridge, a nature reserve and bird observatory renowned for its autumnal raptor migrations, and Lester River which passes through a canyon between Lester Park, where Amity Creek joins the Lester River, and the mouth of the river.

Downtown Duluth

Finally, the Aerial Tour covers the Duluth/Superior Harbor. Located at the westernmost tip of Lake Superior, the Port of Duluth-Superior is North America’s farthest-inland freshwater seaport. 

Ariel Lift Bridge

A remarkable 9-mile natural breakwater shelters the port’s 49 miles of harbor frontage. Twenty privately owned bulk cargo docks and an award-winning general cargo terminal populate the working waterfront, along with a marine fueling depot, a shipyard with dry docks, multiple tug and barge services, plus an intermodal cargo terminal. You’ll also see Enger Tower and Aerial Lift Bridge.

Minnesota Point
Minnesota Point

Lake Superior Helicopters also offers FAA-approved flight programs, creating a safe, positive, and productive learning experience for those that want a career as a professional helicopter pilot. With an extensive network, they also help to provide internships and job opportunities for graduates.

Glensheen Mansion and Estate

They also provide commercial helicopter services like a ride to your cabin or a golf course, aerial photo’s or inspect land or even a flight to dinner. How awesome is that?

Have you ever been?


Maplewood State Park

I was lucky enough to stop at Maplewood State Park during the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener.

Located on the outskirts of Pelican Rapids in the heart of Ottertail County, this state park was created in the early 1960s as the hilly, lake-dotted terrain was better suited to recreation than to farming.

The park is located in a transition area between the western prairies and the eastern forests, containing plants and animals found in both landscapes.

Drive along the scenic route to observe the wildlife, including bald eagles, loons, beaver, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and turtles.

The high tree-covered hills allow you to see striking vistas of small, clear lakes in the beautiful, expansive, deep valleys.

Significant in size, it is 9,250-acres with eight major lakes, extensive hiking, horse, back-country cross-country ski, and snowmobile trails. The park also boasts an impressive amount of camping opportunities. 71 single-family campsites (32 with electric hookups), 24 equestrian camps, 3 backpack sites, 3 cabins, and 1 group campsite.

The perfect place to spend a weekend: pitch a tent and rent a boat, canoe, or kayak from the park office.

I usually add grabbing a local pizza (this one is a taco pizza from Big John’s in Pelican Rapids) on my way in.

The park also has a rich history worth learning.

Human habitation in the area dates back at least 6,000 years.

The park preserves a pre-contact habitation, archeological site within the park, the Maplewood Site, that was occupied in two different periods (650–900 CE and 1450–1650 CE) in a forest/prairie transition zone.

Most artifacts, however, indicate that the site was occupied 900 to 1200 years ago and that the residents were primarily hunters during that period. Records of modern habitation began in the mid-1880s when the original land surveys occurred. After the organization of the Lida and Maplewood townships, the area population rose to 1,167 by 1900.

Have you been to Maplewood State Park yet?

This post was sponsored by Visit Ottertail County but all opinions are my own.

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