10 places to set up camp
June is National Camping Month, and whether your preference is a primitive campsite in northern Minnesota, an RV site with full electrical and water hookups with shopping and nightlife nearby or a modern cabin in a state park, there is no shortage of options within a few hours' drive.
It's not a complete list by any means, but here are 10 getaways -- five in Minnesota and five in North Dakota -- to get you started.
Some are well-known; others, not so much.
Either way, now's the time to get out and enjoy -- there's a lot of camping to explore.
Franz Jevne State Park
Located just east of Birchdale, Minn., off state Highway 11 in Koochiching County, Franz Jevne State Park is an ideal destination for campers who don't mind roughing it a bit and want to get away from the crowds.
It just might be one of the best-kept secrets in the Minnesota state park system.
The 88-acre park is situated on the banks of the Rainy River next to the Long Sault Rapids, one of the most scenic spots along the river. With 18 primitive campsites and two that have electricity, Franz Jevne State Park offers 2½ miles of hiking trails that wind through a mix of jack pine and birch trees. There's a public access for anglers who want to test the waters of the river by boat, and shore fishing routinely produces walleyes, smallmouth bass and even the occasional lake sturgeon.
Woodland birds, including several species of warblers, are common.
There are no indoor toilet facilities and campsites are first-come, first-served. The park is about 210 miles northeast of Grand Forks.
• Info: mndnr.gov/state_parks/franz_jevne/index.html.
Big Bog State Recreation Area
This 9,121-acre recreation area in Waskish, Minn., off state Highway 72 might be dubbed "Minnesota's last true wilderness," but there's no shortage of things to do for visitors.
The south unit of the park includes a 31-site campground -- 26 with electricity -- and five winterized camper cabins. A boat ramp in the park offers access to the Tamarac River and Upper Red Lake, which again this year is living up to its reputation as one of Minnesota's top walleye fisheries.
The north unit of the park a couple of miles up Highway 72 features a mile-long raised boardwalk that takes visitors into the heart of the bog, a rugged landscape that otherwise would be difficult to access. Expect to see carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews, along with interpretive signs along the bog walk explaining the history of the area. Besides the boardwalk, which is wheelchair accessible, Big Bog State Recreation Area features 4½ miles of hiking trails and canoe and kayak rentals. Bird species of note include great gray owls and Connecticut warblers.
Big Bog is about 180 miles northeast of Grand Forks.
• Info: mndnr.gov/state_parks/big_bog/index.html.
Hayes Lake State Park
Another jewel in northwest Minnesota, 2,966-acre Hayes Lake State Park offers hiking, swimming, camping and fishing opportunities in a wooded setting at the edge of Beltrami Island State Forest. Located about 10 miles east of Wannaska, Minn., in the transition between boreal forest and farmland, Hayes Lake was created by a dam on the Roseau River and offers fishing for largemouth bass, panfish and northern pike.
Hayes Lake also has a concrete boat ramp but only electric motors are allowed. Canoe, kayak and boat rentals are available, along with electric trolling motors and batteries.
There are two self-guided interpretive trails in the park covering 2½ miles, along with a 13-mile hiking trail that runs along the lakeshore and Roseau River and a five-mile bike trail that starts at Hayes Dam. The park also has a seven-mile horseback-riding trail.
Birds include as many as 16 breeding species of warblers, along with ruffed grouse and spruce grouse and shorebirds such as loons and grebes.
The campground features 35 drive-in sites, 18 with electricity, two backpack sites overlooking the lake and a group camp that accommodates as many as 60 people. Two camper cabins also can be rented. Showers and flush toilets are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Hayes Lake is about 120 miles northeast of Grand Forks.
• Info: mndnr.gov/state_parks/hayes_lake/index.html.
Lake Bronson State Park
Aspen parkland habitat -- the transition between prairies and pines -- dominates the landscape at Lake Bronson State Park, which offers 152 drive-in campsites (67 with electricity), three backpack sites and two first-come, first-served canoe sites on an island of Lake Bronson.
The park covers 4,375 acres, and a dam on the south branch of the Two Rivers created Lake Bronson, where anglers can fish for walleyes, northern pike, bass and perch. Hiking opportunities include two miles of wheelchair-accessible trails, along with a 1½-mile self-guided interpretive trail and 14 miles of hiking trails. There's also a two-mile paved bike trail and five miles of mountain bike trails. Available rentals include boats, trolling motors, canoes and kayaks.
Deer and sharp-tailed grouse are among the most abundant wildlife, and visitors also have the opportunity to see occasional wild elk from Kittson County herds.
Showers and flush toilets are available from mid-May through mid-October, and primitive facilities are accessible year round.
Lake Bronson is about 90 miles northeast of Grand Forks.
• Info: mndnr.gov/state_parks/lake_bronson/index.html.
Red River State Recreation Area
Yeah, it's right in your backyard if you live in Grand Forks or East Grand Forks, but that doesn't mean the Red River State Recreation Area isn't worth exploring for a quick camping excursion. The recreation area has 113 campsites, including 85 with electrical and full sewer and water hookups.
The park has seven miles of paved trails that are accessible to hikers, bicycles and wheelchairs, and if you haven't gotten out and explored the Red River Greenway trails by now, this would be the perfect opportunity.
The habitat along the Red River offers a variety of bird-watching opportunities from Canada geese and great blue herons to sparrows, bald eagles and owls.
The park covers 1,339 acres. Upcoming events include a June 8 open house in honor of National Get Outdoors Day, Archery in the Park on June 22, a "Mammals of the Prairie" program July 6 and Archery in the Park on Aug. 3.
• Info: mndnr.gov/state_parks/lake_bronson/index.html.
Turtle River State Park
Like Red River State Recreation Area, Turtle River State Park near Arvilla, N.D., is close to home for people in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, but it's a safe bet many people who live nearby have never visited the park.
Turtle River State Park has 107 campsites, including 77 with electrical and full water; none have sewer hookups, but a dump station is available in the campground. If tenting isn't your game, the park has six duplexes with private showers and toilets for rent.
The park also has a network of mountain bike and hiking trails, and the Visitor Center, which opened in 2007, offers a variety of interpretive programs throughout the year. Turtle River State Park also is rich in history commemorating the Civilian Conservation Corps workers who provided much of the labor for the park, which marked its 75th anniversary in 2009.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocks the Turtle River with catchable-size rainbow trout every spring and larger trout in the fall if water levels permit. Picnic shelters are available for day visitors, and Woodland Lodge is a popular venue for a variety of events.
Turtle River State Park is about 20 miles west of Grand Forks.
• Info: parkrec.nd.gov/parks/trsp/trsp.html.
Grahams Island State Park
Devils Lake and its abundant fishing and water recreation opportunities is the big attraction for visitors to Grahams Island State Park. The park has a boat ramp, bait shop, modern and primitive campsites and camping cabins. The four cabins, which generally are available from mid-May through October, each sleep five people and are equipped with lights, heat, fan and patio. The cabins don't have water or indoor plumbing, but most are within a short walk of modern facilities elsewhere in campground.
The Sivert Thompson Activities Center in the park seats 180 people and is available for year-round use. The facility has a wood-burning fireplace, along with indoor bathroom, sink and kitchen facilities.
The park is about 105 miles west of Grand Forks.
• Info: parkrec.nd.gov/parks/gisp/gisp.html.
Lake Metigoshe State Park
The Turtle Mountains and Lake Metigoshe provide a woodsy backdrop for Lake Metigoshe State Park.
Besides both modern and primitive campsites, the park has three year-round modern cabins, a year-round primitive cabin, a year-round yurt and group dormitories.
Lake Metigoshe State Park offers a self-guided interpretive trail that covers three miles, along with 8½ miles of multi-use trails and a canoe trail (canoe rentals are available in the park). In the winter, a portion of the Peace Garden Snowmobile Trail is located in Lake Metigoshe State Park.
For fishing enthusiasts, Lake Metigoshe offers walleyes, northern pike, bluegills and crappies. The list of birds available to birdwatchers features more than 174 species, including 37 on the state's rare bird species list such as Cooper's hawk, bufflehead duck, turkey vulture, loon, red neck grebe and gold-winged warbler.
Lake Metigoshe State Park also hosts Becoming an Outdoors Woman and other interpretive events throughout the year. The park covers 1,551 acres and is about 200 miles northwest of Grand Forks.
• Info: parkrec.nd.gov/parks/lmsp/lmsp.html.
Lake Sakakawea State Park
Located on the south shore of Lake Sakakawea, 1,293-acre Lake Sakakawea State Park is a popular destination for water recreation in North Dakota, with a full-service marina, fishing guide services, two boat ramps and convenient access to Garrison Dam and such other nearby attractions as Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and the North Country Trail.
Besides modern and primitive camping, Lake Sakakawea State Park has two camper cabins for rent that sleep five people.
Hiking and biking trails are available in the park, and bird species include 45 on the state's rare species list, among them piping plover, least tern, eastern bluebird, golden eagle and whooping crane. The park is about 275 miles west of Grand Forks.
• Info: parkrec.nd.gov/parks/lssp/lssp.html.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
History and the North Dakota Badlands dominate Theodore Roosevelt National Park, be it the South Unit near Medora, N.D., the North Unit near Watford City, N.D., or the Elkhorn Ranch Unit in-between that served as Theodore Roosevelt's getaway.
The park covers 110 square miles between the three units.
In the South Unit, the Cottonwood Campground has 76 campsites available on a first-come basis, and the Roundup Group Horse Campground accommodates groups of seven to 20 people with horses or seven to 30 without horses. The Juniper Campground in the North Unit has 50 campsites available on a first-come basis. None of the campsites in either unit have electrical or water hookups.
The South Unit features a 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive with pullover spots and interpretive signs, while the South Unit Visitor Center near Medora offers a variety of information, along with a museum and a chance to learn more about Roosevelt's experience in the Badlands.
The North Unit Visitor Center is open daily from April through mid-October and weekends the rest of the year. A 14-mile Scenic Drive begins at the entrance station and continues to the Oxbow Overlook, with pullover spots and interpretive signs along the way.
The two units offer miles of hiking opportunities ranging from easy to strenuous. Topping the latter category is the 18-mile Achenbach Trail in the North Unit, which features steep climbs and descents and two river crossings.
The North Unit is about 350 miles west of Grand Forks, the South Unit about 385 miles.
• Info: nps.gov/thro/index.html.
Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.