State forests can be a way to enjoy the outdoors

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2017

Camping in Minnesota does not have to be expensive if you chose to go without a few of the niceties. Take for example, the many state or national forest campgrounds that dot the north woods. On a couple of the lakes I frequent in Itasca County, the Forest Service has cleared areas for rustic campsites.

My son, Brian, and I were talking the other day about fishing different lakes in the area surrounding our cabin. He told me about a lake that he and the boys had visited last week that had a small National Forest campground operated on the honor system. It cost $14 per night with a 14-day limit and you were able to pull your boat right up to the campsite. He said it would be fun to camp there for a night or two just to have a new outdoors experience. I totally agreed with this and now it seems the kid in me really wants to give it a try. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, but just the thought of it gives me child-like adventurous feeling once again.

Minnesota is home to 16.3 million acres of forest land. Much of this land is located within the boundaries of Minnesota’s 58 state forests. The first state forest was established in 1900, when Governor John Pillsbury donated 1,000 acres of land in Cass County to the state, and the land was designated Pillsbury State Forest. Our newest state forest, the 15,000-acre Waukenabo State Forest in north-central Minnesota, was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2000. Land ownership within Minnesota’s state forests is varied and includes state, county, municipal, tribal, and private holdings. Admission is free. Do you know Minnesota is the 16th most forested state in the nation? Do you know nearly four million acres in 58 state forests are open to explore for free? That’s right — wherever you are, you can find a state forest nearby that’s open to explore at no cost to you. No vehicle permit required.

Email newsletter signup

Bigfork State Forest is just one of many that dot the north and north central parts of Minnesota. Visitors will be met with richly wooded moraine hills and numerous lakes, marshes, and bogs as they hike their way through this state forest.

The Big Fork River state canoe route travels through a portion of the forest, providing the canoeist and kayaker a great opportunity to explore the remote and pristine areas of the forest.

There are no campgrounds within the forest. However, dispersed camping is allowed. Campgrounds are available at nearby Scenic State Park along with Koochiching and Pine Island state forests. For more information on this state park go to; for more information on the state forests go to state forests.

Recreational opportunities include dispersed camping, hunting, hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, cross- country skiing, snowmobiling, and OHV riding.

• Kabetogama State Forest is the gateway into Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

• Kayaks and canoes are often used for wilderness adventures into the state forest. Many people will travel by water for several days and camp on islands or on the peninsula at night or during rough waters.

• Woodenfrog and Ash River campgrounds offer access to Kabetogama Lake and Namakan Lake in Voyageurs National Park, while Wakemup Bay and Hinsdale Island, the only boat-in campsite, offer camping opportunities on Lake Vermilion.

• In the summer months, you can enjoy hiking on the numerous nature trails, boating, and camping in the various state campgrounds or on the islands in the forest. In the winter the state forest turns over to ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

These are just a few of the State Forests that offer camping and recreation for every Minnesotan to enjoy. New State Forest Maps are available Online: Toll Free Phone: 1-888-MINNDNR (1-888-646-6367). TTY: 1-866-672-8213 Toll Free International Calls: 1-317-249-9327.

Until next time, take a little time to enjoy some of the many natural resources we have right here at home. Fishing is a great sport anyone can enjoy without much expense. If you introduce a kid to fishing, he or she will be hooked for life.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.