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A visit to an underrated state park near Mille Lacs

Posted by: under Minnesota, Road trips Updated: October 1, 2012 - 11:39 AM

VINELAND, MINN. -- If you're like me, you take Minnesota state parks for granted. But with colors expected to peak this weekend, here's a suggestion: Check out Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. 

We signed up for a free archeology canoe tour last weekend and the maples, aspens, sumacs and oaks were just starting to overlap with eruptions of bronze, yellow, orange and blood red. The park sits eight miles north of Onamia and south of Garrison along Hwy. 169 a couple hours north of the Twin Cities.

We learned that archeologists have found clues of people living in the area at least 9,000 years ago. Several small Dakota villages punctuated the area, a crossroads of sorts with access to the Rum, Mississippi and other rivers and a few hefty portages from Lake Superior. In fact, the explorer that the city of Duluth is named after -- Frenchman Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Dulhut -- is the misspeller responsible for Kathio's name.

Greysolon met with the Dakota in the area in 1679 and they called their collective villages Izatys. His sloppy handwriting made the "Iz" look like a "K" and the name stuck. It's one of those gems we fly by at 65 mph, but well worth stopping for a visit. You can rent canoes and paddle around Ogechie Lake, once a hub of Dakota travel and trading. Hunters would transport their buffalo meat up the winding Rum River in the Anoka area to their villages here.

This Saturday, the park is offering a short hike and talk about bird migration from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Go to mile marker No. 221 on Hwy. 169 about eight miles north of Onamia. (This photo of dormant ice houses was snapped along Hwy. 47 around the south side of the lake near Isle.)

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