Rainy, cold spring dampens state park and trail use

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2013 - 11:54 PM

Renovation projects await summertime users, too.


Interstate State Park near Taylors Falls, shown here on a pleasant summer day in 2006, has seen fewer visitors this spring.

Photo: File photo by JERRY HOLT • jgholt@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The cold, wet spring not only has doused fishing license sales — down 25 percent from last year — but it also has washed out camping, hiking and biking excursions to Minnesota’s state parks and trails.

“We’re down,” said Courtland Nelson, director of parks and trails for the Department of Natural Resources. Sales of annual $25 state park passes are off 15 percent from last year, and $5 daily passes are down 34 percent.

While fewer campers and day-users overall are exploring the state’s 76 parks and recreation areas, use of state trails probably has been dampened even more by the poor weather.

“Trail use is way off,” Nelson said. “I spent Memorial Day weekend on the Root River Trail; there was some use, but nowhere near normal.”

Ron Erickson, manager at Interstate State Park at Taylors Falls — the fourth most-visited state park — said he has noticed fewer visitors this spring.

“When the weather is good, people come. When it’s bad, they think a lot longer about it, and sometimes they don’t come,” he said.

But others don’t let poor weather dissuade them.

“Our hard-shell campers, those in recreational vehicles that have reservations, they come anyway,” Erickson said. “Tenters are less likely to come if it’s going to rain or be cold.” Still, Erickson expected most of the park’s 37 campsites to fill this weekend.

At Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore — the No. 2 most-visited park — visitor numbers are down only slightly, said Audrey Butts, park manager. But there have been benefits to the spring rains: “The falls have been just beautiful, way better than typical for this time of year,” she said.

Not all state parks have seen a decline in visitors. At popular Itasca State Park, Memorial Day weekend was busy, as usual, said Jeff Karels, assistant park director.

“We had a handful of open campsites,” he said. “The walleyes have been hitting, and we haven’t had the rain you’ve had in the south.”

Peak state park usage is June, July and August, so there’s plenty of time for campers to flock to campgrounds, hiking trails or bike paths. “I think it will be an awesome summer,” Karels said.

Officials know what it will take to lure Minnesotans back outdoors: sunshine.

“When we get the first weekend when it’s 75 or 80 degrees and sunny, there will be an explosion of people going out to the parks,” said Erickson. “There’s pent-up demand.”

But just as Minnesota motorists must battle construction season, park and trail users could encounter renovation and repair projects. Among them:

Tettegouche State Park: A $7 million visitor center is being built at the state’s seventh-most visited state park, meaning visitors will find a temporary entrance and park office at the North Shore park. The building is a joint project with the state Transportation Department, and will function as a park visitor center and state rest area. When the old visitor center was built in 1986, the park had about 28,000 visits yearly. Now it gets around 335,000. The building will include a great room with fireplace overlooking Lake Superior, a gift shop, amphitheater, lakeside patio, picnic shelter and restrooms open 24 hours daily. A solar energy system will generate about 36 percent of the building’s energy needs.


Jay Cooke State Park: The iconic swinging bridge, wrecked after historic floods last June tore through the popular park 20 miles southwest of Duluth, hasn’t been rebuilt yet, though visitors should be able to cross it late this summer. But the park reopened last fall and the Hwy. 210 bridge between Carlton and Thomson has reopened, allowing access to the park. The road currently ends at the park office. And access to the trail system on the south side of the park is limited, due to the swinging bridge’s closure. Most other trails are open.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Cincinnati 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Baltimore 0
Boston 7 Top 7th Inning
NY Yankees 3
Detroit 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Cleveland 2
NY Mets 8 Bottom 7th Inning
Miami 6
Philadelphia 2 Top 8th Inning
Atlanta 0
Toronto 5 Bottom 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 2
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
LA Angels 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Houston 4
Chicago WSox 3 Bottom 4th Inning
Minnesota 3
Texas 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Kansas City 1
Pittsburgh 2 Bottom 4th Inning
St. Louis 2
San Francisco 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Colorado 2
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Washington - D. Fister 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Arizona - W. Miley 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question