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Holiday treasures abound at state parks

The new Minnesota State Parks gift card will be available for purchase and will also be located in geocaches in state parks. Minn. Department of Natural Resources

Just in time for the holiday shopping season opener, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Holsten unveiled the new Minnesota state parks gift card Monday at Fort Snelling State Park.

"The gift card is another way to help people connect to Minnesota's great outdoors," Holsten said. "We're billing it as the 'gift that goes all out,' because it can be used for camping, lodging, and vehicle permits, as well as the clothing, books, and other items sold at Minnesota state parks.

"Ideally, we think people will give Minnesota state parks gift cards to their children or grandchildren with a promise to take them fishing or canoeing or snowshoeing. The memories of spending time together will last a lifetime, and the experience will help introduce the next generation to the fun of outdoor recreation."

The gift card -- which features a photo of the state's highest waterfall, the main attraction at Grand Portage State Park in northeastern Minnesota -- went on sale Monday and can be purchased any of three ways:

- By phone (1-866-85PARKS)

- Online (

- In person at Minnesota state parks or at DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

Starting Monday and continuing through the holiday season, gift cards loaded with amounts ranging from $10 to $50 will randomly appear in the "Critter Caches" at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas statewide. Critter Caches are camouflaged containers hidden in every Minnesota state park and recreation area as part of the Geocaching Wildlife Safari. To find one of the caches, visitors can bring their own GPS unit to a Minnesota state park or visit one of the 25 GPS demo parks and borrow a GPS unit for free. Coordinates (along with a few hints on where to find the caches) are posted at the parks and online at

Combining technology with treasure hunting in Minnesota state parks has proven to be a very successful way to connect people of all ages with the great outdoors. More than 10,000 "cache finds" have already been logged on since the Geocaching Wildlife Safari began May 2.

"We think the possibility of finding a gift card valued at up to $50 will provide extra incentive for people to visit Minnesota state parks and work off their Thanksgiving dinner by hiking and geocaching with their family and friends over the holiday weekend," Commissioner Holsten said.

Vehicle permits are required to enter Minnesota state parks. A one-day permit costs $5. Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to Minnesota state parks for twelve months from the month of purchase.