WEGDAHL - Camper cabins have proven so popular that they now can be found at 27 different state parks, and they’re credited with introducing people to those parks who might otherwise never have visited.

They are about to do the same near the tiny community of Wegdahl, which is home to Chippewa County’s newest park.

“A diamond in the rough,’’ is how Bill Pauling, a member of the Chippewa County parks board and an avid outdoors person, describes the park.

The park is located six miles south of Montevideo on the Minnesota River, and getting there can be as fun as it is easy: You can drive your vehicle on U.S. Highway 212 or Chippewa County Road 15 right to the cabin doors; hike on foot or ride your bike along a paved trail running directly from Montevideo to the park; or launch your canoe and paddle the Minnesota River to it.

The park is barely 10-years in the making, but its biggest step was taken this last week when the doors to the two, new camper cabins were opened. The park is also offering two sites for recreational campers, with 50-amp electric service at one and 30-amp at the other.

“Now it’s a matter of getting the word out,’’ said Scott Williams, director of the county’s land and resource management office, which oversees the county’s parks.

Williams and park board members are optimistic that the camper cabins will prove as popular as the state camper cabins after which they are modeled.  Just like the state’s cabins, they take the “rustic’’ out of camping by providing families and other campers with a roof over their heads, bunk beds, and electricity. Each will easily sleep five or six, with bunks and sleeper couch.

And like many of the state’s camper cabins, these northwood-style cabins will be available year-round. Both have electric heat, and there is plenty of reason to believe they will prove popular in the winter.

A cross country ski trail maintained by the Bushwackers, a group of Montevideo outdoor enthusiasts, already makes the park a destination for many in the winter.

The Bushwackers - a Montevideo-based group of outdoors enthusiasts who groom ski trails - have also helped make the park a place to visit in the warmer months too. They’ve worked with the county to install a shelter and picnic area, large campfire ring, and playground equipment for children.

Slowly but surely - on what Williams describes as a shoestring budget - the county has been developing the 30-acre site into an attractive and increasingly popular park.  

A public waters access also makes it a popular destination for anglers and paddlers.

It’s all a far cry from the state of affairs here in 1997, when flood waters inundated much of the area. In the years following the flood, the county purchased and removed several flood-damaged homes in the area. It also worked - along with the Minnesota National Guard and Clean Up our River Environment - to remove junked cars, appliances and other trash that had been tossed in this river bottom area for years.

Now, visitors can hike a wooded trail under a canopy of oaks, maples and basswood, or enjoy the spacious grass and picnic area.

Williams said Jim Dahlvang, a Chippewa county commissioner and park board representative, first proposed adding camper cabins to the park. The immediate challenge was this: How to add structures in a floodplain?

The solution proved simple, thanks to Jamie Winters of Montevideo, who built both cabins for the park. They are built atop wheeled-frames, much like Ice Castle Fish Houses built in Montevideo. If flood waters threaten the park, the county can simply hitch up its camper cabins and pull them to higher ground.

The cabins are being offered on a first-come, first serve basis, at $50 a night. Reservations can be done in person or by phone at the Land and Resource office in the county courthouse building, 320-269-6231. Williams said in the near future it will also be possible to make reservations on the county’s website.

There is a fire ring and charcoal grill available outside of each camper cabin. There are porta potties in the park, but no water. Williams said future plans call for adding water and bathrooms in the park, and possibly, two more camper cabins.