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Camp, picnic or hike in the great outdoors this summer

Whether you want to go fishing on freshwater lakes, swimming and sunbathing on sandy beaches, biking on miles of trails, horseback riding, birding, geocaching or sightseeing, there is a park in the area to meet your recreational wish-list.

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Kandiyohi County’s seven parks feature a variety of beautiful accommodations for a summer getaway.
West Central Tribune file photo
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When you’re looking for a place to “park yourself” for a picnic, a weekend getaway in a tent or a month-long stay in an RV, there are numerous state, county, community and private parks and campgrounds in west central Minnesota to meet the desires of every camping and outdoor enthusiast.

These parks are wrapped in — and around — the area’s diverse environment of lakes, woods and prairie landscapes, and draw people from all over the country.

Whether you want to go fishing on freshwater lakes, swimming and sunbathing on sandy beaches, biking on miles of trails, horseback riding, birding, geocaching or sightseeing, there is a park in the area to meet your recreational wish-list.

Kandiyohi County Parks

Kandiyohi County’s seven parks feature a variety of beautiful accommodations for a summer getaway.

Sitting on the edge of gorgeous fresh-water lakes ringed with mature native trees, the parks provide easy access to swimming, fishing, boating and stunning sunsets.

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Five of the parks have campgrounds, with space available to accommodate large recreational vehicles and cozy enough for tents and campfires to make family vacations complete.

The parks are located in different corners of the county and each park has a different topography and offers different amenities that provide unique experiences to campers and day-visitors.

Most of the county parks feature playgrounds, picnic areas, modern restrooms, camp stores, swimming beaches and boat accesses, to name a few of the popular amenities. The number of campsites vary at each park, as well as the number of campsites that have access to electricity, sewer or water.

The camping fees are different at each park, with seasonal and weekly camping rates available at most. For more detailed information about fees and amenities, call the individual parks or access the county’s website at www.co.kandiyohi.mn.us .

All reservations will be online at www.kcmn.us/departments/county_parks/index.php

Big Kandiyohi Lake County Park West is located on the west side of Big Kandiyohi Lake, 10 miles south of Willmar. The lake is known for northern, walleye, bullhead and crappie fishing year-round. In the spring of the year, the park is known for its excellent crappie fishing in the bay, next to the campground, which has 94 campsites. The park also has a swimming beach, camp store, modern showers and toilets, playground, boat access, picnic area, a shelter, camping pads, campsites with water and electricity, gas and a dump station. Call 320-995-6599 for more information.

Big Kandiyohi Lake County Park East is located on the east side of Big Kandiyohi Lake, 18 miles south of Willmar, or six miles north of Lake Lillian off County Road 8. The park, which has 80 campsites, has an excellent sandy swimming beach and access to shoreline fishing with walleye, northern, crappies and bullheads popular and frequent catches. The park has a beach, boat access, camp store, playground, picnic area, shelter, modern showers and toilets, campsites with electricity, gas, bait and a dump station. Call 320-664-4707 for more information.

Diamond Lake County Park is located on Diamond Lake’s western shore and has 60 campsites. It is located four miles north of Atwater, or 6 miles southeast of Spicer, on County Road 4. Diamond Lake is known for its lunker walleyes and scrappy northerns. The campground has sites with access to water, sewer and electricity, and the park also has a beach, boat access, camp store, bait, gas, playground, picnic area, shelter, camping pads, modern showers and toilets, and a dump station. Call 320-974-8520 for more information.

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Saulsbury Beach County Park is on the southern shore of Green Lake and located in the heart of the city of Spicer. It features a shady picnic area and popular swimming beach, with lifeguards on duty from 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. There are changing rooms and toilet facilities in the park and a boat access is located next to the park. There are no campsites at this park.

Green Lake County Park is on the northeast shore of Green Lake, a deep lake that’s popular for its clear water, good fishing and boating recreation. The park is located five miles north of the city of Spicer on Northshore Drive. The park has 61 campsites with camping pads, water, sewer and electricity available. The park also features a swimming beach, boat access, camp store, game room, playground, picnic area, shelter, modern showers, toilets, bait and gas. Call 320-796-5564 for more information.

Lake Carrie County Park is a small secluded park located on Lake Carrie, five miles southeast of Atwater on a dead-end gravel road off of Kandiyohi County Road 86. It includes a boat landing and large grassy parking area but no camping. The clear water of Lake Carrie is a popular spot for anglers.

Games Lake County Park is located on the east shore of Games Lake, which is part of the “Norway Lake Chain of Lakes” which includes 2,800 acres of water known for excellent fishing, including northern pike and bluegill. The campground has 56 campsites with camping pads, and access to water and electricity and five camper cabins. The popular park features a sandy swimming beach with lifeguards on duty from 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., a large picnic area, enclosed picnic shelters that can be reserved for events, game room, playground, modern showers and toilets, boat access, boat rental, bait, gas and dump station. Besides having typical services and camp accessories, this park store also features a restaurant with meals served all day. The park is 14 miles north of Willmar, or 9 miles northwest of New London, on County Road 5. Call 320-354-4453 for more information.

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State parks in the region offer a wide range of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, from horseback riding and camping to hiking, birding, fishing and trail riding. The equestrian campground at Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck is shown in this undated Tribune file photo.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Resorts

There are privately owned resorts, campgrounds and an RV campground in the region. Many offer cabins, camping, and boat and motor rentals at a variety of locations on lakes.

Information about what those businesses have to offer can be obtained by looking at their ads in this section or by calling the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 320-235-3552.

State parks

Reservations Required

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All campsites in Minnesota state parks and recreation areas now require a reservation before they may be occupied.

The park system recommends making reservations before leaving home because cellphone coverage and wi-fi can be unpredictable at some parks.

For spontaneous campers, there are same-day reservations with no reservation fees available whether you're booking your site from home, from the road or even from the park.

To reserve a campsite, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/stay_overnight/index.html

or call 866-857-2757 from 8 a.m to 8 p.m.

Permits

To visit the park, vehicles require a vehicle permit. Daily permits are $7 and annual permits are $35 and good at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

Fort Ridgely State Park

Located south of Fairfax, Fort Ridgely State Park features the Fort Ridgely Historic Site, several campgrounds, two picnic areas, fishing, 1930s-era historic stone buildings and 13 miles of hiking and horse trails.

The Fort Ridgely Historic Site contains the ruins of a military outpost. Built in 1853, it was used as a training base for Civil War volunteers and to provide protection during an influx of immigrants to the Dakota Territory. The fort came under attack during the U.S-Dakota War of 1862.

The fort was abandoned by the Army in 1867, fell into disrepair, and in the 1930s the Veteran Conservation Corp began restoring the buildings. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

The site hosts a museum and restored foundations that are managed by the Nicollet County Historical Society. The historic site grounds are open for self-guided tours and the museum is open Friday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The park also contains several graves and monuments connected to the U.S.-Dakota War at the Fort Ridgely Cemetery.

A paved, 7-mile bike trail connects the town of Fairfax to the park.

Camping: There are 33 drive-in campsites at the campground, including 15 electrical sites. There are also three secluded walk-in sites and one group campsite that are about 1,000 feet from the parking area. Water spigots and vault toilets are available, however there are no flush toilets or showers available in the main campground.

A horse camp has 14 sites, including 13 with electricity. Water is available at each horse campsite. The horse campground also has a modern toilet and shower building. Box stalls are available to rent.

A farmhouse that sleeps six people is available. A stone picnic shelter can be rented by the day.

The park is located at 72158 County Road 30, Fairfax, MN 55332.

For more information, call 507-426-7840 or email fortridgely.statepark@state.mn.us

camper cabin at Glacial Lakes State Park
A camper cabin at Glacial Lakes State Park is shown in this Tribune file photo.
West Central Tribune file photo

Glacial Lakes State Park

Tucked away in the quiet, rolling hills of Minnesota’s glacial terrain near the city of Starbuck, this park offers miles of hiking and horseback trails, swimming and fishing in the cool, clear water of Signalness (Mountain) Lake, Kettle Lake and Baby Lake — which are known for their panfish.

Stand on top of the scenic glacial hills and experience the vast, open prairie which once dominated Minnesota. Wildflowers and prairie grasses blanket the landscape from spring through fall.

A shady, spacious campground is available; horseback riders and backpack campers can camp at the horse camp and at remote sites. A picnic area deck overlooks Signalness Lake.

The park is located five miles south of Starbuck

Camping: The main campsite is located on Signalness Lake. It has 37 drive-in sites, 14 with electricity, and access to modern restrooms. There are two seasonal camper cabins and four year-round camper cabins.

The park has four walk-in or backpack campsites scattered throughout the park for quiet and remote camping. Some of the sites involve a short hike of one-tenth of a mile, to one remote site on Baby Lake that can only be accessed by making a 2½-mile hike.

The horse camp has eight sites. A horse trail pass is required for every rider 16 years and up.

The Southeast Group Campsite, which can accommodate up to 50 people, has a picnic shelter with lights and outlets, space for tents, small trailers and campers.

The park has rowboats, canoes and kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards available for rent in the summer.

The park is located at 25022 County Road 41, Starbuck, MN 56381

For more information, call the park at 320-239-2860 or email glaciallakes.statepark@state.mn.us

Lac qui Parle State Park

Lac qui Parle State Park is a bird-lovers’ paradise with thousands of migratory Canada geese and other waterfowl using the area as flight stop-over. The park, near the city of Watson, is located alongside the 33,000-acre Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, with Marsh Lake serving as an important nesting area for the white pelican.

Lac qui Parle is the French translation for “lake that speaks,” which is the name the Dakota Indians gave to the lake, perhaps because of its large bird population that creates a chorus of honking and quacking — especially during spring and autumn.

The park isn’t just for the birds, however. Lac qui Parle Lake is known as one of the state’s best walleye fishing lakes. Paddle the lake or cast a line and catch walleye, northerns, perch or crappie; explore one of the trails by foot or horseback; and visit the historic Fort Renville and Lac qui Parle mission sites.

Camping: The 30-acre upper campground has 43 camping sites, including 37 with electricity and nine that have electricity, water and sewer hook-ups.The lower campground has 24 sites with electricity at 21 sites.

Tent camping is available throughout the park. There are three walk-in sites that offer more secluded, primitive camping.

There are three seasonal camper cabins with electric heat.

A modern shower building with toilets is available.

There are two rustic group campsites for tent camping only that can each accommodate up to 50 people. There is no electricity and no modern toilet facilities at the group camps.

The park has a swimming beach, boat access, hiking trails and horse trails and several beautiful pieces of native prairie.

There are several significant historic sites attached to the park, and the park itself is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The park is located at 14047 20th Street Northwest, Watson, MN 56295

For more information, call the park at 320-734-4450 or email lacquiparle.statepark@state.mn.us

Monson Lake State Park 

Located in the northeast edge of Swift County south of the small town of Sunburg, Monson Lake State Park offers a quiet get-away and a popular fishing spot.

Anglers look for walleye, northern pike, bass, sunfish and crappies in the water of Monson Lake. Bird lovers are drawn to the same, quiet lake to observe pelicans, herons and western grebes. The small park offers a gentle reprieve amidst towering hardwood trees.

This is a historic site of the Dakota Conflict of 1862 and was created as a memorial park. The interpretive signs offer visitors an opportunity to discover the stories that took place on site from early settlers to Veterans of WWI who built the park.

Camping: There are 20 drive-in sites, including six electrical sites. A modern shower building with toilets is available.

The park is located at 1690 15th Street Northeast, Sunburg, MN 56289

For information about Monson Lake State Park, call 320-354-2055 or email monsonlake.statepark@state.mn.us

Sibley State Park

Sibley State Park, located off U.S. Highway 71 west of New London, is one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks. Situated on nearly 2,500 acres of rolling hills and lakes, the park encompasses some of the region’s finest glacial topography.

Mount Tom — one of the highest points in 50 miles — provides a breathtaking vista of the park and neighboring lakes and farms. Naturalist programs, recreational facilities, biking, horseback riding and hiking trails let visitors explore the park’s beauty.

The Interpretive Center offers three exhibit rooms, a wildlife observation deck, a big screen auditorium, and a trail center. Visit the DNR web page to see what naturalist programs are being offered. They are free to the public.

During the summer months, naturalist programs are offered throughout the week with highlighted hikes, Junior Park Naturalist and evening programs on most Friday and Saturday nights.

Camping: There are a total of 132 drive-in sites at the park. The Lakeview campground, which is close to the shores of Lake Andrew, has 74 sites with 53 having electric hook-ups.

There are 34 electric and 24 non-electric sites at the Oak Ridge campground, located in a combination of wooded hills and grass prairie settings.

Both campgrounds have modern bathrooms.

There are four camper cabins in the park. Three cabins sleep six and the fourth, handicapped-accessible cabin, sleeps five. The year-round cabins feature built-in tables with benches, electrical heat and lights, screen porches, and both an outdoor picnic table and fire ring. Remember to bring your own bedding; cooking via coffee pots and crock pots is allowed inside the cabin.

A separate horse camp offers nine sites. Three group camps for tents only.

The park is located at 800 Sibley Park Road Northeast, New London, MN 56273.

For information about Sibley State Park, call 320-354-2055 or email sibley.statepark@state.mn.us

Upper Sioux Agency State Park  

A popular destination for those who appreciate the beauty of the Minnesota River Valley, the 1,280-acre park south of Granite Falls offers 18 miles of hiking trails and 16 miles of horseback trails over open prairie knolls, bluffs and cool, wooded slopes.

Canoeing, fishing and wildlife observation are other popular summer activities. A shelter in the main picnic area has electricity, tables and a grill. Another picnic area is located at the confluence of the Minnesota River and the Yellow Medicine River.

The Upper Sioux Agency State Park, which contains the site of the Upper Sioux or Yellow Medicine Agency, was established in 1963 to preserve and interpret the remains of the old Agency site.

Camping: The Yellow Medicine Campground has 34 sites, including 14 with electricity.

There are three walk-in sites along the Yellow Medicine River and three teepees, including one that’s fully painted.

A modern shower building is available at this main campground.

The former Riverside Campground is now a rustic backpack/watercraft campground with three sites available for reservation.

There is a separate horse campground with 45 sites.

The park is located at 5908 Highway 67, Granite Falls, MN 56241.

For more information, call 320-564-4777 or email uppersiouxagency.statepark@state.mn.us

Donna Middleton started working at the West Central Tribune in 1975 and has been the news assistant since 1992. She compiles the arts, health, farm and community page calendars, as well as rewrites and works on the special sections.
She can be contacted at dmiddleton@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4341.
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