Summer of State Parks: Schoolcraft

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Summer can be a great time to slow down and enjoy all the Northland has to offer. Schoolcraft State Park is surely one of Minnesota’s most peaceful.

Located about 15 miles west of Grand Rapids, Schoolcraft sits along the banks of the Mississippi River.

"This park is named after Henry Schoolcraft, who was one of the original explorers of the Mississippi River watershed," Minnesota DNR Area Supervisor Jordan Schaefer said. "And the thought is that he camped somewhere in this section of the river."

Dale and Beth Englund were in town from Fergus Falls, Minn., when they saw a sign and decided to stop in.

"It’s amazing to see this beautiful place really underused," Dale said.

"Empty. But maintained," Beth added.

Schoolcraft is one of Minnesota’s self-service parks. No DNR staff work on site.

"As long as you’ve got your vehicle permits, you basically go straight to your campsite," Schaefer said.

There are 22 campsites, none of them with electricity or shower facilities. But Schaefer said people can typically make same-day reservations. There are no fees for same-day bookings online or by phone. Firewood is available on site.

"A lot of the other state parks are overbooked for months almost now and you can’t even get in," Dale Englund said. "To see an empty campground is amazing."

It also offers relaxing day trips. Schaefer said it’s a great spot for fishing, birding, and easy hiking on flat trails.

"You’re secluded, but you’re also close enough to home that you can come and spend 3-4 hours here and feel like you got away without actually leaving town and spending money," he said.

In fact, it may feel like you’re the only one in the 225-acre park, which features a white pine tree that is over 300 years old and nods to Minnesota’s logging history.

"It’s not very well known to even the local community. And part of the reason for that is the local community has so many places that we can go that this one tends to fall off the map a little bit," Schaefer said.

"It’s got big pines, got a nice little beach," Dale Englund said. "Got everything you’d need."