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Lots to explore at state park Saturday

Some Douglas County families travel hundreds of miles to go camping.

But they can find plenty of outdoor fun in their own backyard - at Lake Carlos State Park.

This Saturday is a good time to check it out.

Lake Carlos State Park is having an open house on June 12. This is the one free day to come to the park without purchasing a vehicle permit.

Karin Wagner, coordinator of the event, said this is a chance for families to come and enjoy what the park has to offer.

The options are almost endless.

Wanda Swor of Carlos State Park said the park has 13 miles of hiking trails for campers to enjoy a walk or take in the park scenery.

It's also free to fish from shore and the park offers free fishing kits that include a rod and a small tackle box.

A newer addition to the park, Swor said, is the Visitor Center where a naturalist works year round and offers programs such as hikes, campfire programs and children-oriented activities. The naturalist will also discuss and answer questions campers may have.

Naturalist programs are usually held Wednesday through Sunday.

The park also offers a "geocaching" activity that uses GPS units to lead participants on a treasure hunt.

Kid discovery kits offering campfire songs and stories are available, along with pond life kits and bird watching.

There are also nine miles of horse trails for campers to enjoy. There is an extra cost of a $5 daily or $21 annual pass to use the trail. The money goes toward improving and maintaining the trails.

The daily vehicle fee of $5 will be waived during the open house. If you plan to visit often, you may want to consider purchasing a $25 annual vehicle pass.

There is also a $20 fee for non-electrical or $24 for electric campsite daily passes that must also be purchased to stay at a campsite at the park.

The park also offers a camper cabin for visitors without campers or tents to stay in.

The cabins have bunk beds, a table and are approximately 14 by 16 feet in size. The cabins also have heat, fan and electricity. The cost to stay in a camper cabin is $50 daily.

These passes can be bought in the park office that is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week until Labor Day.

New campers or campers unsure of camping rules should ask for park rules when entering the park.

Standard camping rules include but are not limited to keeping pets on a leash and attending them at all times, not gathering firewood in the state park and using firewood from a certified vendor.

Firewood can also be purchased at the park. Ensuring firewood used in the park is certified keeps harmful matter out of the park that could damage the park's environment, noted park leaders.

Another part of this Saturday's open house is "K.I.D. F.U.N." - Kreative Ideas Designed For Understanding Nature. It's a program that's working toward bringing more playground equipment to the park.

K.I.D. F.U.N. volunteers will help with the activities during the open house. Brenton Engineering is also helping with the open house by donating the use of its grill.

A free-will donation picnic will take place during the open house. The money will cover the cost of the food and any extra money will go into funding a playground for the park, noted Wagner.

There will be refreshments, games, programs and other activities during the open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but guests are welcome to stay after programs.

Scheduled events include:

10 a.m. - author visit from Chris Niskanen, Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota's State Parks. On-going book signing and questions-and-answers from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

10 a.m. - naturalist program, geocaching demonstration, for all ages at the Interpretive Center.

11 a.m. - welcome at the Interpretive Center.

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. - free-will donation picnic lunch. Food served while supplies last. Served by Brenton Engineering employees.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - pontoon rides and youth fishing, courtesy of Lake Carlos Marina.

11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. - geocaching demonstrations.

Noon to 3 p.m. - kayak lessons.

Noon to 2 p.m. - music by Ken Meyer at the Ampitheater.

Noon and 2 p.m. - interpretive plant hike by Eric Enberg (for all ages).

12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. - beekeeping demonstration.

1 p.m. - "Nesting Birds: Who Lives Here?" by Alex Watson, state park naturalist.

1:30 to 3 p.m. - old fashioned games, courtesy of Liberty Live Wires 4-H.

3 p.m. - marshmallow roast and campfire songs.

For more information about Carlos State Park call (320)-852-7200.