Weather Forecast


Free admission to Minnesota state parks this Saturday

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is celebrating National Get Outdoors Day by offering free admission at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on Saturday, June 8. Many special programs will also take place at parks that day.

Families uncertain about which Minnesota state park or trail to visit will find a new trip-planning tool online: virtual tours. They feature 360-degree panoramic photos of 74 parks. The interactive photos allow viewers to pan right, left, up and down to see exactly what they would see if they were standing at that very spot in the park.

"The DNR conducted surveys and focus groups in 2007 to find out why people weren't getting outdoors more often," said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "One of the barriers the research identified was a lack of information. People specifically asked for more online trip-planning tools, such as virtual tours."

The Parks and Trails Division used Legacy funds to create the virtual tours, which can be found online at ( Additional virtual tours - to include five Minnesota state trails, five state water trails and the Minnesota River Valley region - will be online by the end of the month.

"The virtual tours will help us connect more people to the outdoors," Nelson said. "As soon as they see the beautiful panoramic photos of Minnesota state parks and trails, they will want to visit in person."

Free programs, also aimed at motivating people to visit Minnesota state parks and trails

on June 8, include:

A hands-on "Make Your Own Walking Stick" activity, 1 p.m., Whitewater State Park (Altura).

An "Amazing Get Outdoors Day Race" that involves solving puzzles to uncover clues to guide people through the course, 1-3 p.m., Itasca State Park (Park Rapids).

"Canoeing 101: A Beginner's Guide to Canoeing," 8-10 a.m., Lake Vermilion State Park (Soudan).

"Make-and-Take Mini Binoculars," 10-11 a.m., Interstate State Park (Taylors Falls).

Fly-fishing workshops with representatives from the Fly Fishing Federation, Trout Unlimited, the St. Paul Fly Tiers and the National Park Service, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m., William O'Brien State Park (Marine on St. Croix).

An eight-mile "Two-wheel Tour," 10 a.m.-noon, on the Gateway State Trail (North St. Paul).

Archery in the Park, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Lac qui Parle State Park (Montevideo), 12:30-3:30 p.m. at Soudan Underground Mine State Park (Soudan), and 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at Jay Cooke State Park (Carlton).

Details about these and many other free programs can be found in the online calendar at

The goal of National Get Outdoors Day is to introduce first-time visitors to state parks, state trails, fishing piers and other public lands. In particular, it aims to reconnect youth - whose participation in outdoor recreation has been declining - to the great outdoors.