Bucket list: Visit Frontenac State ParkMinnesota boasts 76 state parks spread out from the farthest northeast tip of the state to the lower southwest corner, but that doesn’t mean they’re all alike.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
OLD FRONTENAC — Minnesota boasts 76 state parks spread out from the farthest northeast tip of the state to the lower southwest corner, but that doesn’t mean they’re all alike.
Each has unique qualities based on the geology, wildlife and history of the area. Frontenac State Park sets itself apart primarily because of its location. Sitting along the Mississippi River and right on the Mississippi Flyway makes the park a perfect spot for more than 250 species of birds.
“We have more birds that nest here than any other state park,” park manager Harry Roberts said. “That is our claim to fame.”
In addition to being a birdwatcher’s paradise, Frontenac State Park can appeal to an abundance of other personality types. Exercise enthusiasts will find challenging paths to hike or run, botanists will have a range of wildflowers and plants to study, and the average camper can choose to pitch a tent under the stars or pull an RV into the grounds.
If you’re not looking to settle down and spend the night in the park, a quick picnic high above Lake Pepin can provide a quality outdoor experience in a shorter amount of time.
“We have tremendous scenic vistas up here,” Roberts said.
The 55-year-old Frontenac State Park spans 2,317 acres and features several bluff tops, one of which stretches more than 400 feet above the Mississippi River. Fourteen miles of hiking trails wander throughout the park, which Roberts said is average in size compared to others in Minnesota.
“A lot of state parks are in the 2,000 to 3,000 acres.”
Just like all other state parks, Frontenac State Park is open year-round and certain seasons tend to pique the public’s interest more so than others.
Summer gets a lot of attention as families travel with children while they’re briefly out of school. Although the number of visitors in July was low because of unusually hot temperatures, the interest returned in August when weather calmed down. According to Roberts, almost 200 cars came through Frontenac State Park last Sunday and slightly more than 200 visited on Saturday.
“Those are about average numbers for summer months,” he said.
Autumn, however, is the season that is no doubt the most popular.
“It’s busier because fall colors are a big thing in southeastern Minnesota,” Roberts said.
With burnt orange, golden yellow and deep red leaves covering chocolate brown trees and slowly falling onto grassy green grounds, it’s no wonder people flock to the park in September and October.
If someone is looking to enjoy the outdoors without running into crowds of other people, Roberts suggested stopping through on a weekday, which typically see a lot less traffic.
“It’s a good park for just relaxation that way,” he said.
Although people may sometimes be scarce, animals are plentiful — that’s a big part of why people enjoy the park.
“You always have a chance of seeing … a number of wildlife,” Roberts said, mentioning deer, turkeys, raccoons, eagles and pheasants, among other creatures.
Some of the park’s animals are less appreciated, such as timber rattlesnakes and daddy longlegs. Still, they offer little or no threat to visitors, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
Permits are required for entry into a state park or recreation area. Cost is $5 for a daily pass or $25 for 12 months.
“When you buy these permits they are good for all of our parks,” Roberts noted.