DNR to open 2 new campgrounds

First sites at Minneiska Campground at Whitewater State Park open Friday, Aug. 25

The new Minneiska campground at Whitewater State Park—featuring 40 sites with electrical hookups, four non-electric tent sites, four camper cabins and three group camps—is ready to welcome its first visitors. 

The campground will have a phased opening.  About 25 percent of the sites will be available Friday and Saturday nights, Aug. 25 and 26, and the campground will fully open on Thursday, Aug. 31, in time for Labor Day Weekend. Reservations can be made starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 25.

The southeastern Minnesota park’s three group camps each have their own picnic shelters and share a modern restroom building, with showers and flush toilets.  One of the group camps can accommodate both RVs and tent campers. Two of the camper cabins also have tent pads, a feature not yet available at other Minnesota state parks.

“These new configurations make it easier for families and friends to stay together, even when they have different equipment needs,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails.

The new campground, which sits across Highway 74 from the park’s visitor center, will replace Gooseberry Glen campground, where flooding has been a recurring problem. In August 2007, flooding was so extensive that the park had to close for more than a year while damage was repaired.

“Minneiska” is the Dakota word for White Water.  According to story, the river used to run white in the spring time when the snow melt caused the water level to rise and reach clay deposits that once lined the riverbanks.  The clay made the water turn milky white.

“This $7.4 million project was entirely made possible with Legacy funds,” Rivers said. “It has both the amenities today’s visitors want, and it is a model of energy efficiency. A photo-voltaic array is expected to offset all of the energy use in the new campground.”

Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. A ribbon-cutting celebration for the new campground will take place on National Public Lands Day—Saturday, Sept. 30.

Vermilion Ridge Campground at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park partially opens Sept. 12

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Vermilion Ridge Campground will open at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota’s newest state park. Beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6, campers can make reservations for arrivals Sept. 12 and later, just in time for fall color.

The campground has 33 campsites with electricity and Wi-Fi, three large group camps with screened picnic shelters and modern shower buildings, designed with a focus on energy efficiency and a light carbon footprint.

“As you drive into the park, you’ll notice a new style of signs, a new style of buildings that incorporate local stone and better Wi-Fi connectivity than at any other Minnesota state park,” Rivers said. “These are examples of what makes this a ‘next-generation’ park.”

Visitors to this northern Minnesota state park will have access to the Armstrong Bay picnic area, the Mesabi Bike Trail and a new boat ramp that provides access to Lake Vermilion. Tours of Soudan Mine will run daily through the end of September and weekends in October through the annual Education Minnesota conference (Oct. 19-22).

The $7 million campground project was primarily funded by state bonding dollars.

The park is still a work in progress. Although most campsites will be open for fall camping, some will have to wait until spring, after grass and landscaping have had more time to become established.  Hiking trails and additional camping capacity will be added in the next phase of development.

Saturday, Oct. 21, will be the last night to camp at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in 2017. The campground will reopen in May for the 2018 camping season. The DNR anticipates a grand opening celebration in May as well.

Make reservations online or by phone

Camping reservations are required at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Reservations can be made up to one year in advance by visiting the DNR website on the reservations page or by calling 866-857-2757.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).