New underwater-themed geocaching challenge begins on Earth Day

A new geocaching challenge called the Aquatic Quest, which focuses on plants and animals that live in Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and ponds, is being offered by the Department of Natural Resources.

“Geocaching has been an effective way for us to connect people, especially kids, with the outdoors,” said Jennifer Conrad, interpretive services supervisor for
the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Not only will this new treasure hunt be fun, it will also help demonstrate that, beneath the surface, Minnesota’s waters are flowing with interconnected life forms.”

As part of the challenge, camouflaged containers (aka “geocaches,” or “caches” for short) have been hidden at 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas (at all of them except the St. Croix Islands State Recreation Area) and at eight state trails. Geocachers will have until Oct. 31, 2020, to find as many caches as they can. Finding the caches involves entering numeric coordinates into a GPS (Global Positioning System) device, which shows how far away and in which direction to go to get started on the treasure hunt.

The clues (aka “coordinates”) to finding the containers will be posted online at 8 a.m., Sunday, April 22, which is Earth Day.

People who don’t have their own GPS device can borrow one from one of the many Minnesota state parks designated as a geocaching checkpoint. The checkpoint parks will also offer Geocaching 101 programs to provide instructions for beginners.

Upcoming Geocaching 101 programs will be offered:

  • Saturday, April 21, from 1 to 2 p.m., Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, Onamia.
  • Saturday, May 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul.
  • Saturday, May 26, from 9 to 10 a.m., Afton State Park, Hastings.

Inside each cache is a logbook and a set of collectible cards featuring color photos of aquatic plants and critters. Cache finders are encouraged to sign the logbook and take one of the cards as a souvenir of their visit.

Geocachers can earn a special “habitat” card after finding 10, 20, 40, 60 and all of the cards. They also can pick up a limited-edition water recreation card (one each year) when they attend a geocaching or water-themed program at Minnesota state parks and trails.

The Aquatic Quest is the fifth in a series of geocaching adventures that have been offered at Minnesota state parks and trails. Previous adventures included the Call of the Wildflowers (2015-2017), the Avian Adventure (2012-2014), the Wildlife Safari (2009-2011), and the History Challenge presented by the retailer Best Buy (2008).

More than 11,000 people reported finding a Call of the Wildflowers geocache in 2017, Conrad said.

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/geocaching or 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. Saturdays).