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Minnesota State Parks

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USA Parks
Heartland Region
Crow Wing State Forest
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Roasting hot dogs over an open fire.
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3124 State Park Road
Brainerd, Minnesota   56401

Phone: 218-825-3075
Toll Free: 888-646-6367
Reservations: 866-857-2757
Email: park email button icon
This is a nature lover's delight. Explore prairie, pine, and hardwood forests. View the Mississippi River from historic and picturesque "Chippewa Lookout." Novice canoeists can paddle the calm waters of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers. Crow Wing is a park rich in cultural history. In this area, a frontier town emerged to serve the needs of travelers and traders. The town died when the railroad chose to cross the river at Brainerd. Walk through the site of the Old Crow Wing Village for a sense of history. The park still has a section of the famous Woods Trail, which served ox cart traffic that carried supplies between St. Paul and the Red River settlements.
Nature of the Area
Original vegetation included oak forests and barrens interspersed with pine and prairie openings. Conifer bogs and wet prairies occupied the depressions in the region's landscape. Today, visitors experience an oak forest, aspen, jack, red pine, white pine, prairies, and wetlands.

Crow Wing is located in the far northwestern corner of the Mississippi River Sand Plains region. This region was formed by the drainage of the glacial Lake Grantsburg. As the lake drained, the meltwaters formed a series of coalescing outwash plains wherever the ice exposed low ground. In this way, the vast sandplain was formed, also receiving water from the diverted Mississippi River. Small lake plains were formed here, in addition to the outwash plains of Lake Grantsburg.

Park visitors enjoy seeing white-tailed deer browsing at the forest edge; beaver, muskrat, and waterfowl in the wetlands and waterways; and eagles and hawks flying along the riverway. The careful observer may catch a glimpse of a coyote or fox, while the ever-present songbirds add something special to a family outing.
History of the Area
There is some disagreement about the origin of the name Crow Wing. Most agree that the 19th century town, the county and the state park honored the name of the river. Some claim that the river was so named because an island, prominently located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers, is shaped like a crow's wing. Others claim that the name is a mistranslation of an Ojibwe word for raven or raven feather. Still others say that the name is derived from the Little Crow chiefdom and lineage of the Dakota, who inhabited this region before the Ojibwe. According to historian William Warren, this was the scene of a major battle between the Dakota and Ojibwe Indians in 1768. The fur trade era brought the voyageurs of the Northwest and American Fur Companies. Soon traders established posts along the rivers and a branch of the Red River Trail brought ox carts through the area. Leaders of the territory and the state settled here. Allen Morrison, the first citizen of Crow Wing, established a post below the southern mouth of the Crow Wing River in 1823. In 1847, Clement H. Beaulieu took over operations of the American Fur Company at Crow Wing and built a stately mansion in the frontier village. This Greek Revival structure survived the ages. It has recently been returned to its original location and is presently being restored. Missionaries came to teach the Indians and build mission churches. The cemeteries remind us of the once thriving community.
1. Crow Wing State Park: This park offers 59 drive-in campsites, with amenities like picnic tables and fire rings at each site.

2. Whitefish Lake Campground: Located within the state forest, this campground has primitive camping sites available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

3. Greer Lake Campground: Another option in the state forest is this rustic campsite which also operates on a first-come-first-served policy.

4. Crosslake Recreation Area & Pine Ridge Campgrounds: These are located near but not directly inside of Crow Wing State Forest; they offer RV hookups as well as tent:only areas for more traditional camping experiences.

5. Breezy Point Resort's High Village RV Park: Also nearby to Crow Wing State Forest, it provides full:service hookup options for those traveling by recreational vehicles or trailers.

6. Backus Minnesota DNR Forestry Office Primitive Camping Sites: They have several dispersed campsites throughout their property that you can use free of charge if you obtain permission from them beforehand.

7. Crow wing lake camp ground: It's an excellent place to enjoy fishing and boating activities along with your stay.
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1. Spider Lake Trails: This 29-mile trail system is a popular choice for hikers, offering various loops and paths through the forest's dense woodland areas. The trails are well-marked with difficulty levels ranging from easy to moderate.

2. Hiram Trail: A moderately challenging hike of about 7 miles round trip that takes you deep into the heart of Crow Wing State Forest along an old logging road.

3. Foot Hills State Forest Loop: An approximately 10-mile loop trail located near Backus, Minnesota in Crow Wing County featuring beautiful wildflowers during spring and summer months.

4. Bull Moose Trail: It's a relatively short but scenic hiking route within this state forest which spans around three miles long where visitors can enjoy bird watching activities as they traverse its path.

5. Pine River Overlook Trail: Located on the eastern edge of the park, it offers stunning views over Pine River Valley below; especially breathtaking during fall when leaves change colors.

6. Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Walking Path: Although primarily known as driving routes these byways also offer walking opportunities alongside picturesque landscapes including lakeshores forests farmlands wetlands hillsides prairies vineyards orchards etc., making them perfect options those who prefer leisurely strolls rather than strenuous hikes.

7. Old Military Road Historic Site Walk: This historic site has interpretive signs detailing history while providing pleasant walk among towering pines hardwoods overlooking Mississippi river valley area.

Nature Programs
The best way to learn more about Crow Wing State Park is to stop at the contact station for a map and information about park. Although the park does not have a naturalist on staff, activities are offered occasionally. Especially for Kids: No matter what time of year, kids can participate in several programs to discover more about the natural world. Become a Junior Park Naturalist! It's a free program that includes activity books, tips for observing plants and animals, and an opportunity to learn about the people and history of an area. The Junior Park Naturalist program is a fun learning experience for kids ages 7-14. To obtain a booklet, stop in at any state park office or visitor center. Great Explorations: The Park Explorer Series takes kids a step beyond the Junior Park Naturalist activities. Park Explorers complete more in-depth activities in three easy-to-follow booklets that center on nature, history, and the geology of Minnesota. Kids earn points toward their official Explorer patch. Park Explorer activity books are sold at Minnesota State Park Nature Stores and park offices.

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Area Campgrounds
Highview Campground & RV Park
11090 Old County Road 39
Breezy Point, MN

From Brainerd go 9 miles south on U.S. Highway 371. Then west at County Road 27 for one mile west to the park office.

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Minnesota State Parks