FORT SNELLING STATE PARK
Located in the heart of the Twin Cities, this park offers extensive hiking, bike and ski trails that link to Minnehaha Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Canoe on Gun Club Lake, play golf, swim in Snelling Lake, or hike on Pike Island where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers converge. Interpretive exhibits and films on display in the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center give visitors a good background on the history and resources of the park and area. Trails also allow visitors to hike up to the historic Fort Snelling for a view of military life in the 1820s. This is a day-use only park; no camping is available.
The park is located in the Mississippi River Sandplains Landscape Region at the confluence of two great rivers, the Minnesota and the Mississippi. Most of the park is on the Minnesota River floodplain. The riverine environment hosts large cottonwood, silver maple, ash, and willow trees along the braided channels of the Minnesota River. Numerous picnic sites, a beach, and river and lake fishing invite visitors to enjoy the recreational opportunities offered by this historic and beautiful park nestled in the shadow of city freeways and airport flyways.
During the last Ice Age, retreating glaciers left thick moraine deposits over the bedrock in the area. As the glaciers melted, torrential meltwaters carved through the deposits to form the valleys of what are now the Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix rivers.
The forest bottoms and marshes have an abundance of wild life consisting of white-tailed deer, fox, woodchucks, badgers, and skunks. Visitors might also come across a fox snake which is almost identical in appearance to a rattle snake, but is not poisonous. Snapping, soft-shelled and painted turtles can be seen basking in the sun along the river or in one of the lakes.
For hundreds of years before Europeans arrived, generations of Dakota people lived in villages along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers that meet in Fort Snelling State Park. The river confluence was believed to be the place of origin and center of the earth by the bands of Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan Dakota, the "Dwellers by Mystic Lake." By the late 1600s, Europeans had visited the area. In the 1820s, historic Fort Snelling was built on the bluff above the two historic rivers to control the exploration, trade, and settlement on these waterways. The area was established as a state park in 1962. The swimming beach, added in 1970, remains a popular recreation attraction in the park. In 1997, a new visitor center opened to the public.