ZIPPEL BAY STATE PARK
After visiting Zippel Bay, you'll remember the sunsets, and the miles of white sand beach. The park is located on the shores of Lake of the Woods, one of the world's largest lakes. Because of its size, the lake freezes much later than most lakes and remains ice covered much later in the spring. In the spring hear the ice as it is stressed by wind and compression. During the winter, visitors will be treated to the intricate ice forms on rocks and the shore. The mood of the lake is always changing, from three-foot high crashing waves, approaching storms and lightening flashes, to an eerie stillness with faint sounds from a thousand raucous gulls, out of sight in the lakes interior. The 3,000-acre park offers a swimming beach on the big lake, a marina in Zippel Bay and stone jetty providing access to Lake of the Woods and safe passage off the lake. Watch for sandhill cranes and piping plovers. The park offers drive-in campsites and a group camp.
Zippel Bay State Park is located in a jackpine, aspen and birch setting along a two-mile sand beach shoreline of Lake of the Woods. The Lake, ocean-like in its size and moods, dominates the scene. Visitors standing on the fine sand beach of the park are 80 miles from the northern tip of the lake. The lake is 55 miles wide at its widest and varies in depth from 4 to 35 feet in the southern bays to more than 150 feet deep in northern areas. During June and July, four species of ladyslippers and many other orchids can be observed along the park's trails. Each year, visitors discover the park's blueberries, Juneberries, pin cherries, choke cherries, cranberries, wild strawberries and edible mushrooms. Deer and other wildlife can be seen in small clearings in the park.
The area in which the park is located was once covered by Glacial Lake Agassiz. The area includes extensive peatlands and sandy, mineral soil. The western end of the Red Lake Peatlands is perhaps the last pure wilderness remaining in Minnesota. The gently sloping topography throughout the park is interrupted by several abrupt slopes (old beachlines of Lake of the Woods) and by several prominent rock outcroppings. A beautiful view of Zippel Bay can be seen from atop the granite-like outcrop next to the boat harbor.
The park's location on the northern border of the state affords opportunities to observe an interesting variety of wildlife not common elsewhere in the state. Park wildlife includes coyote, black bear, mink, fisher, otter and pine marten. Timber wolves are occasionally seen or heard in the park. Deer are commonly seen and, on occasion, a moose is sighted. On the list for birdwatching are white pelicans, double crested cormorants, four species of terns and herring, ring-billed, Franklin's and Bonaparte's gulls. Bald eagles nest near the park and osprey can be seen in the Bay and along the lake. Sandhill cranes nest in the park and can be heard almost every day from spring to fall. In addition, the endangered piping plover may also be spotted along the beach front.
Evidence of prehistoric people has been found along the Rainy River, east of Zippel Bay and at other sites in the vicinity of Lake of the Woods giving indication of a long and varied history of human habitation of this region. When French Explorer Pierre Gaultier de la Verendrye explored the area in 1732, he reported that it was populated by Cree, Monsonis, Assiniboine and Dakota Indians. At that time the Ojibwe had not yet pushed westward. La Verendrye established Fort St. Charles in the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods and from this outpost managed the exploration work that eventually opened up the north and west to a tide of fur traders. When the fort was abandoned in 1763, the British laid claim to the area. The next 75 years became known as the golden age of the French-Canadian Voyageurs who traded in the region. In 1887, Wilhelm Zippel, one of the first white settlers in the area, took up residence on a point of land at the entrance to the Zippel Bay. By 1909, a small fishing village had grown up at the site. Little, if anything remains of the village today. In 1959, the Zippel Bay area was set aside by the state to provide lake access and recreational opportunities. Today the park contains 2,906 acres enjoyed by visitors who camp, hike, fish, cross-country ski and snowmobile in this peaceful and unique landscape.