46,776 annual visits
9,846 overnight visits
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.
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.
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.
Crow Wing is located in the far northwestern corner of the Anoka 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.
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.