Park Info

Image of Fort Snelling State Park

Quick stats

3,711 acres
911,435 annual visits

Naturalist

Naturalist programs offered year round.

Wildlife

The forest bottoms and marshes are home to an abundance of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, fox, woodchucks, turkeys, and coyotes. 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.

History

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 1961. The swimming beach, added in 1970, remains a popular recreation attraction in the park. In 1997, a new visitor center opened to the public.

Geology

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.

Landscape

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.