112,715 annual visits
11,483 overnight visits
Although there is no naturalist on staff at this time, interpretive programs are presented occasionally. Stop at the park office for Junior Park Naturalist Booklets and self-guided activities.
A quiet hike on one of the park trails can yield a glimpse of a white-tailed deer, the sounds of bobolinks in the prairie, or the flight of a white pelican overhead. The wooded shoreline of Lake Shetek provides cover for white-tail deer, fox, mink, beaver, fox squirrels, muskrat, woodchuck and coyote.
Several wetlands in the park offer visitors an opportunity to view waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians. At Eastlick Marsh, interpretive signs and an observation deck with a spotting scope allow for close-up viewing and easy identification of coots, grebes, ducks, herons, and pelicans. Many species of waterfowl nest in and around the park in spring and early summer.
Long before European and American settlers appeared in the area, native people were in the Lake Shetek area in pursuit of bison. In the mid 1830s, European and American explorers such as Catlin, Nicollet, Prescot and Fremont explored the area associated with Lake Shetek.
The first white settlement occurred in 1856. Although its population varied, it probably numbered no more than 40 people at any one time. The settlement was located from Lake Fremont to Beauty Lake along the eastern side of Lake Shetek. Most of those who came during the 1856-1862 years did so because of Governor Ramsey's lenient land regulations.
Settlers were permitted to claim land after seven year's occupation if they cleared sufficient land for a farm. In 1862, the U.S.-Dakota Conflict occurred in the area where both settlers and Dakota Indians died.
Lake Shetek lies in the Coteau des Prairie ("highlands of the prairie") region of Minnesota, a geological area which separates the Minnesota River from the Missouri River watershed. Glaciers moved across this Coteau region many years ago. During the last stage of glaciation, this area was covered with deep deposits of rock debris called glacial till. Glacial till, which accumulated at the margins of the glacier, formed irregular hills and depressions called moraines.
Lake Shetek lies in the Altamont Moraine complex. Eventually, the climate warmed and the glaciers receded, producing swift rivers of meltwater which sculpted channels and formed outwash plains. Small landslides dammed meltwater channels and depressions which backed up water and eventually created Lake Shetek.
Before modern agriculture was introduced, most of the Lake Shetek area was a treeless prairie with hundreds of species of wildflowers and grasses. Today, a large portion of the 1,108-acre park consists of old fields and forests of oak, hackberry, basswood, elm, and ash. In an effort to restore the natural prairie, prescribed burns and invasive species control are used. Although it will take decades to even partially restore the prairie, progress is being made. Blazing star, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, vervain, sunflowers, and bottle gentian are a few of the showy wildflowers growing in the park.