Jay Cooke State Park Snapshot Tour

Welcome to the Jay Cooke State Park virtual tour! In this journey you'll get low at the St. Louis River gorge, see up high from Oldenburg Point, and get a look down the Willard Munger State Trail. We hope it prompts you to visit the park in person sometime soon.

Photo of the Willard Munger State Trail in autumn. 1 of 33

Willard Munger State Trail

With more than 50 miles of recreation trails in the park, a visitor could explore the park for days without following the same trail twice. The Willard Munger State Trail runs through Jay Cooke State Park, providing a paved surface for biking, in-line skating, and walking. The 70-mile Hinckley - Duluth segment of the trail is now completely paved. More information about this trail.

Photo of the river gorge, taken from the river.
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River Gorge

One of the first things you notice when hiking the trails are the unusual rock formations. Nowhere else in the state is this type of rock exposed in such a large area. The Thomson formation is made up of slate and greywacke. Long ago, underground movements caused this formation to bulge and break, tilting the rock at 45-degree angles. Glaciers then deposited thick layers of red clay on top of the formation which would later be washed away by the river to expose the bedrock underneath. Wherever the red clay topsoil has not been eroded, it is almost entirely covered with brush and dense forests.

The rock formations, flowing river, dense forest, and abundant wildlife makes Jay Cooke State Park one of the premier natural attractions throughout the entire Midwest.

Photo of the River Inn, built in the early 1940s.
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River Inn

You are standing in front of the park headquarters building, called the River Inn. The building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps from company 2711 between 1939 and 1942. Most of the raw materials used to construct the buildings were from local sources. The stone was quarried from a site in Gary, Minnesota, approximately 12 miles from the park is constructed mostly of dark, local gabbro. It is believed that the buildings supporting beams and rafters were built from local white pine trees. Originally the River Inn was constructed with a kitchen, dining room, enclosed picnic shelter, and restrooms. In the early 1980s the kitchen and dining room area were converted into exhibits and offices today.

Photo of the famed swinging bridge, crossing the Saint Louis River.
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Swinging Bridge

Most famous of all the landmarks in the park is the Swinging Bridge. The bridge was designed by Oscar Newstrom and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The bridge is a 200-foot-long suspension bridge with a 126-foot span over the Saint Louis River, it is supported by four massive pylons consisting of reinforced concrete piers faced with native stone laid in a rustic design. The suspension cables are anchored in a solid rock ledge on the south side and in concrete anchorage on the north. Stone piers on either side of the bridge support walkways leading to the suspended section. Originally, 8" or 10" peeled cedar logs were used as approach railings and the bridge deck was constructed with 2" white oak flooring laid 1/2" apart.

Photo of the upper river gorge, located near Thomson Dam.
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Upper River Gorge

Located on the upper end of the park near Thomson Dam, this gorge was carved into the bedrock by thousands of years of erosion

Photo of the Jay Cooke State Park entrance sign.
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Jay Cooke State Park Entrance Sign

The entrance sign welcomes visitors to Jay Cooke State Park.

Photo of calm waters on the lake.
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Calm Waters

Calm waters invite paddlers and fishermen to spend a day on the water.

Photo of people crossing the swinging bridge on foot.
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Walking the Bridge

Excited visitors hustle across the famous swinging bridge, eager to start hiking the trails.

Photo of the swinging bridge over choppy water.
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Swinging Bridge

Originally built in 1934, this 200-foot-long suspension bridge is supported by massive pylons faced with native stone. The river below is swift and choppy.

Photo of the stone River Inn.
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The River Inn

The River Inn, built in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is constructed mostly of dark, local gabbro.

Photo of the water tower, built in 1936.
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Water Tower

This log-and-stone structure was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo of the picnic pavilion at Oldenburg Point.
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Picnic Pavilion — Oldenburg Point

This stone picnic shelter, a short walk from the St. Louis River, includes a fireplace and electricity. Grills are available outside.

Photo of the Grand Portage Trail from the water, taken in fall.
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Grand Portage Trail

Grand Portage Trail was used by voyageurs to maneuver around the rocks and rapids of the St. Louis River. The view from the trail on this autumn day includes the reflection of clouds and fall color in a serene stretch of clear, blue water.

Photo of the autumnal view from Oldenburg scenic overlook.
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Oldenburg Overlook

Oldenburg Point is located just down river from the main park headquarters and offers spectacular vistas of the Saint Louis River Valley. Here you can not only enjoy the view, but have your picnic lunch in the pavilion while you read the various memorial plaques and history of the park.

Once the leaves have changed colors in autumn, the same overlook showcases a yellow and gold version of the river valley.

Photo of granite Oldenburg Memorial.
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Oldenburg Memorial

The Oldenburg Memorial, a large granite boulder on a base of basalt stone, is a tribute to the memory of Henry Oldenburg from the people of Carlton County. The plaque mounted to the boulder recognizes Oldenburg as one of the people who made Jay Cooke State Park possible.

Photo of an 1887 headstone in Pioneer Cemetery.
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Pioneer Cemetery

Although some of the writing has eroded over time, names and dates are still legible on the headstones in Pioneer Cemetery. This one dates back to 1887.

Photo of fall colors behind  the swirling St. Louis River.
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Autumn Color

Trees and shrubs bursting with oranges, greens, and yellows surround the swirling St. Louis River.

Photo of dark, foamy water in the rapids.
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Wild River

Cola-colored water foams as it pours over ledges, sending up spray and drenching nearby rocks.

Photo of fall colors beyond the rapids.
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River Rocks

Here and there, water spills over crooked rows of rocks jutting across this shallow stretch of the river.

Photo of a family playing at the edge of the water.
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Jay Cooke State Park has many locations where visitors can hike down to the water's edge.

A woman poses for a photo at the edge of the rapids.
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Picture This

Picturesque Jay Cooke State Park offers countless photo opportunities. Here's a shot of a man snapping a picture of a woman sitting on a rocky slope, with water cascading through a scenic bend in the river behind her.

Photo of the interior of the Interpretive Center at the River Inn.
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Interpretive Center

Visit the Interpretive Center at the River Inn to pick up a trail map and other information when you arrive, and check out the interpretive displays to find out more about the park.

Photo of a class underway in the interpretive center.
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Learning Fun

Jay Cooke State Park offers year-round interpretive programs that provide learning fun for all ages. Many of them begin here at the River Inn, where there is a fireplace at one end and plenty of seating at picnic tables and benches.

Photo of a camper cabin.
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Camper Cabin

Jay Cooke State Park has five camper cabins available for rent year-round. These rustic, one-room cabins have a screened-in porch, electricity, and heat

Photo of a family gathered around a campfire, toasting marshmallows.
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Marshmallow Roast

Camping opportunities at Jay Cooke State Park include drive-in sites for tents and RVs, plus a choice of walk-in and backpack sites. When the sun goes down, the campground is full of scenes like this, with families roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

Photo of a family sitting around their campfire.
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Tall Tales

A campfire can be enjoyed any time of day. Cook your breakfast, lunch, or dinner over the fire, or just sit around it with your family and friends, telling tall tales. Firewood is available at the park office.

Photo of a solo cross-country skiier.
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Skinny Skis

Jay Cooke State Park has 32 miles of cross-country ski trails to explore in the winter.

Photo of people crossing the swinging bridge.
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Visitors to Jay Cooke State Park will find plenty of adventure, from hiking across the Swinging Bridge to finding a geocache. The park loans out GPS units and instructs beginners how to use them to find hidden treasures in the woods.

Photo of a family seated at a picnic table.
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All Minnesota state parks offer free admission on the first Sunday in June. It's a great opportunity to check out a new park, have a picnic, and make family memories.

Photo of a family exploring the rocks at the side of the river.
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There is much to discover along the trails at Jay Cooke State Park. Pausing at a scenic overlook, this family appears to have spotted something interesting in the water below.

Photo of a pair of bicycle riders on the trail.
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Trail Riding

In addition to eight miles of paved bike trails like this one, Jay Cooke State Park also has 9 miles of mountain bike trails.

Closeup photo of a beaver-gnawed tree.
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Beaver Works

Here, a beaver has started chewing away at the trunk of a tree. Beavers are just one of 46 animal species at Jay Cooke State Park. The park is also home to 185 bird species and 16 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Photo of the St. Louis River under ice in winter.
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Winter Flow

During the winter, the St. Louis River does not completely freeze over, but ice and snow cover large sections of it.

Virtual Tours

Jay Cooke State Park home page

Legacy Amendment logo

This program is made possible by funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.