Hiking, biking, history, trout fishing, picnicking, camping, horseback riding, even golfing. . . Fort Ridgely State Park has something for everyone. "People can pretty much pick the experience they want," says park manager Mark Tjosaas.
Seasonal Adventures Summer brings a spectrum of outdoor opportunities. Anglers fish for rainbow and brown trout in Fort Ridgely Creek, which runs alongside the campground. Bicyclists pedal the new 6.3-mile paved trail to visit the Fairfax Historical Depot Museum. Riders and their mounts relax at the horse campsite after a day riding along the bluffs. Winter visitors may ski, snowmobile, or rent a tube for a day of fun on the park's superb sliding hills.
Fun Fact As a "Discovery Park," Fort Ridgely offers discounted camping. The camping fee at this park is $15/night (other parks charge $18).
History The fort that gave this park its name figured prominently in the U.S.—Dakota War of 1862. Visitors can learn the history of the site at an interpretive center maintained by the Minnesota and Nicollet county historical societies. Fort Ridgely State Park was established in 1911. Civilian Conservation Corps workers built a number of structures there in the 1930s.
Archaeology An archaeological survey being conducted in preparation for this summer's golf course renovation has turned up cannonball fragments and other spent ammunition from the 1862 war, as well as fort foundation remains and evidence of early American Indian campsites.
Nature Fort Ridgely's glacier-carved terrain provides a backdrop for a smorgasbord of habitat types. The oak savanna attracts deer, turkeys, and a variety of birds. Hawks and eagles soar above the wooded creek ravine. Bull and garter snakes sleep in the sun along the river bluffs. In August, blooming blazing stars, black-eyed Susans, and coneflowers attract numerous butterflies to the park's restored prairies.
Surprises Visitors are often astonished to find a nine-hole golf course here. Alcohol and carts aren't allowed—but dogs and children are. Closed in 2006 for renovation, the course will gain interpretive signs for players to learn natural and cultural history along the way. Convenient rental clubs in a range of sizes and a single daily fee offer golfing fun for all comers.
Insider's Favorite Park manager Mark Tjosaas enjoys hiking to the overlook atop Airplane Hill, where he sometimes finds himself looking down at hawks soaring over the creek below.
Something New A new horse campground opened this spring. Addition of a rental cabin is planned for 2007.
For more information see www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/fort_ridgely or contact the DNR.