Big Bog State Recreation Area

Snapshot virtual tour

Welcome to the Big Bog State Recreation Area virtual tour! In this journey you'll peek inside the visitor center. We hope it prompts you to visit the recreation area in person sometime soon.

Photo of the visitor center and office.


Visitor center and park office

Big Bog State Recreation Area was established in 2000 as a result of a grassroots effort to boost the Waskish area economy following the collapse of walleye fishing on Red Lake. With its proximity to Upper Red Lake offering the potential for world-class fishing and the presence of the largest patterned peatland in the lower 48 states, the Big Bog State Recreation Area was an excellent addition to the Minnesota state park system. The visitor center is located in the southern unit of the park.

Photo of the interior of the visitor center and interpretive exhibits.


Visitor center interior

The visitor center was completed in 2011. Visitors are greeted by friendly staff at the front counter where they can request information, register for a campsite, or make a Nature Store purchase. The exhibit area is filled with information about the plants, animals and fish found in the Big Bog and Upper Red Lake. The floor features a stunning aerial view of the Big Bog.

Photo of the renovated, 100 foot fire tower.


Observation tower

As a result of the devastating fires that swept across the Big Bog in the 1930s, fire towers were erected on Ludlow Island and here on the Tamarac River. The fire tower that currently stands in the park was built in the same year and style as the tower that was originally located near site 1 in the campground. This tower was moved from Pine Island State Forest, renovated, re-constructed, and opened to the public in 2011. Visitors are welcome to climb the stairs of the 100 foot tower during regular visitor center hours.

Photo showing the view within the top of the fire tower.


View from the top

An incredible view can be experienced from the cab of the fire tower: you can see miles of blue water on Upper Red Lake to the west; Highway 72 heads to Baudette in the north; ovoid islands of spruce and tamarack trees poke up from the Big Bog to the northeast; trees line the Tamarac River to the east; and Highway 72 runs south to Kelliher. A camera on the tower's west side sends a live feed to a kiosk in the visitor center for those who are unable to make it to the top.

Photo of a boat launch that provides access to the Tamarac River.



The campground, located on the Tamarac River, has 5 non-electric sites and 26 electric sites. The electric sites have both 30 and 50 amp service. A convenient shower / restroom facility and fish cleaning house are located in the center of the campground. A boat launch and numerous docks along the river are available for visitor use. Most campers leave their boats in the water during their stay. The campground is also within walking distance of the visitor center and swimming beach.

Photo of the shoreline of the Tamarac River.


Tamarac River

The Tamarac River is a slow-moving river that begins in the bog and flows into Upper Red Lake. It is home to a variety of wildlife, waterfowl, and fish. Many campers enjoy fishing from the docks. Forgot your pole? Stop by the office to check one out for free!  Want to get out on the water? Rent a canoe or kayak and enjoy a peaceful trip on the river as you follow the twists and turns that trace a historic trade route of the Native Americans and early European settlers.

Photo of one of the camper cabins, some large enough to offer space to sleep six.


Camper cabins

Big Bog has five camper cabins that are available year-round. Cabins 2, 3, 4, and 5 each sleep six, with two bunk beds (double on bottom and single on top), a table, ceiling fan, and a propane fireplace. Cabin 1 is accessible and sleeps five. Campers will need to bring their own linens. Each cabin also offers electricity, a screened-in porch, deck, picnic table, and fire pit. Vault toilets are located nearby. A family-style shower/restroom is located within walking distance at the visitor center and is available 24/7, year-round.

Photo of a family enjoying the beach.


Swimming beach

The beach is located within walking distance of the campground and cabins. A remnant of Glacial Lake Agassiz, Upper Red Lake is a shallow lake that warms up quickly and has a sandy bottom – perfect for children to splash and play in. Several sandbars exist before a gradual drop-off, so swimmers may find the walk out to deeper water as much exercise as swimming! There is a picnic shelter, picnic tables, and several fire pits located along the shoreline.

A view overlooking the river's mouth and visitor exhibits describing the area's history.


Old Marina Trail

Beginning at the north end of the parking lot, the Old Marina Trail follows a channel that was dug in the 1960s to provide river access to campers in that part of the campground. Camping was discontinued there in the 1970s following a severe storm that flooded the area. At the end of the 1/4 mile grass trail, an observation deck overlooks the mouth of the Tamarac River, historic fish hatchery buildings, the Hwy 72 Bridge, and the original Waskish town site. Interpretive panels at the observation deck share information about the area.

Photo of the picnic shelter offering a nearby pedestal grill, recycling station, vault toilets, and a self-registration visitor kiosk on Ludlow Island.


Northern unit picnic shelter

The northern unit of Big Bog State Recreation Area is located 9 miles north of the visitor center on Ludlow Island. This island is a high area found within the 500 square mile patterned peatland known as the Big Bog. It is also the last place in the lower 48 states to have had a woodland caribou herd. The picnic shelter shown here does not have running water, but does offer a nearby pedestal grill, recycling station, vault toilets, and informational kiosk with self-registration envelopes for vehicle permits.

Photo of Ludlow Pond, which offers a handicap accessible trail and boardwalk to explore.


Ludlow Pond Trail

The accessible Ludlow Pond Trail will take you to the start of the boardwalk. Ludlow Pond is the remnant of a gravel pit dug in the mid-1900s. This 17 foot deep pond is stocked annually with pan fish.  Bring a fishing pole, cast from shore, and try your luck at catching sunnies, crappies, and blue gills. This is also a great location to look for waterfowl, beaver signs, and moose tracks. Visitors may wish to pack bug spray for a walk around the pond or in the parking lot, but typically do not need it on the boardwalk.

Photo of the boardwalk entrance.


Boardwalk entrance

This accessible mile-long boardwalk allows visitors to experience the unique plant and animal life of the Big Bog first-hand. Wheelchairs and strollers roll easily on specially designed panels that allow vegetation to grow underneath. The boardwalk features several benches along the way to stop and enjoy the peacefulness of the Big Bog. The boardwalk is also the Hiking Club Trail for Big Bog State Recreation Area.

Photo of the Big Bog boardwalk, with visitor exhibits along the way.


On the boardwalk

Why hike the longest boardwalk in the United States? The Big Bog boardwalk sends you into a world that was once unreachable to visitors during the summer months. Step onto the boardwalk and view rare plants and wildlife found only in the bog. Visitors should be sure to stay on the boardwalk; a single footprint can leave an impression on the bog for many years. Interpretive panels along the way share unique bog features and where to look for them.

Photo of a sunny place to rest on the boardwalk trail.


Halfway There

This location is the boardwalk’s halfway point. Rest on the benches and enjoy both the view and the refreshing breeze that blows through the bog. An open area runs east and west here and is the remains of a judicial ditch dredged in an effort to drain the Big Bog in the early 1900s. This attempt to open the land for farming and provide access to islands of timber was never successful. Continue on down the boardwalk, the best is yet to come!

Photo of a free binocular viewer along with a thermostat that measures both the outside temperature on a viewing platform.


Boardwalk viewing platform

A breathtaking scene awaits visitors as they emerge from the spruce and tamarack forest into the open expanse of the Big Bog. From the viewing platform, look for ovoid islands, stunted spruce trees, and a huge sky. Visitors may enjoy a free binocular viewer and a thermostat that measures both the outside temperature and the temperature down in the bog. Which do you think is warmer or cooler?

Photo of tamarack trees along the Marsh Vista Trail.


Marsh Vista Trail

The Marsh Vista Trail is one mile long and starts at the south side of the parking lot. The first few hundred feet of the trail are shared with a snowmobile trail. This trail is narrow and uneven in places, so hikers should use caution. The first observation deck that hikers reach overlooks a pond that was originally created by digging for gravel. Today, the pond is home to beaver, waterfowl, and the occasional moose.

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