Welcome to the Fort Snelling State Park virtual tour! Explore the shores of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, take a peek inside the visitor center, marvel at the views from overlooks, and admire the stonework in the historic fort nearby, trails, swimming beach and much more. We hope it prompts you to visit the park in person sometime soon.
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Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center
The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center sits atop a small grassy rise backed by forest. The visitor center is named for the man who helped establish, develop and protect the historical and natural resources found at the park. Open year-round, the visitor center includes interpretive exhibits, meeting rooms, modern toilets, vending machines and a gift shop.
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Visitor Center Patio
The wide open patio outside the visitor center looks out onto the Mendota Bridge. Visitors can relax here with a picnic, watch birds swoop through the feeding area, or study the prairie restoration area.
Visitor Center Interior
Inside the visitor center, a group meanders through the interpretive exhibits that detail the ecology and history of Fort Snelling State Park. Join one of the naturalist tours that start in the visitor center, available year-round.
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Trail below Mendota Bridge
Below the Mendota Bridge, the trail runs through a section of floodplain forest. Watch out for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, fox, woodchucks and turkeys as you hike or bike down the gravel surface.
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Trail below Historic Fort
A paved trail runs through the woods along the high stone walls of the historic fort. The fort was built in the 1820s above the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers to control exploration, trade and settlement on the waterways.
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A wide, sandy swimming beach runs along the east shore of Snelling Lake. This beach is handicapped accessible and manned by a lifeguard from Memorial through Labor Day, making it the perfect family-friendly place to enjoy a beautiful summer day on the water.
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Beach facilities are set on a brick patio near the swimming beach on Snelling Lake. Facilities include restrooms, showers, changing rooms and information boards, all open seasonally.
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Pike Island Point
Pike Island narrows down to a grassy point at the convergence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The Minnesota River, coming from the southwest, carries sediment and is a slightly muddier color than the clearer Mississippi River.
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Pike Island Point Shore
The sandy shore on Pike Island Point erodes quickly into the strong-flowing Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The Dakota Indians have long regarded this convergence of two great rivers as a sacred spot.
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Mississippi River from Pike Island
A bridge can be seen in the distance down this stretch of the Mississippi River that runs the length of Pike Island. In 1805, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike and his men camped near here as they explored the upper Mississippi.
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Bridge to Pike Island
The biking and walking path crosses the river on this small bridge to Pike Island. The park maintains both paved and gravel biking and hiking trails, as well as paths designated only for hiking.
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Below Pike Island Bridge
Below the Pike Island Bridge, the grassy banks of the river lead up to the floodplain forest. Though the park is nestled amidst city freeways and airport flyways, visitors can always find quiet and scenic spots like this to enjoy Fort Snelling State Park. Look for beavers, herons, egrets and river otters along the shoreline.
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Historic Steamboat Landing
A group of students learns about fish and water quality from a park naturalist at the historic steamboat landing along the Mississippi River. In 1823, "The Virginia" became the first steamboat to travel this far up the river, bringing supplies and other goods to the soldiers stationed at Fort Snelling.
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Snelling Lake Boat Ramp
Framed by dense woodlands, a wooden dock is set next to the concrete boat ramp on Snelling Lake. The lake is open to non-motorized boats only. The boat ramp is the perfect place to launch a canoe—which can be rented at the park office—for a day on the beautiful Snelling Lake.
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River Boat Ramp
Under the Mendota Bridge, a wooden dock runs out from the concrete river boat ramp that runs into the Minnesota River. In 1819, Colonel Leavenworth set up temporary camp here to house the men sent to build Fort Saint Anthony on top of the bluff.
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Wild prairie grasses and flowers spread out across the plain with the Mendota Bridge in the distance. For 30 years, this area had been used as a dumping ground. It is now being restored to the native wetland with help from funds generated at the Fort Snelling Nature Store.
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Picnic Island under Mendota Bridge
The Mendota Ridge spans the distance across the Minnesota River to Picnic Island. The riverine environment here includes cottonwood, silver maple, ash and willow trees.
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The open picnic shelter here is set in a wide grassy area dotted by picnic sites. Picnic Island also has an enclosed shelter, which includes a fire pit and pedestal grill. Both shelters have electricity and are wheelchair accessible. Shelters can be reserved by calling the park.
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Forests line the Mississippi River shoreline on Pike Island. Look for snapping, soft-shelled and painted turtles basking in the sun along the river.
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Historic Park Overlook
A park visitor enjoys the view of the park at this overlook along Sibley Memorial Highway. From here, you can get a stunning view of Gun Club Lake, Quarry Island and the Minnesota River Valley. This landscape was formed 10,000 years ago when glaciers retreated over Minnesota, leaving thick moraine deposits that were carved out by torrential meltwaters into deep valleys.
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Gun Club Lake Portage
A series of steps leads down to the Minnesota River at the portage to Gun Club Lake. The beautiful, secluded lake can be enjoyed by canoe or kayak and can only be accessed via this portage.
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This long wooden fishing pier extends out into the shallow, spring-fed Snelling Lake. Located on the north shore of the lake, anglers can cast a line here for northern pike, largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, carp and other species of fish.
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Dakota Trail Access
A short tunnel runs under the rail line to the trailhead for the Dakota Trail, located below the historic Sibley house in Mendota. This multi-use trail offers stunning views of the Minnesota River and chances to see the diverse wildlife that inhabit the park.
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Bridge to Picnic Island
The elevated Mendota Bridge crosses the Minnesota River to Picnic Island. In the mid 1960’s, the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the river to create the Picnic Island you see today.
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Visitors to the park enjoy the beautiful winter landscape as they strap on snowshoes outside the Picnic Island Shelter. With a number of facilities open year-round, outdoor enthusiasts can participate in park-sponsored activities any season of the year.
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Winter Camping Event
Children and adults set up tents, build shelters, and learn the basics of winter camping at this event on Picnic Island. Year-round activities bring visitors to the park even in the middle of a Minnesota winter.
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Cross-country skiers traverse the groomed trails on this winter landscape of the park. Fort Snelling maintains 12 miles of groomed ski trails each winter.
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A group of snowshoers attend a class hosted by a certified instructor on a snowy winter day. Besides snowshoeing, Fort Snelling offers naturalist tours and outdoor skill-building workshops all year round.