Sara Grover has been a naturalist at Whitewater State Park since 2006. Here are her picks for sights to see and things to do at the park.
Sara's pick: Inspiration Point
"One of my favorite places in the park is Inspiration Point, a beautiful limestone rock outcrop that overlooks the valley. It is the only overlook in the park where you cannot see any signs of civilization. When you stand on Inspiration Point on a quiet day, it's as if you've stepped back in time to witness the Whitewater Valley before European settlement."
Plan your day at the visitor center
Home of the park office and interpretive services, the Whitewater Valley Visitor Center should be your first stop. Park staff are ready to help you plan your visit and load you up on information.
There's even free equipment you can borrow and use while you're at the park – GPS units, birding kits, fishing kits and Kids' Discovery Kits.
Be sure to visit the Discovery Room, with nature-orientated displays, interactive exhibits and a bird-feeding station, where you can see bluebirds, cardinals, hawks and bald eagles.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Take a hike
Whitewater State Park offers a combination of easy, moderate and challenging trails that take you from down by the river to up along the bluffs. Two self-guided options are available – the Trout Run Creek Trail wanders two miles through the wooded valley, or, if you'd rather stay close to the water, the Meadow Trail provides an easy, one-mile walk along the middle branch of the Whitewater River.
If you're looking for a more strenuous hike (and a great view), try the Coyote Point Trail. Allow a couple of hours; the switchbacks can be more deceiving than they look!
Find a geocache
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS devices to search for hidden treasure caches.
As a Geocaching Checkpoint, Whitewater State Park has free GPS units to borrow, geocaching programs and training sessions – plus a friendly staff to offer helpful tips and hints. Stop by the Visitor Center for more information.
Try trout fishing
Take a stroll along Trout Run Creek and keep watch for brown and rainbow trout. The brown trout is the hardiest of the trout species and can live in the warmer waters of southern Minnesota where many other trout species cannot.
Each Sunday from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, join a park naturalist for a free trout-fishing program. All equipment is provided!
Pack a picnic
The park is sprinkled with several wonderful picnic areas, including the South Picnic Grounds, the beach and the Main Picnic Shelter, which was constructed in the 1930s by young men serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps.
With many options, you'll be sure to find the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat.
Nearby: Climb the fire tower
Video: A video timeline of Minnesota fire towers.
Built in 1933, the Elba fire tower was used regularly in the early years to detect fires. Today, the tower is used for recreation and education.
Open daylight hours April through October, it is located two miles from the park in the town of Elba. It is a hike to get to the base of the tower—there are approximately 500 uneven steps—which might be a challenge for some!
Click the image to see a 360-degree view from the top of the Elba fire tower in this video timeline of Minnesota fire towers.