Go outside: Minnesota state parks are free on Saturday

Crow Wing State Park
The view of the Mississippi River from Chippewa Lookout in the Crow Wing State Park south of Brainerd, Minn.
Steve Kohls | Brainerd Dispatch via AP 2011

You have no excuse this weekend.

Too hot, too cold, too wet — nothing matters when it's National Get Outdoors Day 2017.

That means on Saturday, all 75 Minnesota state parks are offering free admission. Many of them have special events for the day, too.

If you've never been to a state park, that's on you.

Lake Vermilion State Park
A treetop view off a hiking trail in Lake Vermilion State Park.
Brian Bakst | AP 2013

Most of Minnesota's population is within spitting distance of a state park. Just take a look at the handy map from the Department of Natural Resources.

Even if you're without a car in the Twin Cities, you can hop on a Metro Transit bus or train to Fort Snelling State Park.

Cactuses take in the fall sun
Cacti in the sun at Blue Mounds State Park.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News file

State park entrance fees are increasing, so better take advantage of the free admission while it lasts.

Need more reasons to take advantage of our briefly free-of-charge natural spaces? Here you go:

• Better see the parks while they're still intact. It's getting warmer, it's raining more and wildlife is changing in unnatural ways. That's just a small piece of what climate change is doing to Minnesota.

• We've solved the Devil's Kettle mystery! And that still doesn't make the North Shore waterfall any less cool. When the Brule River splits and half of it drops 50 feet into a mysterious hole, it doesn't wind up in Narnia. It just resurges in the stream below. Still, it's worth a visit to Judge C. R. Magney State Park.

 Devil's Kettle waterfall
A photo of the Devil's Kettle at Judge C. R. Magney State Park.
Amy Meredith | Creative Commons via Flickr

• You can see a baby bison. Minneopa State Park near Mankato, Minn., welcomed a yearling bull to its bison herd this spring. Take a two-mile drive through the bison range, tucked in the Minnesota River Valley, and then check out the park's waterfalls (relevant side note: Minneopa loosely translates from Dakota to mean "water falling twice").

• There's a new water trail for your paddling pleasure. The Shell Rock River State Water Trail starts its 20-mile meander at Fountain Lake near Albert Lea, Minn. It passes through Myre-Big Island State Park, Glenville, Minn., and two wildlife areas, ending at the Iowa border.

• And we have two new campgrounds. One in the northeast, one in the southeast. The campgrounds at Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park and Whitewater State Park open this summer.

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