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Minnesota’s least popular state parks for camping

These parks do not boast the same numbers as Gooseberry or Itasca, but they are still part of the large Minnesota state park system that hundreds of thousands of people utilize for things like camping, fishing, hiking.

If you want to avoid the crowds while taking in Minnesota’s nature, these were some of the least occupied state parks for camping this past summer, according to reservation data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (Each night of a reservation is recorded separately, so a 10-night stay counts as 10 reservations in this list.)

Franz Jevne State Park, Birchdale

Located on the Rainy River along the Canadian border between International Falls and Baudette, this park is one of the smallest in the state at just under 100 acres. Named after Birchdale attorney and pioneer, Franze Jevne, the park features a quiet environment good for fishing and hiking. The park saw a 12 percent decline in reservations this past summer from 173 in 2017 to 153.

Schoolcraft State Park, Deer River

Named after explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who charted the Mississippi River in the 1800s, this park is good for fishing, hiking and canoeing. Many migratory waterfowl also inhabit this park. It features 30 campsites and recorded nearly 600 reservations last summer, up 11 percent from 2017.

Monson Lake State Park, Sunburg

Popular among anglers seeking walleye, northern pike and bass and bird-watchers looking for white pelicans and herons, this 152-acre state park is located on the Monson and West Sunburg lakes. It offers a range of nature scenes, including wetlands, lakes and forests. With 20 campsites, the park saw 731 reservations this past summer, down 2 percent from 2017.

Carley State Park, Plainview

Flowers and fishing are the big draws to this 209-acre park nestled in a valley of the North Branch of the Whitewater River. It has a state-designated trout stream and places to admire bluebells and other wildflowers in spring. The park saw 830 reservations last summer in its 22 campsites, a 6 percent increase from the summer of 2017.

Kilen Woods State Park, Lakefield

Located along the Des Moines River, this park is good for anyone interested in bird-watching or flowers. It has the state’s largest population of prairie bush clover, a legume believed to exist in only 100 places in America. The park saw a decrease in summer camping reservations from 1,150 in 2017 to 973 in 2018.

Old Mill State Park, Argyle

Well off the beaten path in northwest Minnesota, it’s easy to see why 408-acre Old Mill State Park is overlooked. It offers a campground, hiking trails, a swimming area and a landscape as it was before settlers arrived. The old grist mill still gets fired up once a year to make flour. Its 1,000 reservations in 2018 was a 14 percent increase from the summer before.

Lake Maria State Park, Monticello

Attractive to backpackers and cross-country skiers, Lake Maria has secluded backpack-in and ski-in camping that features the challenge of rolling terrain. It is one of the few places you can visit that has “big woods,” a maple, oak and basswood forest that once covered part of southern Minnesota, according to Explore Minnesota. And it is home to the Blanding’s turtle, one of Minnesota’s endangered species. The park recorded 1,100 reservations in the summer of 2018, up 4 percent from 2017.

Lake Louise State Park, Leroy

Lake Louise State Park can lay claim to Minnesota’s oldest, continuous recreation area. The 1,176-acre park is located near the Iowa border, where a dam created a lake at the confluence of two forks of the Upper Iowa River. Facilities include winter and summer trails, a horse camp, a traditional campground and a swimming area. Its 1,100 reservations in 2018 was a 10 percent increase from 2017.

Fort Ridgley State Park, Fairfax

This historic park was the scene of the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 and is the state’s fourth oldest park. Along with rolling hills, forests and prairies, it also has a museum and historical tours. Campers will find good fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing. The park reported 1,300 reservations in the summer of 2018, a decrease of just 1 percent from the year before.

Upper Sioux Agency State Park, Granite Falls

The 1,280-acre historic park offers campers the unique opportunity to spend the night in a tipi. It is good for bird-watching and has horse and hiking trails. The park saw reservations drop from 1,600 in 2017 to 1,300 this past summer.