on January 15, 2013
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park 15066 Kathio State Park RoadOnamia, MN 56359HOWTO FIND THE PARKWe passed the sign many times before we decided to go and visit. If in the Mille Lacs area then Go to mile post marker #221 on US Hwy 169, about 8 miles north of Onamia. Watch for the Kathio Arrowhead sign and take County Road 26 for about a mile, to the park entrance. It is dead easy to find and well signedA BIT ABOUT KATHIO AND ITS NAMEThe area around the park is known as "Mille Lacs," a French term used by early explorers and fur traders, means "1,000 lakes.". However "Kathio" is said to come from the incorrectly written Izathys but the name Kathio stuck despite the fact it means nothing at all significant.PRICES AND TIMESThis is a State park NOT a National Park so the ‘America the Beautiful ‘ card does not work here. You can however usually buy a ticket which will allow you in any state park over a day which is worth it if you have a few you want to visit.The day pass cost us $5 for our car but anannual pass only cost $25 so well worth it if you lived locally.WHAT IS THERE?This is a natural reserve with camping facilities and lots of trails to explore.In the park there are 35 miles of hiking trails, 27 miles of horse trails which are Open from May 15 - October 31 and finally 2 miles of nature trails.There is a really tall viewing tower from which you can see for miles around.You can rent Canoes, kayaks and rowing boats in the summer which cost $10.00 for 4 hours or less and $20.00 for all day. In the winter months, cross-country skis can be hired for $10.00 per day and snowshoes for $6.00 per day.THE TOWERThis tower is pretty basic and was built as a fire observation tower but visitors are allowed to climb the tower when it is open. There is a padlocked metal gate to lock it when it is not open. It can be closed when it is windy, too heavy rain or in the ice and snow when it is dangerous to climb the steps and be up the tower.We climbed this 100ft tower and I have to say by the time we reached the top my legs were a bit wobbly. This was not an activity for those with a fear of heights as it is an open tower with ladder type of metal steps.Once you reach the top you get a pretty amazing view of the area around. You can see trees as far as the eye can see and a number of lakes including Mille Lacs Lake which is huge and looks like an inland sea from there.CAMPINGThere are two wheel chair accessible sites and these also have wheel chair accessible showers and toilets. The camp sites have varying levels of facilities and tend to be small and secluded. There are also five log cabins and one of these is wheel chair accessible. They all sleep 5 (wheel chair one) or six and have electricity and a screened porch. These are available for rent all year round.TRAILSThere are many trails in the park and one which is a mile long is along a board walk and is wheel chair accessible and begins at the visitor centre.Other trails vary from a mile and a half through to thirty five miles and other lengths in between. Each trail is well signed and there are different things to see along the way. There is also a horse trail which is closed in winter and apparently there are too many bugs around to be pleasant in summer.In winter there are separate snow trails for cross country skiing, snowmobiles and snow shoes which we didn’t experience as we were there in June.AND SO MUCH MOREAside from walking and those recreational activities mentioned before there are other possibilities such as forty different picnic sites, a playground near the lakeside where there is also a picnic area. There is a public access for canoes on the Rum River. In the summer there is also a swimming beach ( lake ) in the park. Nearby there is a golf course but this is not in the park but those camping there can make use of it for a fee.In winter there is a warming cabin at the visitor centre with a fireplace, picnic tables and toilets which is open daily during park hours which are from 10am till 5pm in winter.Also next to the visitor centre and the warming shelter is a sliding hill where youngsters can learn to sledge, or slide down in any way they want.There are also opportunities to ice fish in the lakes in and around the park and apparently there is huge town of wooden cabins out on the ice on Mille Lacs lake in winter all on the ice they call it ‘Frostbite city’.Part of me really wanted to see this city on the lake but another part of me was pretty relieved that we had warmth and sunshine rather than so cold it froze the lake. Perhaps we could fly in with a helicopter for just a short time and take a quick peek!WHAT MIGHT YOU SEE?The park has a variety of landscapes from rivers, lakes, and forest trails and from these different areas it is possible to spot a number of different animals from waterfowl, bald eagles, osprey, beaver, loons, deer, coyotes, and many others. THE VISITOR CENTREWithin this centre you can learn about the area and the people who have lived around Mille Lacs over the centuries. Originally the Dakota lived in the area but by the 18th century they were moving out and the Ojibwe moving in.The Ojibwe settled and enjoyed the wild rice, fish and water fowl in the area and indeed they must have enjoyed the area as their people still inhabit Mille Lacs today.In the 1850s more changes took place as loggers came to the area and sadly with their activity within 50 years, the vast forest of white and red pine had been cut and floated out on the lakes and rivers.Fortunately there still are large areas of forest mainly secondary forest of aspen, birch, maple, oak, and other northern hardwoods. These forests are now managed and protected so that future generations can enjoy the benefits of the landscape, trees and wildlife. IN SHORTThe park covers a huge 11,621 acres and each year there are 129,163 visitsand of those 20,909 stayed overnight.The park offers a variety of landscape and according to the visitor centre "It's 9,000 years of human history and archaeological significance has made it a National Historic Landmark."WORTH A VISITWe spent a morning in the park walked along one trail, climbed the tower and visited the Visitor centre. Unless you are really into walking or wanted to camp then a morning or afternoon is really enough to get a look at what the park offers.We enjoyed our walk and the climb up the tower but the insects were beginning to bug us as we were walking hence only going for a short hike. The trails were well signed and paths easy to follow but we saw no wildlife, plenty of flora but no fauna.
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