State Parks Offer A Solution For Restless Kids

By Harland Hiemstra, Department of Natural Resources Information Officer








It’s the dreaded mid-summer whine no parent wants to hear, a cross between the sound of a pesky mosquito and a whimpering puppy: “Mom, Dad – I’m bored! What’s there to do?”

Lacking the structure of the school day and tired of playing the same old video games over and over, many a boy and girl begins to feel a bit of the summertime “blahs” by the time July rolls around.

Fortunately, there’s an easy and inexpensive antidote available, and it’s as close as your nearest state park, which for most Minnesotans is no more than a half-hour away. If you’re willing to drive a little farther – say an hour or two – there are even more opportunities. And in addition to having fun, the kids might even get a few lessons about Minnesota’s rich natural history without even realizing it. How’s that for sneaking one over on them?

When the weather turns hot, it’s always nice to be in, on or near the water. Some state parks, like Afton State Park, on the St. Croix River just east of St. Paul, and Fort Snelling State Park near the Twin Cities international airport, provide clean, family-friendly beaches. Many – including Fort Snelling, Interstate, William O’Brien, Wild River and Sibley state parks – also offer canoe or kayak rentals. Or you can check out basic fishing equipment and see what’s biting; you don’t even need a fishing license if the lake or river you’re fishing is completely within the state park.

Numerous I Can Fish! programs for beginners will be offered at state parks in July and August, including three taught in Spanish:

  • , July 14, 10 a.m.-noon, Fort Snelling State Park.
  • , July 28, 1-3 p.m., William O’Brien State Park.
  • , Aug. 25, 1-3 p.m., Fort Snelling State Park.

See the complete I Can Fish! schedule and find registration information at

Youngsters with a penchant for exploration might like to go on a high-tech treasure hunt, also known as geocaching. Geocaching involves using a handheld GPS device to find hidden containers, in which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has stashed collectible cards. In keeping with the theme of this year’s geocaching adventure, the Aquatic Quest, the cards feature 82 different plants and animals that can be found in the state’s lakes, rivers and ponds. GPS units can be borrowed from most state parks, and special Geocaching 101 programs are scheduled throughout the summer to teach people how to use them, including one on July 22 at William O’Brien State Park. Pre-registration may be required for some of the programs, so call ahead.

Young fans of Robin Hood or the Hunger Games books and movies might enjoy the opportunity to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow. DNR’s Archery in the Parks program provides equipment and hands-on instruction for beginners. Programs are scheduled in July at Afton, William O’Brien, Wild River and Whitewater state parks, among others. Participants must be at least 8 years old in order to be able to safely handle a bow.

Kids whose taste in movies turn more towards science fiction such as the latest in the Jurassic Park series might find it interesting to get up close and personal with a few of Minnesota’s real-life creatures. You can meet some of Jurassic Park’s distant relatives such as turtles and snakes during a number of special programs scheduled throughout July at William O’Brien, Sibley and Whitewater state parks. You can learn about bats, another fascinating – and to some people scary – animal at special programs at Whitewater State Park. Other animals specially featured at Whitewater State Park include beavers, owls, and peregrine falcons, which are the world’s fastest birds, capable of traveling at speeds in excess of 200 mph.

And that’s just a sampling. You and your kids can learn about the geologic forces such as volcanic flows and huge glaciers that long ago shaped the state’s landscape, find fossils, look at the planets through a telescope, visit a ghost-town, chase butterflies and even catch some live music this summer at Minnesota state parks. All that for only $35 for a year’s worth of fun and adventure. If you’re not quite sure about it and want to “try before you buy,” you can purchase a $7 day pass. Then, before you leave, turn it in and get the $7 taken off the price of the annual permit. More information on all the opportunities at Minnesota state parks can be found online at