Dubbed Minnesota’s last true wilderness, Big Bog State Recreation Area features a 500-square mile peat bog—the largest in the lower 48 states. Visitors can get a close-up view of this rare resource by strolling along the park’s mile-long boardwalk. While the peat bog is the trademark of this Minnesota park, the park has plenty more to offer visitors: with options for everything from hiking to boating to snowshoeing, Big Bog State Recreation Area is an ideal choice for your next RV trip.
One of the newer recreation areas in Minnesota, Big Bog was established in 2000 as the result of a grassroots effort to develop a sustainable tourist attraction in Waskish. Visitors today will quickly notice the success of those efforts, as the park now offers something for visitors of all interests. Hikers can explore the park’s nearly five miles of trails, anglers can fish for walleye and trophy northern pike, paddlers can canoe along the Tamarac River, and snowshoers can trek anywhere in the park during the snowy winter months. The park makes year-round recreation very accessible, by offering on-site rentals of kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, boats, and snowshoes.
Big Bog State Recreation has one campground located along the Tamarac River, with 31 drive-in sites, 26 of which offer electric hookups. The campground also features many docks available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Big Bog experiences the cold and snowy winters typical of Minnesota, but the park and its campground stay open year-round, so visitors can enjoy a diversity of recreation and camping options any time of year.
Located on Minnesota State Highway 72 just north of the town of Waskish, Big Bog State Recreation Area can be easily accessed by RV or car. The park sits about three hours northwest of Duluth, and less than an hour from the Canadian border.
Once inside the park, visitors should note that the park is made up of a northern unit and a southern unit, which sit about seven miles apart. The Northern Unit contains hiking trails, overlooks, and a picnic area, while the Southern Unit contains the campground, cabins, swimming beach, trailer access points, and fishing piers. Visitors can navigate easily between the two areas of the park along Highway 72. While inside the park, guests can plan to park their rig either in the campground—which can accommodate rigs of up to 60 feet long—or in various designated areas throughout the park, including by the picnic shelter in the Northern Unit.
Visitors will have a few easy options for food, gifts, and supplies while at Big Bog State Recreation Area. The park itself has a Nature Store and Gift Shop onsite, and also offers rentals of snowshoes, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and boats through the park office. For groceries, a restaurant, and gas, visitors can head into the town of Waskish less than a mile south of the park.
Big Bog State Recreation Area has one campground located along the Tamarac River in the Southern Unit of the park, just a short distance from Upper Red Lake. The campground is home to 31 drive-in sites, with 26 offering electric hookups. All of the sites are within 100 yards of the Tamarac River, and there are many docks located in the campground area, which can be claimed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Guests can also enjoy trailer access onto the Tamarac River, a fish cleaning shelter, and easy access to a hiking trail all from within the campground. Visitors can make use of the showers and flush toilets located within the campground, which are open seasonally, and the vault toilets in the campground that are open year-round. There is no dump station in the park, but one is available within half a mile of the park, so visitors should plan accordingly. The campground can accommodate rigs of up to 60 feet in length, and while most of the sites are back-in, one site is pull-through, for easier access for larger rigs. The Big Bog State Recreation Area Campground is open year-round, and the sites can be reserved online.
One of the best ways to explore Big Bog State Recreation Area is hiking along its miles of trails. This Minnesota park boasts nearly five miles of trails, including the mile-long Big Bog Boardwalk. Along the boardwalk, hikers can check out the interpretive displays that dot the mile-long stretch, and look out for orchids, carnivorous plants, and mosses. For a mile-long hike on packed dirt, hikers can instead hop on the mostly flat Old Caribou Camp Trail and check out the diverse wildlife that inhabit Ludlow Island.
Anglers will be happy to hear that fishing at Big Bog State Recreation Area is excellent year-round, though it reaches its peak in the spring. Visitors can try their hand at fishing for walleye and trophy northern pike, which are plentiful on Upper Red Lake and the Tamarac River—just make sure to follow special limits and protected slots when fishing on Upper Red Lake. In the Northern Unit of the park, visitors can also enjoy shore-fishing for panfish at Ludlow Pond, for a more mellow fishing experience.
Visitors eager to get out on the water during their visit to Big Bog State Recreation Area can take advantage of the many ways the park makes it easy to explore the Tamarac River. Big Bog offers drive-in boat access to the Tamarac in the Southern Unit of the park, and even has multiple docks located within the campground area, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Paddlers can also take advantage of seven carry-in access points on the Tamarac River, to take their canoes out. Visitors can rent paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, and boats directly from the park through the park office.
Visitors who brave the Minnesota cold and head to Big Bog State Recreation Area in the winter months will be rewarded with a whole range of recreation options that open up once snow covers the park. In the winter, snowshoeing is permitted anywhere in the park and even along the Big Bog Boardwalk—so visitors can glean the full Big Bog experience while trekking through the snow. Visitors can bring their own gear or plan to rent snowshoes directly from the park. Those who would prefer to speed through the park on a snowmobile will be excited to hear that the park also opens up 10 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the winter, as part of the state grant-in-aid trail system.
Often called Minnesota’s last true wilderness, Big Bog State Recreation Area is proudly home to a wide variety of wildlife just waiting to be discovered by the patient observer. The park is home to black bear, moose, bobcat, white-tailed deer, gray wolves, fox, and other mammals. Birdwatchers in particular will have plenty to keep them busy, as the bog provides habitat for more than 300 species of birds. Visitors can make use of the multiple overlooks in both the northern and southern units of the park and hope to spot great gray owl, Connecticut warbler, cedar waxwing, red-winged blackbird, and purple finch, among others.
Visitors who want to get in touch with the history of Big Bog State Recreation and gain a different perspective on the park should plan to stop by the Observation Tower, an historic fire tower that was renovated and opened to the public in 2011. During regular visitor center hours, visitors are welcome to climb the stairs of the 100 foot tower to get a stellar view of the Big Bog and Upper Red Lake. Those who are unable to reach the top of the tower can still catch a glimpse of the stellar views, as a camera is located on the west side of tower cab with live feedback to a kiosk in the Visitor Center.