Chippewa National Forest is a 1.6-million-acre forest in northern Minnesota comprised of coniferous forests in the north, hardwood trees to the south, and prairie lands to the west. Over 400,000 acres of the forest are made up of lakes, rivers, and wetlands, making this a must-see destination for fishing enthusiasts and people who love watersports. Humans have lived in these forests for over 10,000 years, creating over 3,000 archeological and historical sites throughout the region, many of which are available to visit and photograph. The Leach Lake Indian Reservation is encircled by the forest as well. RV visitors can learn much about the Anishinaabe culture at either the reservation or at the Norway Beach Visitor Center, as well as gaining valuable information about the flora and fauna that live in the forest. The park boasts a wide variety of animals, including the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the contiguous United States, surpassed only by populations that reside in Alaska. There are hundreds of miles of trails that criss-cross the forest, allowing campers of all skill levels to explore the territory not only on foot, but also by ATV, bicycle, and on horseback. There are 18 RV campgrounds available within Chippewa National Forest. Read on to find out details on a few of the featured RV campgrounds you can choose from.
Chippewa National Forest is situated in the northern portion of Minnesota, just a little under 200 miles north of the city of St. Cloud. Bemidji, around twenty miles west of the forest, is the closest town to the forest headquarters, which is located near Cass Lake. There are many different roads and highways that lead into the Chippewa National Forest. The main roads that surround the national forest are typically flat and fairly easy to navigate, even in a big rig or when towing a trailer or boat. The major roads in the park itself are flat, easy-to-drive roads through the fertile countryside of Minnesota, punctuated by several small, rural communities. Many of the turnoffs and smaller roads within the forest are gravel roads rather than paved, and are often shared with ATVs, bicycles, and horseback riders. Many of the evergreen trees in this area grow tall and thin, giving the impression that you can see fairly clearly into the woods, but wildlife in the area is adept at staying out of sight and may cross the road at any time. To avoid collisions with other types of vehicles or with wildlife, it is important that you drive with caution and maintain safe speeds through the forested wetlands that make up Chippewa National Forest.
The Chippawa Campground Loop is located on the shore of Cass Lake near the eastern part of the forest, surrounded by mature red and white pine trees. It is considered part of the Norway Beach Recreation Area and boasts 46 campsites with 30-amp electrical hookups suitable for RVs up to 60 feet in length. Thirty campsites are available to be reserved ahead of time. The sites are beautiful and equipped with fire-rings and picnic tables. They are moderately roomy, but don’t provide much in the way of privacy. Some of the sites are more level than others, and it may be a good idea to bring along blocks in case you need to level out your trailer. There are flush toilets and showers situated towards the middle of the loop, and faucets with drinking water scattered throughout the campground. Pets are welcome in the Chippewa National Forest but must be secured by a six-foot leash at all times. The campground is open from May to September.
The Cut Foot Sioux Horse Camp is situated in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest. Open from April to October, the campground has 34 sites which can be reserved ahead of time. There are no electrical, water, or sewer hookups, however, each campsite has a sense of privacy provided by the mature red pine trees that grow here. Each site is equipped with a fire ring, hibachi-style grill, and a picnic table.
There are several hitching racks and picket lines scattered throughout the campground, along with potable water, a few vault toilets for campers, and manure pits for their horses. Special attention has been paid to this equestrian site to ensure that water quality in the area is maintained and soil erosion is minimized. There are over 120 miles of equestrian trails that surround the camp, but keep in mind that this is also a pine forest research area and the markers that designate specific research areas should be left as they are found.
The Mabel Lake Campground is located at the southern end of Chippewa National Forest, along the shores of Mabel Lake. Open from May to September, it offers 22 campsites, available on a first-come, first-served basis, that are surrounded by mature trees and suitable for almost any size rig. Each campsite has a fire-ring, a grill, and a picnic table available for campers. There is potable water located at the end of the loop, with two vault toilets in the center of the loop. There is also a boat launch for fishermen or pleasure boaters, and a lovely, sandy swimming beach on the coast of Mabel Lake. Several of the campsites are practically on the beach and provide a beautiful view of the lake and its inhabitants. Well behaved pets are always welcome in the Chippewa National Forest but must be secured by a six-foot leash at all times.
Birdwatching enthusiasts will want to be certain that they pack their birding kit in the trailer when they visit the Chippewa National Forest. You are likely to see swallows, jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, and wrens flickering between the trees, while ruby-throated hummingbirds search for nectar-filled flowers. Water and shorebirds live in and around the many lakes and rivers, including ducks, geese, and swans, as well as sandpipers, pelicans, and herons. Raptors thrive in this forest as well, including goshawks, northern harriers, and bald eagles.
The Norway Beach Visitor Information Center, located on the southern shores of Cass Lake, is typically open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It boasts several educational displays that give visitors of all ages a great deal of information about the flora and the fauna of the region, as well as the area’s Dakota and Ojibwe heritage. Along with interpretive programs and outdoor arts and crafts classes, the visitor’s center also hosts other special events, such as Bald Eagle Day and Smokey the Bear’s birthday.
Fishermen of all skill levels will want to be sure to pack their rods and reels in their campervan. The Chippewa National Forest has more lakes and wetlands than any other national forest in the country. Many have been carved out by glaciers that deposited nutrient-rich sediment in the lakes that they created. This, combined with the 25 watersheds, 925 miles of streams, and over 400,000 acres of open water, makes for some excellent fishing. There are healthy populations of walleye, bass, and panfish, which are fed on by equally healthy populations of muskie and northern pike.
There are a number of subjects for photography in this immense national forest. This forest hosts gorgeous natural scenery, such as the lost forty, a 144-acre area of old-growth trees that escaped logging, and three of Minnesota’s ten largest lakes. The watery wonderland also supports a large number of wild animals, and you may manage to capture an image of one of the resident squirrels, deer, wolves, or beavers. There are also over 3,000 archeological and historic sites in this forest, many of which make beautiful photography subjects.
The Chippewa National Forest is a fantastic destination for RVers who also like to take their horses on their adventures. There are hundreds of miles of trails for you to explore on horseback, spanning many different ecosystems. The equestrian campground, Cut Foot Sioux Horse Camp, is outfitted with hitching posts, picket lines, and manure pits. It is important to stay on the designated trails to avoid damaging research areas.
This national forest includes one of the best preserved of the Civilian Conservation Camps that were established in 1935 as part of Franklin D Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” Camp Rabideau. Hosts are typically available to give tours. For those who prefer to explore on their own, there is a self-guided tour that gives a great deal of information about the environment. There are several interpretive displays set up near the well-preserved buildings that highlight the history of the camp.