Flandrau State Park is a popular state park spreading over 1,000 scenic acres in southern Minnesota. Surrounded by the Big Cottonwood River, floodplain forests, oxbow marsh, and wide-open grassland, the park is a hotspot for outdoorsy activities, including hiking and fishing in the summer, and cross-country skiing in the winter. Formerly known as Cottonwood River State Park after the river that runs through it, Flandrau was used as a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, and today still has plenty of history and culture for campers to discover. The park was renamed in 1945 to honor Charles E. Flandrau, who helped draft the first Minnesota Constitution. Today, the old POW camp is used as a modern group center with eight cabins, a dining hall, and restrooms. There are also three campgrounds offering facilities for RV campers. Whether you're renting a campervan from nearby or driving the motorhome, the park campground has can accommodate large rigs up to 66 feet in length and offers top-notch amenities. You'll find a fantastic sandy beach and pool area, a children’s playground, and various sports facilities from volleyball nets to horseshoe pits. Families, big groups, and solo campers of all interests are accommodated at Flandrau State Park, with eight miles of hiking trails to explore, educational naturalist programs, and over 60 species of birdlife to spot, from warblers to flycatchers.
Flandrau State Park is located in southern Minnesota on the outskirts of the city of New Ulm, and 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis. The entrance to the park is located along Summit Avenue and is well signposted. It can be found right next door to the New Ulm Country Club. When the main gate is closed, access is available from the gate at the eastern end of the park, off Center Street. There are no driving restrictions within the park, but those with large RVs or trailers should keep an eye out for low-hanging branches.
There are various parking spots available throughout the park for day visitors, but if you’re staying overnight, you can park your RV or big rig in the campground too. Hiking and biking trails are great ways to get around the park without having to deconstruct your camp.
Flandrau State Park has a rustic camping area near the Oxbow Trail. This campground has 36 campsites available. This campground is only open from May to October. There are limited facilities within the campground with a primitive toilet and a central fire pit. Showers are available at the pool beach house until sunset. Three walk-in sites are available during the winter season.
There is a non-electric campground with 17 campsites available at Flandrau State Park. Campers have access to a primitive toilet and drinking water. Within the same area of the campground, there are two camper cabins and a CCC cabin which can be booked all year round.
A total of 90 campsites are available across three campgrounds at Flandrau State Park. The main campground is semi-modern and has 34 electric campsites with space for RVs up to 66 feet. There is also one wheelchair accessible site. While most of the campsites within this main campground are rustic with only electrical hookups, campers have access to restrooms with hot showers and flush toilets as well as a dump station. These facilities are available during peak season, while vault toilets are available year-round. Pets are welcome at Frandrau State Park, but they need to be kept on a leash at all times. Please note that campers have to respect quiet hours between 10 PM and 8 AM. The campground is open year-round with water available from May through October. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance, and are recommended during the peak season.
There is a wealth of historical points of interest to discover in Flandrau State Park. The park has historic buildings dating back to the 1930s that are fun to explore. When visiting these buildings, you can learn about the import role that the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Veterans Conservation Corps played in this park in the 1930s. Learn about the history of the park when it was used as a prisoner of war camp for the Germans during World War II.
During the winter months, the eight miles of hiking trails are groomed and prepared for winter sports in the snow. There are six miles of trails for cross-country skiing and two miles for snowshoeing. If you didn't pack your own winter sports equipment along in the campervan, ski and snowshoe equipment could be rented from the park office on weekends in the wintertime when staff is available. Snow fencing is put up to keep visitors out of unsafe or ungroomed parts of the trails. If you need a warm-up after playing in the snow, a warming house is located in the picnic area.
The eight miles of nature trails throughout the park are ideal for birding. Whether you're an avid birder or new to the game, you won't want to forget your binoculars in the motorhome when you wander the park. There are more than 60 species of birds documented in Flandrau State Park, most of which are songbirds that migrate here rather than nest in the park. Keep an eye out for warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes. You might also see wild turkeys and red-shouldered hawks on the slopes. Interested birders can pick up a birding kit from the park office.
Minnesota is famous for fishing, and when you're in this neck of the woods, you're almost sure to reel in a keeper. Anglers can enjoy fishing for all sorts of exciting game fish in the Big Cottonwood River, from northern pike to smallmouth bass and rough fish. If you are interested in trying your luck during your RV vacation, you'll need to bring your rods, reels, and bait as the park doesn't offer rentals of any kind.
If you're looking to stretch your legs after a long ride in the RV, you will have plenty of options once you park the rig and set up camp. Flandrau State Park is popular for hikers with all sorts of fascinating terrain to explore along the Hiking Club Trail, from wooded valleys and oxbow marshes to hill prairies. There are eight miles of hiking trails to explore. Choose from the 0.6-mile (one way) Grassland Trail, the 0.7-mile Cottonwood Trail, 0.2-mile (one way) River Trail, and the 0.5-mile loop Pool and Woodlands Trails. Some of the paths are steep, so be sure to pick the terrain that suits your fitness level.
Day visitors, as well as campers staying at Flandrau State Park, can enjoy swimming in the park’s human-made swimming pond. The sandy-bottomed fishing pond, located at the Day-Use Area, has a safe swimming area where guests can cool off in the summertime. The pond is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather depending. Although lifeguards are present, adults should always accompany children.
With a location right on the Big Cottonwood River, Flandrau State Park’s activities revolve around water recreation. Visitors enjoy floating along the river with canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and tubes. Those looking to partake in fun on the river will need to bring their own flotation devices along in the Sprinter, as the park does not offer rentals of any kind.
Bring your GPS enabled smart device along in the Airstream and get ready for an adventure. Geocaching is a technically fun activity for the whole family. The hunt involves seeking out hidden treasure using specific coordinates. Once you locate the metaphorical gold (usually stickers, pencil erasers, or flower seeds), sign your name and replace the goodies. The park has several hand-held GPS units for visitors as well should your group need any extras.