Looking for an RV getaway in the land of 10,000 lakes? Whitewater State Park, located in southeastern Minnesota, is a must-see part of the United States. Surrounded by awe-inspiring limestone bluffs, the park is home to 2,700 acres to view, explore and relax all year round. The park takes its name from its crown jewel: the Whitewater River. The bedrock has become highly dissected over time, leaving the river to cut deep, winding valleys throughout the area. The river is a stunning, majestic force of nature, and it needs to be seen to be appreciated.
What makes the geography of Whitewater State Park so unique is that it was spared the scouring of ancient glaciers. This event led most of the midwest to become relatively flat, but this area survived. The park is home to 250 kinds of birds, 50 kinds of mammals and thousands of wildflowers in the wetlands, oak woodlands, bluff prairies, and the savanna. Look out for the giant Canada geese, belted kingfishers, and ospreys that roam the parklands. Once nightfall hits in late April through to May, you will be treated to thousands of frogs joining forces to ribbit the night away.
After parking your camper at one of the two RV friendly campgrounds within the Whitewater State Park, there are many different activities to do. Fly fishing, hiking, swimming, climbing the fire tower and bird watching are the most popular. However, your first stop at the park should be the visitor's center, where you can borrow some free equipment such as GPS units, fishing kits, and kid’s discovery kits. The peak season at Whitewater State Park is April through October.
Driving from Minneapolis, Whitewater State Park is an easy place to find as it mostly follows the HWY 52 route to Rochester. If you are coming from Des Moines, take the 35 to Albert Lee then turn right onto the 90. The closest major town to the park is Rochester, with smaller spots along the way including Dover, Eyota and Saint Charles if you are coming from the east.
The park offers a variety of campsites, including some walk-in sites. But the main campgrounds, of Cedar Hill and Minneiska are just off Highway 74 that runs through the park. These sites can accomodate RVs up to 50 feet in length, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble maneuvering your vehicle along the roads. Be aware, though, that not all sites are open in the winter. If you plan on traveling in the off-season, it’s a good idea to check ahead and see what’s available.
There are two RV campgrounds available at Whitewater State Park. Both areas are close to the park entrance and are easily accessible. The campsites at both campgrounds provide access to 50 amp electricity and water. There are hookups available in winter, pull-through sites and a sanitary dump station available to the left of the park entrance.
The maximum length allowed for RVs in the park is 50 feet. Remember that this includes the length of any vehicle being towed.
Come prepared for no phone service inside Whitewater State Park. Wifi is available at the visitor's center and cell phone service can be found on the outskirts of the park.
Cedar Hill Campground
When you enter Whitewater State Park, Cedar Hill Campground will be found to the right. There are 75 campsites available, but take note that during winter the Upper and Lower Cedar Campground gates are closed, along with the Gooseberry Glenn and the South Picnic Area.This means that Cedar Hill is not available for RV camping during winter. Restrooms/showers, recycle station and dumpsters can be found at the Cedar Hill Campground.
Minnieiskia Campground will be found to the left of the park entrance. During winter this area is still open to RV campers, with spaces available in the 200e, 203e, 205e, 206e, 208e & 212e spots. Extra parking, disability access spots, restrooms/showers, recycle station and dumpsters can be found at the Minnieiskia Campground.
Remember to pack your fishing pole, because the fly fishing in Whitewater State Park is fantastic. The river has many different access points and the waters are perfect for trout fishing. Head upstream and you will be able to catch brown and brook trout. If you are chasing the beautiful rainbow trout, head downstream and work the deeper areas of the river. Even in the winter time, the spring-fed water won’t freeze, so you can still cast a line.
Add hiking boots to your list of what to bring as there are some great spots in Whitewater State Park for beginners through to experts. There are 15 miles of trails, so there are plenty of options. If you only have a few hours, tackle the 0.7 mile Chimney Rock Trail for a scenic view of the river, or take the 1.7 mile Meadow Trail if you are looking for a more accessible hike. This particular trail is surrounded by the dramatic bluffs that this park is renowned for.
Yes, Whitewater State Park even has a beach! During the summertime, there is no better way to cool off and chill out than taking a dip. Oxbow Beach is a small swimming spot that you can relax at. It also has a stone beach house built by the Civilian Conservation Corps nearby where you can change in and out of your bathing suit.
Once the snow hits at Whitewater State Park, it’s time for the winter fun to start. You can practically ski and snowshoe anywhere in the Whitewater State Park. Like with hiking in summer, there are some great trails to explore throughout the park. Visiting during the wintertime is a completely new experience and will give you a different perspective of how rugged this area of the country really is.
Whitewater State Park is a haven for birds and birdwatchers alike. Bird habitats around Minnesota are unfortunately declining, which in turn has resulted in many bird species and populations suffering the same fate. The park provides and preserves a much-needed variety and diversity of habitats for birds, including those that you might not have to look high in the trees for. In the wooded valleys, keep an eye out for the scratching sounds of the wild turkeys. These birds from Whitewater State Park have also been successfully introduced to different areas around the county. Other species to watch out for include prothonotary, cerulean, and blue-winged warblers, ruffed grouse, rose-breasted grosbeaks, sandhill cranes, and indigo buntings.
The visitor's center is a great resource that you can use to learn more about Whitewater State Park. If you are looking for education, specifically check out the Discovery Room, where the young and the old can learn some history about Whitewater Valley. The friendly staff at the center can also assist you in planning your adventures within the park and give you tons of information about the area if desired. The staff there will also inform you if there are any specific closures, events or actives that will be occurring during your stay in the park.