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Along with the neighboring Minnesota Upper Red Lake, Big Bog State Recreation Area was formed around 10,000 years ago when the last Great Glacier retreated its way north. The glacier gouged and scraped land out, leaving massive deposits of sand, moraine, and granite boulders in its tracks. Although northern Minnesota was heavily logged in the 1920s and 1930s, the bog region was left untouched because logging companies found it was too difficult - and expensive - to access the trees. Big Bog State Recreation Area was officially established as a state park in 2002 and is also a national landmark because it’s also one of the largest peat bogs in the United States.
Although Wakish, MN, is the closest town, its resources are very limited. The town, located a mile south, has a grocery store, a couple of restaurants, and a gas station. Bemidji, MN, is about 60 miles south, and though it’s a long drive in an Airstream rental, it may be a worthwhile one. In addition to a wide variety of shopping and dining options, it also has a couple of hospitals equipped to handle medical emergencies, entertainment venues, and other attractions.
Encompassing nearly 9,400 acres, Big Bog State Recreation Area is largely a mix of wetlands, peat bogs, and groves of old-growth woods that are centuries old. The wetlands harbor several rare and endangered animals and plants like carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews and a few species of orchids. Overhead, bald eagles soar the wide blue yonder in lazy spirals, waiting for easy prey. In the drier regions of the Big Bog State Recreation Area, large mammals like white-tailed deer, moose, and black bears roam. Timberwolves are known to reside and hunt in the area, but they are largely nocturnal and rarely seen as a result. The great gray owl and Connecticut warbler birds, which are endangered, also make their home in the Big Bog State Recreation Area.
During your time at Big Bog State Recreation Area, climb the observation tower, which is some 100 feet high, and observe all this and more. Various points along the boardwalk trail, which totals about a mile, are excellent for observing small amphibians and reptiles. In the drier regions of the Big Bog State Recreation Area, there is a little over four miles of hiking trails. Big Bog State Recreation Area borders Upper Red Lake, and walleye fishing on the lake is purported to be excellent. It’s common for anglers to take home trophy-sized catches.
Nearby Pine Island State Forest sprawls across nearly 900,000 acres of woodland wilderness. The biggest state forest in Minnesota, it boasts 168 miles of hiking trails that meander through pine and white cedar forests, bogs, and meadows. Big Fork State Water Trail runs through Pine Island State Forest; this water trail is popular for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. There are several stretches of Class I rapids, which are considered easy to navigate. However, two impressive (and scenic) waterfalls require all but the most experienced kayakers to portage to bypass it. Once past the waterfalls, the river is idyllic yet swift enough to keep it from becoming dull.
It’s a long drive from the closest motel to Big Bog State Recreation Area, so skip that onerous commute and rent a camper. As a bonus, there’s no need to endure noisy neighbors at the hotel. Wake up to birdsong and gentle wind in the trees. Listen to the distant howl of timber wolves at night. Big Bog State Recreation Area RV campground has 31 sites for campers to choose from, and of these, 26 have electric hookups. All RV sites can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet. The restrooms have running water and showers, but it’s available only seasonally. In winters, guests are welcome to use the visitor center’s restrooms, which also have showers.
RV camp on Upper Red Lake at Roger’s Resort and Campground, a few miles north of Kelliher. This premier fishing resort and campground boasts features like a private beach, an on-site grocery store, a bait shop, and a bar.
Alternatively, consider camping at Tomahawk Resort and RV Park outside Hines, MN. The RV park offers amenities like a hot tub and pool, electric hookups, and restrooms. Dogs are permitted, too. Located on the shores of Blackduck Lake, setting out for a fishing session is as simple as walking out one’s RV rental.
Though as beautiful and wild as northern Minnesota is, it’s sometimes necessary to return to civilization. Explore the charming remote towns of Minnesota and find your favorite boutique coffee cafe, bookstore, or gift shop at which one might find an RV camping souvenir to take home. In addition to being one of the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, Bemidji is also where the famous Paul Bunyan and Babe myth began, and there are oversized statues commemorating them and a museum in the town, also. Not to be outdone, Blackduck, has a Blackduck statue that functions as a mascot and a guardian; it stands sentinel at the entrance to the town.
One of the oldest “you-pick” berry farms in the state is found in Puposky, MN. Established in 1989, Mistic Berry Farm is a three-generation family-run business. Its main crops are strawberries and raspberries, which are typically available in early-to-mid summer (depending on the weather). There is also an on-site restaurant dishing up waffles topped by fresh, homemade jam.