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In the southeast corner of Minnesota, near the border that it shares with Wisconsin and Iowa, is Carley State Park. This state park is a wonderful place to visit when you book an RV in Wabasha County, as it provides an easy way to camp with an RV in the area. Carley State Park can trace its natural history to over 450 million years ago, back to when a shallow sea covered large sections of North America.
Carley State Park in modern-day covers over 200 acres and was founded in 1949. The recent human history includes that of the Dakota Native Americans, who once hunted, farmed, and sustained themselves on wild food found throughout the Whitewater River Valley. In 1851 the US Government signed an agreement with the Dakota tribe to allow settlers into the area, and in 1948 the park was donated to the State of Minnesota by former Senator James A. Carley. RV camping at Carley State Park is a fun way to explore southeast Minnesota.
Folks who find themselves camping at Carley State Park will discover plenty of exciting activities to keep busy while being entertained. Although the park isn’t huge, there are still over five miles of hiking trails to explore. Some of the hiking trails criss-cross the Whitewater River many times, and hikers who explore the park during the springtime are often greeted by large displays of natural wildflowers.
Visiting the state park during other seasons of the year come with their own reward. Motorhome camping at Carley State Park during the fall will give you outstanding views of the changing leaves, while spending time in the park during the wintertime will give you access to both cross country skiing and snowshoeing, depending on the weather. A visit to the park during the summertime is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors, especially when you rent an RV and stay for a few days or more.
There is a lot of different, diverse wildlife to catch a glimpse of while spending time in the park. Some of the most common species spotted by hikers and campers include white-tailed deer, coyotes, both red and gray foxes, woodpeckers, owls, beavers, and many migratory songbirds. Bringing a pair of binoculars is a great way to see more birds while packing a small lunch to picnic within the woods while sitting quietly may help you spot deer.
There are only 20 campsites at this state park RV campground, so booking a spot ahead of time after you sort out the details of your RV rental may be necessary. Campsites can be reserved ahead of time online, in person, or by telephone for your convenience. All 20 campsites at Carley State Park are rustic sites, and each site must be backed into and has a max RV length of 30 feet.
Additionally, all campsites have their own picnic table, grill, and fire ring. There are centrally located sources of drinking water, and firewood can be purchased from the campsite host during the main camping season. Vault toilets service the campground, but there are no facilities with flushing toilets or hot showers, so come prepared for a rustic camping experience. Finding a rental RV that has plenty of modern amenities can offset the lack of perks found at this Carley State Park campground.
Plainview, which is just north of the state park, is one of the closest and most convenient towns to visit while staying at Carley State Park. This town is small, but it is home to the Plainview Area History Center, which focuses on both the human and natural history of the greater region. There are a few grocery co-ops in town to pick up food, a variety of gas stations, and even a few restaurants to grab a bite to eat.
Aside from Plainview, one of the closest and most convenient towns to visit for supplies is the large city of Rochester. This city is about 15 miles from Carley State Park and has plenty of modern amenities to offer for guests visiting it. Rochester has many museums, including the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Rochester Art Center, the Fellowship Hall Orthodox Museum, the Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden, the History Center of Olmsted County, and more. There are also plenty of tasty, diverse restaurants in Rochester to try while in town.
For a unique experience, head northeast of the park to the riverside town of Wabasha. This small town is situated on the shores of the Mississippi River and is home to the National Eagle Center, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on our national bird, in addition to other types of eagles. Wabasha is less than an hour from Carley State Park and is worth driving to for a riverside meal and educational afternoon at the National Eagle Center.