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Bemidji is an anglicization of a Native American word, “Bemiji-gau-maug,” which roughly means cutting sideways. Mississippi River cuts through the lake on a diagonal, which is how the lake earned its name. Lake Bemidji State Park and its namesake lake were formed by the last great glacier as it scraped its way north on its retreat, some 10,000 years ago.
Heavily logged in the late 19th century, the state park was officially established in 1923, which preserved the last few groves of virgin trees that are hundreds of years old.
The Lake Bemidji State Park campground is close to several other state and national parks, as well as the town of Bemidji, which is about eight miles south. Centrally located, it’s a great place to search for an RV in Beltrami County so you can hit the great outdoors.
Nearly 40 miles of hiking trails wind through the damp woods, over murky green streams, and around bogs. Where bogs are too large to pass around, the paths are piled high with stones and fallen wood to raise the elevation, just inches above the mud slurry lined with algae. Here and there, in hidden damp crevices, rare orchids and lady's slippers peek their heads out, waiting for the next admirer to pass by. This park is home to pitcher’s plants and sundews, which eats plants for nutrition. The early damp mornings are the best times to watch for wildlife. Deer, porcupines, raccoons, and even an occasional black bear wander through the woods in search of forage. Birds are almost raucous as they shake lose the dew from treetops’ leaves as they search for their morning suppers. Evenings, gray treefrogs, spring peepers, and wood frogs sing the song of their people in a croaky chorus as they herald the coming of nighttime. In wintertime, the fun doesn’t stop. Hike, snowshoe, snowmobile, cross-country ski, and ice-fish here as you enjoy the outdoors.
Nearby Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park, established in 1891 to protect the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. Here, Lake Itasca feeds a small creek scarcely twenty feet across that flows 2,552 miles southward. The park itself encompasses 32,000 acres of forests and lakes with close to 100 miles of hiking trails.
With dozens of parks right at your fingertips, why stay at hotels when you can wake up to birdsong outside an RV rental? Lake Bemidji State Park has 43 30-amps sites and can accommodate vehicles up to 50 feet. Most sites are shaded by tall firs and oaks. Although the RV campground is open year-round, its restrooms with flush toilets and showers are available only spring till mid-fall. In winter, vault toilets are open.
The Black Lantern Resort and Campground near Bagley offers more amenities that may make it a good candidate. In addition to easy access to ATV trails, they also provide free kayaks and canoes for guests to use on the private lakes. Each RV camping site has 20, 30, and 50 amp hookups and pets are allowed.
It’s smart to go camping at Lake Bemidji State Park. Conveniently close to Bemidji, there’s plenty of things to do and see there. It bustles with attractions and events. The Headwater Science Center educates its visitors via 70 nature and science-themed exhibits, including a hands-on experiment forming lakes and rivers and some of the local wildlife, including an ambassador owl, snake, and a bunny
Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox, made famous in children’s stories and cartoons, was adopted as the town’s mascots in the 1930s and statues were made in their honor. The statues of famous Paul Bunyan and Big Blue, a roadside attraction on the way into town, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988. Kodak Company claims they are the second most photographed statues in America (Mount Rushmore being the first).
Held annually since 2005, Bemidji’s Dragon Boat Festival is a fun way to cool off in the blistering August heat. In addition to the dragon boat races, which are crewed by 22 paddlers, the venue draws thousands of spectators and dozens of vendors selling everything from delicious tacos to art.
Hit the links! Sand Trap Golf Course near Cass Lake is a short nine-course fairway. Perfect for a quick game, the fairways are lined by trees. The sound of water washing ashore at nearby Cass Lake provides a pleasant ambient background noise that drowns out the chatter of other golfers. The bunkers provide some challenge, but not to the point where it’ll frustrate a beginner.
On a mosquito-laden night, a rental motorhome will be a welcome retreat at Lake Bemidji State Park campground after spending the day out exploring.