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Famously known as the land of a thousand lakes, Minnesota’s McCarthy Beach State Park was established in 1945 when locals raised the money to purchase the land from property owner John A. McCarthy. Though the region was heavily logged in the decades prior, there are still a few groves of virgin wood trees that are hundreds of years old. Ancient hunting and tool artifacts found around the lake indicates people were living and hunting in the region for at least 10,000 years before European settlers ever laid eyes on it. Archaeologists believe they first arrived shortly after the last great glacier left the area, some 12,000 years ago.
Lake Sturgeon and its neighboring lakes, Side Lake, Perch Lake, Little Sturgeon Lake, and South Sturgeon Lake were all formed by the glacier as it scraped shallow hollows into the land. It simultaneously dropped boulders ranging from bowling ball- to house-sized across Minnesota.
Between the nearby state and national parks and the thriving towns south of the park, McCarthy Beach State Park uniquely situated in the middle. Search for an RV in St. Louis County, and embark on an adventure. The closest large town is Hibbing, just under 25 miles south.
The Highway’s Magazine considers McCarthy Beach to be one of the top 17 beaches in North America. It’s easy to see why, between miles of sandy shorelines, shallow waters perfect for wading or swimming in, and gorgeous scenery, the park is an underrated gem. Hike 20 miles of trails that weave through dense, sun-dappled woods. The trails connect to the trails in the neighboring parks, extending the potential for adventure. In addition to largemouth bass, crappie, and walleye, lake sturgeons are plentiful. Fish from the shore, docks, or hit the waters in a shallow-bottom boat. The largest sturgeon catch on record was a five and a half feet long. Although smallmouth bass catches are infrequent, anglers are frequently surprised by the size, which can surpass 22 inches.
Wildlife, particularly of the avian variety, are frequent visitors to this state park. Many migratory species use this lake as a stopover spot as they travel north or south to their far-flung destination. The regular residents include fish-loving birds, such as loons, herons, and egrets. Ospreys and eagles often soar high above on thermals. In the early mornings before visitors descend upon the lake, black bears, white-tailed deer, and other small-game mammals emerge from the woods for a drink of water and to forage along the banks.
Lake Vermillion State Park, a few miles to the east, is also home to an established colony of bats. The state park, in addition to its outdoor recreational activities, has an underground mine tour. Visitors don a hard hat and booties (which are worn to protect bats from diseases) to explore half a mile of deep dark tunnels and learn about how miners searched for valuable ores or gems in the times before technology made it easy.
To the west, Scenic State Park boasts a wide swath of virgin woods. Nearly untouched by man, there is little evidence that Native Americans or European settlers ever descended upon this part of the state. With only 14 miles of established trails, experienced hikers and adventurers will need to draw upon their wilderness skills if they dare to go off-trail.
Far from the closest town, it’s almost a necessity to find a campground for overnight stays. Camping at McCarthy Beach State Park gets people closer to nature without sacrificing comfort. The campground has 86 sites for rental RVs, 21 of which has electric hookups. Restrooms are a short walk away from most sites. Those traveling through here with an RV take note. The road to the campground by Side Lake is exceedingly narrow with sharp curves.
Thistledew Campground near Cook is a small, secluded facility. With only 21 sites, its main appeal is its proximity to the Thistledew ATV trail and a nearby lake known for stellar crappie and walleye fishing.
Most state parks and forests are “rustic,” lacking some of the usual amenities like running water and sewer hookups. In contrast, Hibbing campers have a few options near the neighboring towns that have more amenities and luxuries.
Hibbing is known for one attraction in particular: its raceway. The semi-banked clay track is one of the most popular racecourses in Minnesota. In the heart of Iron Range, its annual tournaments regularly draw thousands of spectators eager to see racecars get dirty as they roar around the track. The track also hosts regular local races and practice sessions on weekends.
Climb aboard genuine historical equipment, including a coal train car, that was used to mine the iron mines and transport it to processing centers. The museum is housed in a medieval-style stone castle built-in 1939. Within its halls, various exhibits illustrate the lives of the local miners and their families. Old-fashioned shovels, picks, drills, and other tools are on display. One wing has shelves full of rocks and gems found in the local mines.
Itching to hit the links while here! The golf course in Virginia is a full 18-course fairway lined by towering pines. Designed by renowned course architect Hugh Vincent Feehan in 1936, the water hazards provide minor challenges to experienced golfers.
Find serenity and peace at McCarthy Beach State Park campground and get close to nature while you are out enjoying your outdoor family fun adventure.