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Rice Lake State Park has the perfect mix of lakes, meadows, and woodlands, and is the perfect escape from busy city life in Minnesota. The lake lands entirely surround the picturesque Rice Lake, which forms the heart of the state park. Overall, Rice Lake covers 750 acres and only has an average depth of 3 feet.
Rice Lake got its name from the fact that in the past, American Indians harvested wild rice from the shallow, marshy waters. Today it is a designated waterfowl lake, with many species gracing its shores. In addition to bird watching, Rice Lake State Park is also used for picnicking, boating, and hiking. Although there is plenty to keep you entertained in the park, many people who book an RV in Steele County combine their outdoor adventure with a trip to one of the nearby towns such as Owatonna, Faribault, or Rochester.
Rice Lake itself is very shallow, making to unsuitable for larger boats; however, it is perfect for paddling. Canoeists and kayakers came from all over to go camping at Rice Lake State Park and will largely have the waters to themselves. Visitors can either choose to bring their own boat with them or alternatively rentals are available from around the shore. Hop in a boat and go and explore the flat, wooded shores.
There are over 5 miles of hiking trails to explore around Rice Lake State Park, which is a great way to experience the flora and fauna when motorhome camping in the area. The fun does not stop in the winter months, as there are 2.5 miles of ski trails and 3 miles of snowmobiling trails, plus shoe shoeing is possible in much of the park. An accessible picnic area is located on the lakeshore, as well as a covered picnic shelter and small playground area that is great for a spot of lunch after a long day of hiking.
One of the biggest attractions to Rice Lake and Rice Lake State Park is the birds that call it their home. The lake is a stopover poor for many migratory birds, plus many live in the area all year round. Keep your eyes peeled for green herons, blue herons, ducks, geese, and pelicans. You likely won't have to look very hard, as these birds flock to the waters in great number, making it the ideal bird-watching spot. Just remember to pack your binoculars in your RV rental.
Campers coming to the area can stay directly in the state park RV campgrounds. The campground at Rice Lake State Park caters to 40 RVs and tents, 18 sites offer electric hookups. There is also some walk-in and even some canoe in campsites available, which can make for a great, rustic camping experience. In addition, there is a large group camp that can accommodate up to 60 people, perfect for a family gathering or big reunion. Sites come with picnic tables and fire rings, plus there are centrally located flush toilets and shower facilities.
For those that do not wish to camp with an RV directly in Rice Lake State Park, another good option is the local Albert Lea/Austin KOA. A stay at this campground will allow you to enjoy the many amenities it has to offer, such as a swimming pool, a large playground for the kids to enjoy, crafts, and other fun activities. The RV sites here offer 50-amp electrical service with an 80-foot max length. There is a range of different sites available that cater for all wants and needs, making it a good place to stay when exploring Rice Lake State Park.
This part of Minnesota is home to one very unique attraction, the SPAM Museum. The museum is free to visit and is stuffed with a huge range of interactive exhibits that bring the history of this world-known brand to life before your eyes. There are seven main galleries which include Can Central, the World Market where you can learn all about the brand's advertising, plus an area where you can learn more about the 15 different types of Spam available. When you are done, don't forget to stock up on Spam souvenirs available at the gift shop.
The Reptile and Amphibian Discovery museum offers a unique zoo experience where you can get up close to a range of exotic species. The zoo holds one of the world's largest reptile displays and includes crocodiles, lizards, toads, snakes, turtles, and salamanders, to name a few. Overall there are more than 150 species here that come from all over the globe. There are regular shows where you can learn more about these amazing species, plus there may even be an opportunity for you to pet an alligator!
Step back in time at the Village of Yesteryear, home to many buildings and museums, which provide insight into what life was like in the area throughout time. Explore the Saco Church, a school’s house, various cabins, a general store and post office, the Dunnell House, Fire Hall, and many other great buildings that have been restored back to their former glory. There is so much to see here that you could spend hours wandering through the many buildings in the village that will help you get a glimpse of the past.