LITTLE FALLS - The paddling was slow, but this wasn't a race. Two groups of seven canoers were in no hurry to get from one point of the Mississippi to the other on a warm August day.
Along the way, they heard excerpts from journals of men who canoed these same waters nearly 200 years earlier, when there was a sense of urgency. And a sense that this area was worth exploring.
That feeling remains today at Charles Lindbergh State Park. Although named after the father - a politician - of
the famous aviator of the same name, Charles Lindbergh Jr.'s exploring spirit is alive at the park, from the river he navigated as a child - his boyhood home still stands on the edge of the park, overlooking the Mississippi - to the sprawling park woodlands he no doubt explored.
The Charles Lindbergh Historic Site, dedicated to the famed aviator, also stands adjacent to the park, which was established when 110 acres were donated to the state in memory of Lindbergh Sr. by his family. But since becoming a state park in 1931, the park has developed its own identity. And its own following.
A view of the Mississippi River from near Charles Lindbergh Jr.'s childhood home on the edge of Charles Lindbergh State Park. Additional photos from Lindbergh State Park may be found on Page 12A and at spotted.brainerddispatch.com.
"Lindbergh just drew me in," said Ty Gangelhoff, park manager, who came to Lindbergh in December after two years at Cascade River State Park near Lutsen. In December, Gangelhoff had a choice of coming to Lindbergh or going to historic Itasca - Minnesota's original state park. He chose Lindbergh.
"The diversity of things going on," Gangelhoff said of the lure of Lindbergh. "Between camping and hiking and the picnic area and the history tie-ins with Lindbergh.
"There are a lot of amenities with all the museums in the area. And it's a great location."
Besides the Lindbergh house and historic site, the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum - dedicated to Morrison County's past - is located a short walk from the Lindbergh house, and the Linden Hill Historical Event Center and the Minnesota Fishing Museum are a short drive away in Little Falls.
If you go
What: Charles Lindbergh State Park.
Where: 1 mile west of Little Falls.
Directions: From Brainerd, go 30 miles on Highway 371 south. Turn right on Highway 27 for 1.5 miles - into Little Falls - turning left onto Lindbergh Drive/County Road 52. Go 1.7 miles, turning right into the park.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (through fall).
Permits: Daily, $5 per vehicle; daily group (minimum 10 vehicles), $3; annual, $25; motorcycle, $20; second permit, $18; disabled persons, $12.
Street address: 1615 Lindbergh Drive S.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 364, Little Falls, MN 56345.
Telephone: (320) 616-2525.
Fax: (320) 616-2526.
Web site: www.dnr. state.mn.us/state_parks/charles_a_lindbergh/ index.html.
But if you want to get away from it all ...
In 2007, Lindbergh State Park ranked 42nd among Minnesota state parks in number of visitors and 44th in number of overnight stays. It may be one of the state park system's best-kept secret.
Yes, at 436 acres, Lindbergh is among the smallest of Minnesota state parks. But there's plenty to explore. For campers, there are 38 semi-modern campsites (15 with electricity), one canoe campsite, a backpack site and group camp for 30. The quaint picnic area includes a historic Work Projects Administration picnic shelter and stone water tower, and 8 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails wind through and around the park. Boating and fishing were popular on the river on this day - there's a good-sized boat access and canoe rentals are available.
Canoers paddled the Mississippi at Lindbergh State Park last month, as explorers did two centuries earlier.
Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
The original vegetation at the park was pine forest, with oak and grassland openings. Today, the forest is oak, with some aspen and conifers, and prairie dots the south central section of the park.
Near the trailhead, at the edge of the picnic area, a large log is all that remains of a monstrous white pine that once towered from that spot. According to a sign there, the pine "was struck by lightning in 1986 and died in 1987. It was about 280 years old, 48 inches in diameter and 120 feet tall."
Yes, history is big at Charles Lindbergh State Park.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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