Parks, Forests and Historical Sites

Discover Unique Outdoor Areas in the Minnesota Northwoods

Itasca State Park

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park is the oldest and most popular park in Minnesota and is only a 45-minute drive from the Cass Lake area. In the park, you will find the headwaters of the Mississippi River, 6000 acres of old-growth pines, including the largest red pine and the largest white pine in the state, and miles of hiking and biking trails. In the winter, Itasca offers miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Facilities at the park include the Headwaters History Center. Douglas Lodge and Museum, Gift Shop, and bike and boat rental outlets. Activities include weekly naturalist programs during the summer months, guided boat tours on Lake Itasca, the annual Ozawindib Walk (5K or 10K), the Headwaters 100 Bike Ride/Race, and a variety of daily events.

Entrance to the park is 21 miles north of Park rapids on U.S. Highway 71. From Bemidji the park is 30 miles south on US Hwy 71.

A state park sticker or daily permit is required. Learn more by visiting their official website.

Related Links

Coborn's Lake Itasca Tours
Aiton Heights Fires Tower

Lake Bemidji State Park

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Bemidji State Park

This park is the perfect playground any time of year, offering visitors swimming, boating, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, camping, biking, picnicking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and year-around naturalist-led activities. Hikers can explore the beauty of a tamarack bog carpeted with showy lady's slippers, pitcher plants, dragon's mouth, grass pink, and insect-eating sundews. Most flowers are blooming in the bog during late spring and early summer.

The unique boardwalk into the quiet, mysterious world of a spruce-tamarack bog offers visitors a rare chance to view orchids, mosses and insect eating plants. Swimming, fishing for walleye on Lake Bemidji; 14 mi of hiking, 5 mi of biking, 9 mi of skiing and snowshoeing are visitor favorites in this popular park. Boat and canoe rental is available. 5 mi of mountain biking, 96 site campground with electricity. Motorcoach groups should call ahead.

A state park sticker or daily permit is required. Learn more by visiting their official website.

Camp Rabideau


Take a step into the past at historic Camp Rabideau. The camp is located 6 miles south of Blackduck, Minnesota on County Road 39. In the 1930's there were 2,650 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). camps in America. Camp Rabideau is one of three remaining camps being preserved and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.


Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Camp Rabideau Chippewa Forest

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the CGG in 1933 to revitalize the economy and end the depression. The program provided jobs and training for over 275,000 men. Roosevelt's "Tree Army" worked on projects such as building fire towers, bridges, roads and trails; fire fighting; firebreaks; tree planting; camp and picnic ground development; mosquito control; and roadside beautification. Work projects varied with each camp location and its needs.

Camp Rabideau's first enrollees, Company 3749 from Bennett Springs, Missouri, built and occupied the camp from August 1935 to January: 4, 1936. The crew was relocated in California and Minnesota Company 708 was removed from Bena to Camp Rabideau by truck in 45 degrees below zero weather.

Company 708 remained at Rabideau until the end of the program in 1941. Work projects ranged from building the Blackduck Ranger Station and two fire towers to doing deer census and searching for lost persons during the berry picking and deer hunting seasons.

In 1945, the camp was-leased to the University of Illinois for use by their engineering and forestry students. Under the terms of the lease, the students added sewer and sanitation lines, installed a water pressure system, rewired the buildings, installed ceiling supports and replaced the wood stoves with oil. After 27 years their lease ended in 1973.

The Camp Today

Camp Rabideau is located on a 112-acre tract purchased in 1934. The buildings are set about 100 feet apart, surrounded by tall trees forming a large glade in the center. The open area was once the location of the mess hall, which burned down in the 1930's.

Benjamin and Carls Lakes are visible from the barracks. An open-air picnic shelter is located at the camp. The shelter was built by the CCG and moved from the Cut Foot Sioux area to Camp Rabideau in 1986. Today, 15 of the original 25 buildings remain and four will be maintained to honor those who served as CCC corpsmen.


A one-mile trail runs through Camp Rabideau. Interpretive displays highlight the buildings and history of the area. For those wishing to camp, Webster Lake Campground is located four miles southeast of Camp Rabideau off forest Roads 2207 and 2236. The campground offers 22 campsites, a boat ramp, a 6 mile hiking trail, 2 picnic areas and a barrier free campsite.

Learn more by visiting the U.S. Forest Service's Camp Rabideau page.

Lady Slipper Scenic Byway

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods

Lady Slipper Scenic Byway goes “over the river and through the woods,” just like the song says. The river is the Mississippi River, where it passes out of Cass Lake as a wilderness stream, close to the beginning of its long journey. The woods are the pines, aspen and birches of the Chippewa National Forest, which covers a wide expanse of north central Minnesota. This rustic route is one of the 22 Minnesota Scenic Byways.

Lady Slipper Scenic Byway official website.

Big Bog State Recreational Area

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Big Bog State Forest

Big Bog includes a northern unit and a southern unit. The 500 square mile peat bog is the largest peat bog in the lower 48 states and is located in the northern unit. Also in the northern unit is a mile-long boardwalk that allows visitors to enjoy the unique plants and animals of the area. Yellow-eyed grass, bog rush, and two varieties of sundews, all on Minnesota's endangered or threatened species list, are located in Big Bog State Recreation Area. Visitors are able to enjoy these rare plants and flowers along with a large variety of rare birds.

The southern unit is home to a campground, sandy beach, picnic grounds, and great fishing.

Learn more by visiting the Minnesota DNR's Big Bog page.

Pennington Bog

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Pennington Bog State Forest

Located in the Black Duck Ranger District of Chippewa National Forest, Pennington Bog is an undisturbed tract of forest. Pennington Bog is home to a wide variety of plant species. Hike through Pennington Bog and enjoy beautiful orchids, white cedar, balsam fir, and black spruce.

The best times to visit Pennington Bog is early to mid-summer to view the beautiful wildflowers. Permission from the Regional DNR office in Bemidji, Minnesota is required for entrance.

Learn more by visiting the U.S. Forest Service's Pennington Bog page.

The Lost Forty

Experience the forest of old at the Chippewa National Forest's "Lost Forty." The original Government Land Survey in 1882 described the land of the Lost Forty as part of Coddington Lake. This mapping error caused the virgin pine of the area to be left behind by loggers at the turn of the century. The Lost Forty is actually 144 acres.


Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Lost Forty Forest

From Blackduck, take County Roads 30/13 to Alvwood (about 13 miles), travel north on State Highway 46 for 1/2 mile to County 29. Follow 29 east for about 11 miles to Dora Lake and County 26. Travel 2 miles north on 267 to Forest Road 2240. About 1 1/2 miles west of this intersection you will find a sign for the Lost Forty.


Most of the mature red and white pine is found on the east end of the Lost Forty. These trees are up to 350 years old and between 22 and 48 inches in diameter. In other areas of the Forest, white pine is managed for pulp (paper), lumber, wildlife and aesthetics, and the trees are harvested at about 80 to 150 years. Biologically, pine can live up to 500 years. Most of the aspen growing in the area is about 60 years old and is beginning to deteriorate. Aspen reach its biological old age at about 85 years. Old growth such as the Lost Forty is valuable for wildlife, including bald eagles, a number of hawks and woodpeckers, red squirrels, weasels and numerous other species.

The Lost Forty is considered a unique area in the Chippewa National Forest and will be managed to maintain its old growth character.


A one-mile self-guided trail winds its way through the majestic pines of the Lost Forty.

Carry-in boat access is located on the north side of Coddington Lake. The lake offers northern pike fishing, mallard and wood duck hunting and wild ricing.

Learn more by visiting the U.S. Forest Service's Lost Forty page.

Chippewa National Forest

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods

The areas surrounding Cass Lake, Blackduck, and Bemidji are far-removed from everyday traffic and noise. Our uniquely remote location and proximity to the heart of the Northwest Chippewa National Forest provides an abundance of wildlife. The pages listed below highlight your opportunities to navigate through our Northwoods nature.

Learn more at:

Star Island

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods

One of the unique features of the Cass Lake area is right in the middle of the lake: Star Island - accessible only by boat, but well worth a visit. Named for its shape by the Chippewa Indians, the island boasts its own lake, Lake Windigo, which is featured in Ripley's "Believe It or Not" as "lake in the island in the lake." The island is both public and private. There are some homes on the island under a lease arrangement with the federal government, but the Forest Service manages the island for scenic and recreation use as well. A campground has six miles of hiking trials make the island open for all kinds of recreational uses. The island is also part of the Chippewa National Forest's 10-section area, protected since 1902 from timber cutting. Its old growth pine trees make it a favorite with bald eagles. According to a history of the island, Hudson's Bay Co. once had cabins on the northwestern part of the island. Zebulon Pike visited the island in 1806, and in 1832, Henry Schoolcraft came to the island to ask Chippewa leader Yellow Head to lead him to the source of the Mississippi River. The Indian village on the island was reportedly wiped out in the 1890s, when a smallpox epidemic also took a heavy toll on the mainland population. In 1909, the federal government granted the first permit to a private citizen to build a vacation home. Until a few years ago, the island was served by the Postal Service - by boat.

Lyle's Logging Camp

Parks and Forests in the Minnesota Northwoods Lyle's Loggin Camp

Experience some of Cass Lake's past in the historically accurate museum of logging artifacts. Scaled-down replicas of equipment once used by loggers are on display, and each building is furnished just as it would have been in the early days.

Explore what it was like to be a lumberjack at the logging camp with an audio self tour or as Ed Hill to personally escort you for the most wonderful stories of logging as you tour the Wanigan, Bunkhouse, Cookhouse, and Blacksmith shop. Relive the period when white pine was king in the lumbering business. Plan you stay with advice and event information. Open Memorial Weekend through Labor Day 9-4:30 daily. 1-800-356-8615.