February brings Valentine’s Day, a three-day weekend and some great special events for a winter getaway. The upside of subzero temps is ice thick enough to hold a population of fish houses and keep our snow cover. And the days are getting longer.
Hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails will take you places you might never find in the summer time – and there are no mosquitoes. Or explore the forest on groomed cross-country ski trails or view wildlife on a frozen, quiet lake. If ice fishing is your sport, it’s a good bet you’ll have some luck. Always check with a local bait dealer to be on the safe side before you head out though.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources updates snow and trail conditions in weekly reports posted after 2 p.m. every Thursday at www.dnr.state.mn.us/snow_depth/index.html.
If you time your stay, you can sample one of these fun winter events:
It’s not too late to head north for the 19th Annual Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby on Fish Hook Lake from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. The contest offers more than $130,000 in prizes with only 4,500 tickets available. Your $40 ticket gives you access to the ice fishing contest and raffle prizes. The ice fishing contest grand prize for the 19th largest fish of the day is an Ice Castle Fish House. This year’s raffle grand prize is a 2016 Chevy truck. Polaris ATVs top the list of prizes in four of the five fishing contest divisions: bluegill and crappie; northern, walleye and largemouth bass; perch and rock bass. Cash prizes will be given in the white fish division. The awards presentation starts at 5 p.m. at the American Legion. In conjunction with the fishing contest, the American Legion also sponsors a Friday night Welcome Dance and Saturday night Fisherman’s Ball. Tickets are available at the American Legion or call 218-732-5238. For more information, go to http://americanlegionderby.com/.
The Itascatur Outdoor Activity Club will sponsor open houses Sundays in February at the beautiful Soaring Eagle ski trails. Itascatur volunteers will be on hand to help get you out on the trails. You can use their ski equipment free of charge and have a cup of hot cocoa in the warming house. The only thing you need to provide is a MN DNR Trails Pass. Check for conditions and events at http://itascatur.org.
Discover the good old days of harvesting lake ice from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10. Dress warmly as you come out on Lake Itasca to see ice harvesters use tools of the ice cutting trade. Watch them create an opening in the ice with a single handled handsaw, then wait as they bounce the ice blocks out of the water onto the slippery edge. NOTES: This Old Time Ice Harvest demonstration will take place on Lake Itasca if ice conditions permit. Parking is available at the Lake Itasca boat landing. This event presented by Itasca State Park and the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers. Dress for being outdoors including boots, hats, gloves, coats and insulated snow pants.
Visit Itasca State Park and ski or snowshoe by the light of the moon and kerosene lanterns along the Schoolcraft Trail. Meet at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center. Travel at your own pace between 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 along the lantern lit route during this drop-in program. For added fun, bring along your s’mores fixings or hot dogs for cooking at the campfire. Bill and Julie Kaiser will be performing from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the Mary Gibbs Café. A limited number of snowshoes will be available at the park on a first come-first served basis. If snow conditions are poor, the event will become a snow boot walk. Itasca does not have cross-country skis to rent.
If you need help planning a memorable and affordable visit, need more information about these and other winter activities or if you have questions, call our friendly staff at 800-247-0054 to learn more. And be sure to check out the 2018 Chamber Guide to find out what’s happening all year long.
Look at the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce’s Events Calendar for more information on these and many other events in the area.