Snow and ice are the only ingredients we need for a weekend of fun. The trails are humming with snowmobiles and fish houses pepper the lakes.
With Valentine’s Day, a three-day weekend and some great special events on February’s menu, plan a winter getaway to our beautiful north woods.
The days grow longer and quiet, frozen lakes invite wildlife viewing. Eagles and trumpeter swans, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer are the easiest to spot, but other species from snowshoe hares to pileated woodpeckers can be seen.
Consider cozying up in a fish house. The ice is thick on local lakes but to be on the safe side you can ask a local bait dealer for a recommendation on where the fish are biting and how to find them. Then warm up by a fireplace or poolside.
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 the following fun winter events:
It’s not too late to head north for the 18th Annual Park Rapids American Legion Ice Fishing Contest and Raffle on Fish Hook Lake from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. The contest offers more than $110,000 in prizes and an afternoon of family fun on the ice. Your $40 ticket gives you access to the ice fishing contest and the raffle. Grand prize for the 18th largest fish of the day is an Ice Castle Fish House. This year’s raffle grand prize is a new 4-wheel drive Ford pickup truck. The American Legion also sponsors a Friday night Welcome Dance and Saturday night Fisherman’s Ball. Contest and raffle tickets are available at the American Legion or call 218-732-3360. For the first time this year, a ticket booth will be open at the gate on the ice until 1:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.parkrapidsamericanlegion.com or www.parkrapidsicecontest.com.
The Itascatur Outdoor Activity Club is sponsoring open houses every Sunday 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 https://itascatur.org.
Discover the good old days of harvesting lake ice from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, as we look back on 125 years of Itasca State Park’s history. Dress warmly as you come out on Lake Itasca from the Lake Itasca boat landing 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. 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.
Or enjoy a winter evening at Itasca State Park and ski or snowshoe by the light of the moon and the kerosene lanterns along the trail. Meet at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. Classic ski, skate ski or snowshoe at your own pace 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 or stop in and warm up at the Visitor Center. If snow conditions are poor, the event will become a snow boot walk.
In 2016 Itasca State Park and Minnesota State Parks will celebrate 125 years with special activities for the quasquicentennial. Mark your calendar for the weekend of July 31 to celebrate at Itasca’s big birthday party. Also on the calendar are a-hike-a-month on the North Country Trail, Mysteries in History Hikes, Itasca’s Wildlife Wonders Series, She Had Nerve and a Big Gun – The Mary Gibbs Story and more. Consider taking on the 125-mile challenge by hiking, biking or canoeing/kayaking 125 miles.
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 2016 Chamber Guide to find out what’s happening all year long.