The Ten Natural Wonders of Minnesota
Have you ever paddled a canoe for a day or more without encountering another human being? Stood in a sea of wildflowers that stretches to the horizon? Stepped easily across the very first ripple in our country’s mightiest river? Or dipped your toe into the world’s largest freshwater lake?
Minnesota’s natural wonders range from moments of quiet awe to outsize thrills. While crowds fill the parking lots at the nation’s best-known national parks, a growing number of travelers in the know are discovering why Minnesota is one of the best places in the country to enjoy an outdoor vacation.
10 Natural Wonders of Minnesota:
1. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Minnesota’s beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is the biggest wilderness east of the Rockies, with 1.3 million acres and a network of 1,200 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes connected by streams and portages. The BWCAW is one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “50 Places of a Lifetime.”
2. Lake of the Woods and the Northwest Angle
The nation’s seventh-largest lake stretches across the Canadian border, cutting off a tiny slice of America — the Northwest Angle — the northern most point in the U.S., from land access to the rest of the country. Lake of the Woods offers world-class fishing, in quiet isolation.
3. Voyageurs National Park
In Voyageurs National Park, water is the primary form of transportation. There are no roads, so travelers traverse the four large lakes and 26 interior lakes that cover 40 percent of the park itself. Also straddling the Minnesota-Canadian border, this remote 218,000 acre national park is the perfect “two-nation vacation,” andlargest freshwater-based national park.
4. The North Shore of Lake Superior
The world’s largest freshwater lake (by surface area) stretches to the horizon. Hike to the crests of the bluffs along it, following the flow of rivers that still carve cliffs and gullies on its edge.
5. Headwaters of Mississippi
More than 2,500 miles north of its mile-wide mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the great Mississippi River starts at Itasca State Park as a stream tumbling over a few rocks, easily crossed on foot.
6. Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge
Tallgrass prairie once covered 25 million acres. The refuge preserves about 5,000 acres of the tiny fraction that now remains. Native grasses up to 6 feet tall wave on the rolling hills.
7. Inspiration Peak
The state’s second-highest point at 1,750 feet above sea level, this peak in a wayside park just northeast of Ashby offers stunning views of nine lakes and three counties. The surrounding forests of maple, basswood, oak and other hardwoods are particularly gorgeous in the fall.
8. Minnehaha Falls
This urban natural wonder, a roaring 53-foot waterfall in a quiet urban neighborhood in the Twin Cities, inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sight unseen, to write The Song of Hiawatha.
9. Lake Mille Lacs
In a part of the state particularly known for great fishing lakes and resorts, Lake Mille Lacs offers some of the greatest. Minnesota’s second-largest inland lake has been named among the six best lakes for bass fishing in the country, with many resorts offering charter boats and fishing guides to help you find the big ones.
10. St. Croix River
Less than half an hour from Minneapolis-St. Paul, the St. Croix River is one of only eight waterways originally designated as a “National Wild and Scenic River” by the federal government in 1968. It is widely considered one of the best canoeing rivers in the nation.