Campgrounds in Southern MN are abundant. But if you want a unique experience, you have to go to a Minnesota State Park. And in this area, if you are looking to camp near Albert Lea, Myre-Big Island State Park is the best one. Our night camping was like any other, with the exception of no s’mores for the parents because I forgot to restock the supply of graham crackers in our camper. When we first arrived, we thought it was just like any other park. But this southern Minnesota campground is something entirely different.
Camping in Southern Minnesota at Myre-Big Island State Park
1. Spend The Night with Fireflies
This park best feature is the fireflies that light up your night. For this reason alone, you may want to start your campfire early, so it doesn’t detour these bugs from visiting. What starts out as a few, you’ll soon find yourself engulfed in 100’s of the magical insects.
My oldest described it as having Christmas lights all over the grass. It didn’t take long before we were surrounded by these fantastic little bugs. I’ve only seen bugs like this one other time. In a campground in Iowa. After talking with a few others, this is a common occurrence in the park.
2. Hiking on the Prairie
The camp has over 16 miles of hiking trails, and I think I tried to convince my family to do them all. It started with two attempts at the Hiking Club Trail. We completed about 3 of the 6 miles and found that instead of getting to see much more than prairie, all I got was a lot of bugs, trees and some very wet shoes. While my boots may be breathable, they do a great job of letting water in them too. Going on a very stormy weekend, we ended up leaving tackling it all in little sections in-between weather.
3. Visit with the Wildlife
The amount of different wildlife in the park is astounding. Because it’s not as heavily trafficked as some of the North Shore parks, you get the opportunity to see a lot more. We were able to see a few different frogs, a giant snapping turtle, and pelicans. Finches, red-winged blackbirds and enjoyed the prairie. We’ve also witnessed more mayflies and other non-biting insects than I would have liked.
Part of the fun of Geocaching is exploring the unknown. Using a Geocaching unit provided by the State Park, be prepared to hike for up to six miles along the trails. If you are looking for a way to motivate your kids to hike, the unit works great to have them navigate for you as you get closer and closer to the destination. Then the hunt is on for the marker. We had a great time trying this one out. They have two different Geocaching paths setup. One for Myre-Big Island and one for the Blazing Start Trail. Both take off from the same place.
5. Camping on an Island
You can camp on an island without needed a boat to get there. The campsites located on the Island portion of the grounds were very wooded and up close to your neighbors. But with views of the lake, who cares! They have both electric and non-electric spots for everyone. White Fox Campground provides a little more privacy between spaces.
6. Stay in A Wall Tent
Don’t have a tent of your own, no problem! Rent a Wall Tent. This is the only MN State Park that rents this type of shelter. The tent is found on in the White Fox campground and can be reserved on State Parks Reservation System. Bring your sleeping bags and cots, for a group of up to 6 people.
7. Canoeing the Lake
There are a few ways to rent canoes. The first is through the State Park itself. After getting your paddle and life jackets from the office, go down to the boat launch to pick up your canoe. They also rent Stand Up Paddle boards. Spend the day paddling around the lake in some of the calm waterways of Albert Lea Lake.
8. Bike the Blazing Star State Trail
Go biking on the Blazing Star State Trail Bike Path. Southern Minnesota has some of the best bike trails for beginners. They are flat prairie land with some fantastic views. The Blazing Star State Trail runs from Myre-Big Island State Park and ends six miles later in the heart of Albert Lea. They are working on building an addition 14 miles. The plan is to have it connect Albert Lea and Austin for a total of 20 miles. The Root River Bike Trail will have some competition soon!
9. Paddle the Shell Rock River State Water Trail
Travel 20 miles by canoe from starting at North Edgewater Bay and travel all the way to the Iowa Boarder. Myre-Big Island is a midway point in the journey before you enter the Shell Rock River. If you are looking for an alternative to the BWCA canoeing adventure, this could be a great alternative.
10. Visit New Denmark Park
Usually, I wouldn’t tell you to leave a State Park to head into a City Park, but this one is exceptional. New Demark Park is a stop on the Shell Rock River State Water Trail and is another spot to pick up canoes. Complete with a few fountains, and it’s own private island, it’s a favorite location for the locals to fish for Muskie. My favorite part of the whole park was finding the mermaid located at the south end of the park.
Would I Go Back?
Myre-Big Island State Park was so much fun; I only wish that I had more time to explore the park, with more favorable weather. Unfortunately, we were dodging a rain system the whole time, making it harder to hike for a longer amount of time. But we still had a great time! I also got to mark off a state park visit on my MN State Parks Passport.