Things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area: A Northern MN Must See
Big Bog State Recreation Area is one of those surprising finds that sneak up on you. I thought I was visiting the largest peat bog in the lower 48 states. What I didn’t realize was all the other things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area. It has me wondering, why is this park only considered a Recreation Area and not a full State Park?
On our Northern Loop Adventure, Big Bog State Park was the one campground that I was completely unsure about.
I had heard things about the fire tower and getting to walk along the bog, but I never heard much about the camping situation. We opted to only stay a few nights at Big Bog because of the uncertainty around it. Come to find out, I could have spent an extra night or two.
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The beginnings of Big Bog State Recreation Area
For years, the place to go fishing for Walley was Upper Red Lake. That was until 1990s when their populations plummeted. Fishing stops and the resorts closed as tourists no longer were coming.
The park started as a grassroots effort to bring back tourism to the area. The longest bog walk in Minnesota was developed and they moved a fire tower in.
Things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area
Big Bog State Recreation Area Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 131 miles
Big Bog State Recreation Area is divided up into two units. A northern unit that contains the bog and a couple of other trails, and the southern unit that houses pretty much everything else.
What surprised me the most is how far away the units are from each other. Finding the Northern Unit entrance, we pulled in to find a pond at the end of the road.
Everything was impeccably developed. According to the map, there were two hiking trails and the Hiking Club Trail (aka Bog Walk). The other trails must have been hiding near the parking area, because all we saw was the bog.
There is a quick jaunt around the Ludlow Pond. Then it’s off on the mile long boardwalk. In true Day Tripper fashion, whenever I get the opportunity to explore near sunset, I go for it. It’s a precarious time for adventure. You always must be on the move or you risk being in the dark. It’s also the time that the bloodsuckers come out. We tore through the bog, stopping only to take pictures and exploring little finds.
Most of the area was thick with trees and other cover. But at the end of the bog, you are out in the middle of nowhere.
I could have spent hours there if it wasn’t for the sun threatening to abandon us. For some reason, the bloodsuckers were not at the end of the trail.
If we thought we were moving with purpose going there, we were almost running on the way back. Permethrin-soaked clothing only helps so much. Anything not covered, like hands, was fair game.
Interesting Finds in the Bog
Did you know Minnesota has some interesting plant species? Like the Sundew, pitcher plant, and other carnivorous species. There are also orchids and other rare finds in Minnesota all lining the bog’s boardwalk. The Big Bog boardwalk it’s was designed specifically to not impede the light and growth of the bog.
Other things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area
Whenever there is a chance to climb a fire tower, you must take it. How often do you get a chance to see what birds see? Big Bogs fire tower seemed to be open when the office was open.
Unfortunately for us, that meant would see the view during sunset or even see the stars from it. Oh well. Climbing the fire tower the next morning we were amazed. The last fire tower we climbed at St Croix State Park was a little on the wobbly side.
We told ourselves they wouldn’t let you up unless it’s deemed safe. In the case of Big Bog’s, this felt sturdy. There was even a gate at the top of the steps.
The view from the top was everything we hoped for. Upper Red Lake went on for miles. It’s not a wonder it takes up a big portion of the Minnesota State Map. In the other direction was the forest.
Swimming at Big Bog State Recreation Area
Across the street from the campground is Upper Red Lake. The Lake is incredibly shallow, making it perfect for just about every swimmer. People were out for what seemed like a mile in waist-deep water. On a calm night, it’s magical.
Camping at Big Bog State Park
The campground at Big Bog State Recreation Area was a mix of pull though, back in, riverside, wooded, open and everything in between.
Most of the riverside options were long and skinny sites, with firepits positioned behind the campers. Campers along the river had the luxury of their own private dock. The riverside sites were wooded, perfect to hand a hammock. Those on the other side had more open sites.
The bathrooms and showers were great. The more state parks I visit, the more of a shower snob I have become. When it comes to Big Bog, the showers are all in private rooms, accessible from the exterior of the building, with a deadbolt securing you inside. It was heavenly. There are also 6 camper cabins on the south end of the park.
Historic Waskish Town Site and Playground
From the campground, there is a short paved trail leading across the river to the site of the Old Waskish Township.
The town was a booming site for loggers, settlers, and travelers as it sits at the mouth of the Tamarack River.
By the late 1930s, the Department of Natural Resources began purchasing the site of the town. Nothing stands of the old town with a marker telling stories of those that lived there and of its grandeur.
Most of the people come over this way to let their kids enjoy the playground, or for anglers to put in their boats. The playground has some swings, a few slides, and things to keep your kids entertained.
Other Things to do near Big Bog State Recreation Area
This question is all relative to how you describe “near”. From the campground, a few miles south, is a gas station, with dining, gifts, and other last-minute purchases you may have forgotten.
Otherwise, the park sits in a secluded area of the state. To the northern, you can visit Franz Jevne State Park and Zippel Bay State Park. Both are about an hour away and are easy to visit all on the same day. After visiting all their parks, this was my favorite for to stay.
Would I go back to Big Bog State Recreation Area?
This is where my husband and I differ in opinion. I absolutely loved this park. It had a romance to it, with calm nights and stunning sunsets.
My biggest regret was that we didn’t get to spend another day enjoying the park. My husband also loved the features but wanted a different campsite.
If you are planning a visit, get your reservation as soon as it opens up and aim for sites 3-12. Otherwise, I would have loved to go back and enjoy more things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area.