6 Fun Things to do at Buffalo River State Park near Moorhead MN
Buffalo River State Park is a smaller park, located on the Glacial Lake Agassiz. It gives a great balance of rivers, forests, and prairie. In the center of the park is a sand-bottom beach for kids to play in. The best part is that it’s close enough to Moorhead MN it still sees enough visitors on their trails to make you feel like you aren’t alone.
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The Beginning of our Northern Loop Adventure
With a good chunk of the MN State Parks more than 4 hrs away from Minneapolis, day trips, while not impossible, are just not practical. This July we hooked up the travel trailer and hit the road to visit some of the most underrated State Parks. The loop consisted of 12 different state parks. What I wasn’t expecting to find was such a diverse area of the state. Over the next 12 weeks, I’m going to share some of the best parts of these State Parks on our Northern Loop Adventure.
Things to Do At Buffalo River State Park
The Buffalo River State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 120 miles
The Simming Pond
The Hiking Club Trail starts near the Swimming Pond. The theme of 2021 is “Remodel”. Maybe it’s just me but the sand bottom beaches are all in remodeling mode. Both this location and Flandrau State Park were emptied. While a little disappointing, it looks like a great location to enjoy. People were still using their picnic area and other amenities.
Have you joined the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club yet? It has given me the excuse to see so many more parks, plus it’s a great incentive for the kids too! 75 reasons to join the MN State Parks Passport and MN Hiking Club
The Buffalo River
The hiking trail quickly turns into the wooded bank of the Buffalo River. With the exception of the bugs hovering at this time of day, waiting for the moment when you slow down long enough for them to strike, the trail was stunning. It wove along the river banks.
Along the way, there were many spur trails down to the river’s edge. On one of them, we saw a family of white-tailed deer getting an evening drink. Don’t skip out on any of them if you can avoid it. Some of the spur trails have a longer brush. If you are concerned about creepy crawlies finding you, hike with some convertible trail pants, soaked in permethrin.
Do you have your free Buffalo River State Park Map? I download all of my maps from Avenza. This way I have a GeoPDF Map from MNDNR that tracks my location the entire hike!
The Native Prairie
After escaping wooded banks, you’ll start into the prairie. The grassland is stunning almost any time of year. When you are in the summer, the best time to hike the prairies is in the morning or evening hours. They are magical in the light, and the lower sun isn’t as harsh. This is when you can truly appreciate the little things in the prairie. Like the wildflowers in the field, and the giant boulders dropped off by the glaciers, known as glacial erratic.
The trail weaves through the rolling hills. Unlike the bluffs in southern Minnesota, these are at such a low incline, you don’t even mind climbing them. And once you reach the top, it’s nothing but rolling fields.
The parks in southern Minnesota have some beautiful prairies. Another great park that reminded me a lot of this one was Glacial Lakes State Park. Click here for more info about the park.
Minnesota State University Moorhead Regional Science Center
At the far end of the park, is the Minnesota State University Moorhead Regional Scenic Center. Open to everyone, inside you’ll find an interpretive center and natural history exhibit. There is also the Paul Feder Observatory. It has a 16-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope that is powerful enough to see a candle flame 100 miles away. During different times of the year, their observatory opens to the public and amateur astronomers, as well as for college use.
Fishing Buffalo River
All of the spur trails along the River View Trail are a perfect spot to go fishing. The waters are clear and shallow. Fish along the shores of the Buffalo River. Fish such as white sucker, river redhorse and goldeye reside in these waters. Northern pike, bass, and the occasional walleye have been caught from these shores.
Fish For Free in Minnesota State Parks
Did you know if you have a Minnesota driver’s License you can fish for free in Minnesota State Parks? The only expectation is if the body of water requires a trout stamp, or if you are in a Recreation Area. To fish for free you must be:
1. Fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park; or
2. Fishing through the ice, from a boat or a float on a designated lake that is completely encompassed within a Minnesota state park.
Click here for the official statue.
Camping at Buffalo River State Park
Buffalo River State Park has a few different camping areas to choose from. A primary camping loop with electric sites. The sites sit along the prairie, and Red River Valley woods with a big open area in-between. There is also an auxiliary loop with non-electric sites. Those sites have more privacy.
When scoping out our campsite, we chose to stay closer to the wooded bank in hopes of a little more privacy. What we didn’t realize was the addition of the woods, which also came with mosquitos. I recommend staying prairie side if you get the chance. The breeze keeps them away.
When is Buffalo River State Park Open?
Buffalo River State Park is open year around. For day visitors you can get in daily from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. The campground is open seasonally and occasionally there are Deer Management hunts in late October/November. Check their website for up-to-date information.
How much does it cost?
All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7. Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.
Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.
Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days
Would I camp again at Buffalo River State Park?
I would go back, but before going I would want all the amenities to be open on my return visit. Things like the sand bottom beach would have pushed us over the edge from a day-use facility to one that you could spend a weekend at. I would love to have had more time to explore the science center too. Unfortunately for us, we had to leave too early in the day to take a peek inside.