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Itasca State Park

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Where to go: Subtle changes are continuing to occur throughout the forest. The effects of two nights of frost last week are visible in the plants on the forest floor. More color is appearing in the canopies of the trees with the recent sunny days and cool nights. Touring along Main Park Drive and Wilderness Drive will show hints of the first trees turning color. Hiking any trail, especially those passing along lakes and wetlands, will reveal the colorful floral blooms.

What you'll see:

Trees: Small bursts of red are visible in the tree tops as the Red maples begin to change color. These small pockets of red are visible across park lakes and ponds. A stop at Preachers Grove will reveal a few red maples on the far shore turning color. A few sugar maples are turning orange-peach in the upper most branches along Main Park Drive. More Ash, located in the wetlands throughout the park, are turning yellow, with several trees completely yellow. The balsam poplars are khaki brown, their typical autumn color.

Shrubs: The most significant color change is currently in the shrub layer. Dogwood species are showing multiple colors ranging from green and violet blends to a deep wine color. Some cherry trees are turning color. The Blue beech are hinting at their pinkish hue.

Flowers: Many of the autumn flower species are at peak. A variety of asters (over 16 species in the park)are now blooming, ranging in color from white to deep purple. The most common in the pinelands is the large-leaf aster. Goldenrods (around 15 species around the park) are also starting to bloom in full force, their lovely rich, gold colored flowers are attracting many pollinators. The Zig-zag golden rod blooms seem to dominate the forest floor right now.

Fruits: Not all fruits are edible. Some are poisonous. Many of the plants are now at the fruiting stage. Spikenard's tiny fruits are now a deep purple and can be seen along the Dr. Roberts Trail. Here you can also see the bright red fruits of the bunchberry. Highbush cranberry and wild rose hips are beginning to ripen, both displaying reddish-yellow fruits. Many colorful mushrooms are found throughout the forest floor.

Also of interest: The bike trail is now open! Why not enjoy the colorful floral display by bike. Or come to a naturalist program. Check out our listing of fall programs on the park page.

Animals: Animals are on the move! Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are very active as the gather together, many seen along the shoulders of park roads as they feed on ants. A few straggler hummingbirds are still active at park feeders, however, most have moved on for the season. Geese are beginning to flock, many seen flying in "V" formation. Tiny toads are seen hopping along trails. Tiger and blue-spotted salamanders are on the move on rainy days. Red squirrels are continuing to cut red pine cones for their winter food stash. Acorns from the red oak are beginning to drop. The raccoons will usually appear in those areas to feast on the calorie packed nuts. White-tailed deer are beginning to feed on acorns. Many of the fawns have lost their spots. Male white-tails are beginning to lose the velvet on their antlers.

Last updated: September 16, 2014 

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Canít decide between a one-day or year-round park permit? The DNR has a special offer that can help. Start by purchasing a one-day permit for $5 and visit as many state parks as possible. After visiting the state parks, trade in the one-day permit by the end of that day and get $5 off the purchase of a year-round permit. Year-round permits, which cost $25, provide unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.
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Getting there

36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470

South entrance to the park is 23 miles north of Park Rapids on U.S. Highway 71. From Bemidji, the east entrance is 30 miles south on U.S. Hwy 71 and 1/10 mile north on State Hwy 200. The north entrance is 21 miles south of Bagley on State Hwy 92/State Hwy 200.

GPS device users: Lat. 47.194648 Long. -95.165012


Phone: 218-699-7251

Email: itasca.statepark@state.mn.us

Best time to contact the park:

Daily, 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.