151,678 annual visits
21,054 overnight visits
Naturalist programs are available year-round in the park.
The diversity of vegetation in the park supports many wildlife species. Birdwatching is a favorite activity with hobbyists spotting red-eyed and warbling vireos, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and many other forest songsters. Loons, eagles, herons, even osprey can be seen on the lake. Hikers often come across deer, porcupine, squirrels, and chipmunks and even spot the occasional black bear. In the evening, visitors are treated to the sounds of gray treefrogs, spring peepers, and chorus of wood frogs. The sound of the barred owl, the flute-like song of the veery, and the hammering of a pileated woodpecker all add to the wilderness experience.
For hundreds of years, the ancestors to the Dakota Indians fished and hunted around Lake Bemidj. Later, the westward-moving Anishinabe reached the area around 1750. Early trader records identify Lake Bemidji as "Lac Traverse" which is French for diagonal. The Anishinabe knew the lake as "Bemiji-gau-maug" meaning cutting sideways through or diagonally. This was a reference to the path of the Mississippi River through the lake.
In the late 1800s, European immigrants were drawn to this region to harvest the prime white and Norway pine. During the peak of logging around the turn of the century, the lumber mills on the south shore of Lake Bemidji were the center of logging in the nation. The foundation of one mill is still visible near Nymore Beach. Logging artifacts are occasionally found in the lake by divers. Fortunately, a few areas within the park boundaries were still in a virgin state when the land was purchased by the government, thus preserving a remnant of towering forests so common in years past. In 1923, the Minnesota Legislature established Lake Bemidji as a state park. The park serves more than 135,000 visitors each year.
The park landscape is the result of the last stage of glaciation in Minnesota. Sand, gravel, and rock material carried by the glacier as it moved south was eventually deposited as the ice receded 10,000 years ago. The park's rolling topography was created by uneven deposits of this glacial till. Meltwater from the glacier also played a role in creating the present shape of the land. Many of the swamps and bogs in the park were formed when chunks of ice separated form the receding glacier and left depressions which later filled with water. Lake Bemidji itself is the result of ice left behind by the retreating glacier.
Located in a pine-moraine region of Minnesota, the park contains a mixture of plant communities from the mixed red and white pine uplands to jack pine barrens. The park also contains fine examples of conifer bog that includes some of Minnesota's most unusual plants and animals. A quarter mile long boardwalk leads into one of these areas so that visitors can observe pitcher plants, insect eating sundews, orchids, and other plants.