119,317 annual visits
19,109 overnight visits
The park drive at dawn and dusk is a great time to see deer. Beaver are active in some lakes and raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks can be seen frequently. As a result of the varied landscape in the park, 150 bird species breed here, along with 50 species of mammals, and 25 kinds of reptiles and amphibians. The park also hosts sites for colonial nesting birds. Butterflies, dragonflies, kingbirds, swallows, cuckoos, cerulean warblers, and blue-gray gnatcatchers can be seen in the park.
Human habitation in the area dates back at least 6,000 years. Artifacts found in the park give evidence of both prairie and woodland cultures. Most artifacts, however, indicate that the site was occupied 900 to 1200 years ago and that the residents were primarily hunters during that period. Records of modern habitation began in the mid-1880s when the original land surveys occurred. After the organization of the Lida and Maplewood townships, the area population rose to 1,167 by 1900.
The idea of establishing a park in the area goes back to 1923 when it was originally proposed at the legislature. A later study concluded that this hilly, lake-dotted terrain was better suited to recreation than to farming. In 1963 the park became a reality when Maplewood State Park was established by the Minnesota Legislature.
Maplewood lies on a series of hills in the Leaf Hills Landscape Region near the eastern edge of the level Red River Valley. These hills, part of the Alexandria Glacial Moraine, were deposited during the last ice age. Relief is abrupt, with changes of about 300 feet in less than a mile. The highest hills in the park approach 1,600 feet. The Lake Lida basin was probably formed when the last glacier retreated 20,000 years ago and left ice stranded in the valley. The ice melted, exposing the basin and allowed the present lake to form.
Amid the farmlands that surround the park, Maplewood sits on a series of high tree-covered hills that provide visitors with striking vistas of small, clear lakes nestled in deep valleys. The park is located in a transition area between the western prairies and the eastern forests and contains plants and animals found in both landscapes. The park is known for its hardwood trees including sugar maple, basswood, and oak. These same trees provide a stunning display of fall colors each year. In addition, red cedar and tamarack are found in the park.
Wildflower lovers will find flowers and grasses representative of both the prairies and forests. Spring through fall, the park is "dressed" with displays of trillium, hepatica, bloodroot, yellow lady's slipper, wild onion, prairie rose, and showy milkweed.