McCarthy Beach State Park

In the area

From Explore MN Tourism

Park Info

Image of McCarthy Beach State Park

Quick stats

2,356 acres
159,634 annual visits
18,636 overnight visits


None at the park.


The park's hills and trails allow for excellent opportunities to watch the birds and animals at McCarthy Beach State Park. More than 175 species of birds visit the area and visitors are treated to sights of loons gliding on the lakes and great blue herons stalking small fish in the shallows. Thirty-three species of wildlife inhabit the park including white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolves, chipmunks, red squirrels, raccoons, and several species of reptiles and amphibians.


Archaeologists have found American Indian artifacts in the park that help tell the early history of the area. A well-crafted stone spear point made of Jasper Taconite, and later reworked into a drill, was recovered in an archaeological excavation near the park office in 1999. The spear point and small copper awls found with it date back 10,000 years ago when Paleoindian people would have hunted this area. Other stone artifacts suggest Archaic people lived here. During Woodland times, 2,000 to 500 years ago, Woodland people made their camps along the shores of the lakes in the park. They used ceramic pots for cooking, processing and storing food. The same attributes that draw visitors to the park today have made this a popular stopping place for thousands of years. In the park office, you will find an interpretive display of these artifacts called "Pieces of the Past".

Before the European settlers arrived, giant red and white pines stretched as far as the eye could see. These pines attracted loggers looking to provide timber for booming sawmills in Hibbing and Minneapolis. The Swan River Logging Company built a railroad to the Sturgeon Lake area in 1895. Remnants of the old logging railroad grades can still be seen along the park trail system.

In the 1930s, "McCarthy’s beach" became a popular picnic and swimming spot for families living along the Mesaba Iron Range. Named for former property owner John A. McCarthy, the park was established in 1945 as a living memorial to area servicemen that lost their lives in World War II. The original 135 acres of virgin pine between Sturgeon and Side lakes was purchased with money raised by the Chisholm and Hibbing communities and matched by the State of Minnesota. The park boundary has since expanded to include 2471 acres.


The hilly topography and lakes of McCarthy Beach State Park were shaped during the retreat of the last continental glacier around 12,000 years ago. Glacial debris forms the steep-sided sandy ridges that are found in the interior of the park. Pothole lakes were created by large remnant chunks of ice left by the glacier. As these slowly melted, the depressions they left behind filled with water.

The park is on the southern edge of former glacial lakes Agassiz and Koochiching. These huge lakes once stretched far up into Canada. Beach ridges on the shores of Sturgeon Lake and along the Sturgeon River, evidence of past high-water levels, can still be seen today.


For those willing to leave the relaxation of the park’s sandy beach, the rolling hills and valleys of McCarthy Beach State Park offer visitors a variety of terrain to hike and explore. The park protects a northern boreal forest with stands of red and white pine, leatherleaf-black spruce lowlands, birch and aspen.