Fort Snelling State Park Snapshot Tour

Welcome to the Fort Snelling State Park virtual tour! Explore the shores of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, take a peek inside the visitor center, marvel at the views from overlooks, and admire the stonework in the historic fort nearby, trails, swimming beach and much more. We hope it prompts you to visit the park in person sometime soon.


Photo of the Visitor Center sitting on top of a small grassy rise backed by forest.
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Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center

The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center sits atop a small grassy rise backed by forest. The visitor center is named for the man who helped establish, develop and protect the historical and natural resources found at the park. Open year-round, the visitor center includes interpretive exhibits, meeting rooms, modern toilets, vending machines and a gift shop.


Photo of the patio outside the Visitor Center.
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Visitor Center Patio

The wide open patio outside the visitor center looks out onto the Mendota Bridge. Visitors can relax here with a picnic, watch birds swoop through the feeding area, or study the prairie restoration area.


Photo looking inside the visitor center at the center's interpretive exhibits.
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Visitor Center Interior

Inside the visitor center, a group meanders through the interpretive exhibits that detail the ecology and history of Fort Snelling State Park. Join one of the naturalist tours that start in the visitor center, available year-round.
 


Photo of the trail beneath the Mendota Bridge.
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Trail below Mendota Bridge

Below the Mendota Bridge, the trail runs through a section of floodplain forest. Watch out for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, fox, woodchucks and turkeys as you hike or bike down the gravel surface.
 


Photo of the trail along the high stone walls of the historic fort.
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Trail below Historic Fort

A paved trail runs through the woods along the high stone walls of the historic fort. The fort was built in the 1820s above the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers to control exploration, trade and settlement on the waterways.


Photo of the swimming beach along the east shore of Snelling Lake.
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Swimming Beach

A wide, sandy swimming beach runs along the east shore of Snelling Lake. This beach is handicapped accessible and manned by a lifeguard from Memorial through Labor Day, making it the perfect family-friendly place to enjoy a beautiful summer day on the water.
 


Photo of the seasonal beach facilities near the swimming beach.
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Beach Facilities

Beach facilities are set on a brick patio near the swimming beach on Snelling Lake. Facilities include restrooms, showers, changing rooms and information boards, all open seasonally.


Photo of the confluence as the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers merge, as viewed from Pike Island.
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Pike Island Point

Pike Island narrows down to a grassy point at the convergence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The Minnesota River, coming from the southwest, carries sediment and is a slightly muddier color than the clearer Mississippi River.


Photo of sandy shore on the river on Pike Island Point.
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Pike Island Point Shore

The sandy shore on Pike Island Point erodes quickly into the strong-flowing Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The Dakota Indians have long regarded this convergence of two great rivers as a sacred spot.


Photo of a distant bridge viewed from the banks of the Mississippi River.
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Mississippi River from Pike Island

A bridge can be seen in the distance down this stretch of the Mississippi River that runs the length of Pike Island. In 1805, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike and his men camped near here as they explored the upper Mississippi.


Photo of the biking and walking path that crosses the river.
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Bridge to Pike Island

The biking and walking path crosses the river on this small bridge to Pike Island. The park maintains both paved and gravel biking and hiking trails, as well as paths designated only for hiking.


Photo of the Pike Island Bridge within the floodplain.
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Below Pike Island Bridge

Below the Pike Island Bridge, the grassy banks of the river lead up to the floodplain forest. Though the park is nestled amidst city freeways and airport flyways, visitors can always find quiet and scenic spots like this to enjoy Fort Snelling State Park. Look for beavers, herons, egrets and river otters along the shoreline.


Photo of the historic steamboat landing along the river.
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Historic Steamboat Landing

A group of students learns about fish and water quality from a park naturalist at the historic steamboat landing along the Mississippi River. In 1823, "The Virginia" became the first steamboat to travel this far up the river, bringing supplies and other goods to the soldiers stationed at Fort Snelling.


Photo of the Snelling Lake boat ramp.
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Snelling Lake Boat Ramp

Framed by dense woodlands, a wooden dock is set next to the concrete boat ramp on Snelling Lake. The lake is open to non-motorized boats only. The boat ramp is the perfect place to launch a canoe—which can be rented at the park office—for a day on the beautiful Snelling Lake.


Photo of the boat ramp under the Mendota Bridge along the Mississippi River.
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River Boat Ramp

Under the Mendota Bridge, a wooden dock runs out from the concrete river boat ramp that runs into the Minnesota River. In 1819, Colonel Leavenworth set up temporary camp here to house the men sent to build Fort Saint Anthony on top of the bluff.


Wild prairie grasses and flowers.
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Restoration Success

Wild prairie grasses and flowers spread out across the plain with the Mendota Bridge in the distance. For 30 years, this area had been used as a dumping ground. It is now being restored to the native wetland with help from funds generated at the Fort Snelling Nature Store.


Photo of Picnic Island under the Mendota Bridge.
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Picnic Island under Mendota Bridge

The Mendota Ridge spans the distance across the Minnesota River to Picnic Island. The riverine environment here includes cottonwood, silver maple, ash and willow trees.


Photo of Picnic Island’s enclosed shelter and nearby picnic sites.
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Picnic Island

The open picnic shelter here is set in a wide grassy area dotted by picnic sites. Picnic Island also has an enclosed shelter, which includes a fire pit and pedestal grill. Both shelters have electricity and are wheelchair accessible. Shelters can be reserved by calling the park.


Photo of the Mississippi River shoreline.
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Mississippi Shoreline

Forests line the Mississippi River shoreline on Pike Island. Look for snapping, soft-shelled and painted turtles basking in the sun along the river.


Photographic view along Sibley Memorial Highway overlooking the Minnesota River Valley.
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Historic Park Overlook

A park visitor enjoys the view of the park at this overlook along Sibley Memorial Highway. From here, you can get a stunning view of Gun Club Lake, Quarry Island and the Minnesota River Valley. This landscape was formed 10,000 years ago when glaciers retreated over Minnesota, leaving thick moraine deposits that were carved out by torrential meltwaters into deep valleys.


Photo of the Minnesota River portage to Gun Club Lake.
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Gun Club Lake Portage

A series of steps leads down to the Minnesota River at the portage to Gun Club Lake. The beautiful, secluded lake can be enjoyed by canoe or kayak and can only be accessed via this portage.


Photo of the Snelling Lake fishing pier.
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Fishing Pier

This long wooden fishing pier extends out into the shallow, spring-fed Snelling Lake. Located on the north shore of the lake, anglers can cast a line here for northern pike, largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, carp and other species of fish.


Photo of the Dakota Trail access tunnel.
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Dakota Trail Access

A short tunnel runs under the rail line to the trailhead for the Dakota Trail, located below the historic Sibley house in Mendota. This multi-use trail offers stunning views of the Minnesota River and chances to see the diverse wildlife that inhabit the park.


Photo of the Mendota Bridge crossing the Minnesota River to Picnic Island.
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Bridge to Picnic Island

The elevated Mendota Bridge crosses the Minnesota River to Picnic Island. In the mid 1960’s, the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the river to create the Picnic Island you see today.


Photo of winter visitors snowshoeing outside the Picnic Island Shelter.
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Winter Event

Visitors to the park enjoy the beautiful winter landscape as they strap on snowshoes outside the Picnic Island Shelter. With a number of facilities open year-round, outdoor enthusiasts can participate in park-sponsored activities any season of the year.


Photo of winter camping event outside the Picnic Island Shelter.
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Winter Camping Event

Children and adults set up tents, build shelters, and learn the basics of winter camping at this event on Picnic Island. Year-round activities bring visitors to the park even in the middle of a Minnesota winter.


Photo of winter cross-country skiers on the park trail system.
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Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiers traverse the groomed trails on this winter landscape of the park. Fort Snelling maintains 12 miles of groomed ski trails each winter.


 
Photo of snowshoers attending a class on a snowy winter day.
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Snowshoeing Class

A group of snowshoers attend a class hosted by a certified instructor on a snowy winter day. Besides snowshoeing, Fort Snelling offers naturalist tours and outdoor skill-building workshops all year round.


Virtual Tours

Fort Snelling State Park home page

Legacy Amendment logo

This program is made possible by funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.