Jay Cooke State Park Snapshot Tour
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Welcome to the Jay Cooke State Park virtual tour! In this journey you'll get low at the St. Louis River gorge, see up high from Oldenburg Point, and get a look down the Willard Munger State Trail. We hope it prompts you to visit the park in person sometime soon.


Photo of the Willard Munger State Trail in autumn. 1 of 61

Willard Munger State Trail

With more than 50 miles of recreation trails in the park, a visitor could explore the park for days without following the same trail twice.


Photo of the view from the Oldenburg Point lookout.
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Oldenburg Point 1

This lookout has one of the best views of the park. Looking west over the Saint Louis River Valley, you can view soaring eagles and powerful river flows.


Photo of the view from Oldenburg Point.
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Oldenburg Point 2

Oldenburg Point is located just down river from the main park headquarters and offers spectacular vistas of the Saint Louis River Valley. Here you can not only enjoy the view, but have your picnic lunch in the pavilion while you read the various memorial plaques and history of the park.


Photo of the river gorge, taken from the river.
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River Gorge 1

One of the first things you notice when hiking the trails are the unusual rock formations. Nowhere else in the state is this type of rock exposed in such a large area. The Thomson formation is made up of slate and greywacke. Long ago, underground movements caused this formation to bulge and break, tilting the rock at 45-degree angles. Glaciers then deposited thick layers of red clay on top of the formation which would later be washed away by the river to expose the bedrock underneath. Wherever the red clay topsoil has not been eroded, it is almost entirely covered with brush and dense forests.


Photo of the river gorge, taken from the shoreline.
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River Gorge 2

The unusual bedrock formations, flowing river, dense forest, and abundant wildlife makes Jay Cooke State Park one of the premier natural attractions throughout the entire Midwest.


Photo of the River Inn, built in the early 1940s.
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River Inn

You are standing in front of the park headquarters building, called the River Inn. The building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps from company 2711 between 1939 and 1942. Most of the raw materials used to construct the buildings were from local sources. The stone was quarried from a site in Gary, Minnesota, approximately 12 miles from the park. It is believed that the buildings supporting beams and rafters were built from local white pine trees. Originally the River Inn was constructed with a kitchen, dining room, enclosed picnic shelter, and restrooms. In the early 1980s the kitchen and dining room area were converted into exhibits and offices today.


Photo of the famed swinging bridge, crossing the Saint Louis River.
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Swinging Bridge

Most famous of all the landmarks in the park is the Swinging Bridge. The bridge was designed by Oscar Newstrom and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The bridge is a 200-foot-long suspension bridge with a 126-foot span over the Saint Louis River, it is supported by four massive pylons consisting of reinforced concrete piers faced with native stone laid in a rustic design. The suspension cables are anchored in a solid rock ledge on the south side and in concrete anchorage on the north. Stone piers on either side of the bridge support walkways leading to the suspended section. Originally, 8" or 10" peeled cedar logs were used as approach railings and the bridge deck was constructed with 2" white oak flooring laid 1/2" apart.


Photo of the upper river gorge, located near Thomson Dam.
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Upper River Gorge

Located on the upper end of the park near Thomson Dam, this gorge was carved into the bedrock by thousands of years of erosion


Photo of the Jay Cooke State Park entrance sign.
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Jay Cooke State Park Entrance Sign

The entrance sign welcomes visitors to Jay Cooke State Park.


Photo of calm waters on the lake.
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Calm Waters

Calm waters invite paddlers and fishermen to spend a day on the water.


Photo of fall colors in the distance beyond a waterfall.
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Autumn Colors

Trees and shrubs bursting with oranges, greens, and yellows surround the swirling St. Louis River.


Photo of people crossing the swinging bridge on foot.
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Walking the Bridge

Excited visitors hustle across the famous swinging bridge, eager to start hiking the trails.


Photo of the swinging bridge surrounded by golden fall colors.
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Swinging Bridge

Large boulders line the banks of the St. Louis River, which flows under the bridge. Trees grow between the crevices, and autumn leaves bathe the forest floor in gold.


Photo of tree roots twisted around a large rock.
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Roots and Rocks

Rugged land formations enhance the beauty of the hardwood forests. Trees roots, unable to go deep underground, twist and turn on the surface, snaking around rocky outcrops.


Photo of the swinging bridge over choppy water.
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Swinging Bridge

Originally built in 1934, this 200-foot-long suspension bridge is supported by massive pylons faced with native stone. The river below is swift and choppy.


Photo looking up at the swinging bridge at dusk.
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Night Walk

The sun sets behind the trees, and the bridge is silhouetted against a sky of blues, pinks, and oranges. Once busy with explorers and visitors, it now sits in silence.


Photo of the stone River Inn.
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The River Inn

The River Inn, built in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is constructed mostly of dark, local gabbro.


Photo of the water tower, built in 1936.
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Water Tower

This log-and-stone structure was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Photo of the picnic pavilion at Oldenburg Point.
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Picnic Pavilion — Oldenburg Point

This stone picnic shelter, a short walk from the St. Louis River, includes a fireplace and electricity. Grills are available outside.


Another photo of the historic log and stone water tower.
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Water Tower

Another view of the historic log-and-stone water tower.


Photo of the Grand Portage Trail from the water, taken in fall.
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Grand Portage Trail

Grand Portage Trail was used by voyageurs to maneuver around the rocks and rapids of the St. Louis River. The view from the trail on this autumn day includes the reflection of clouds and fall color in a serene stretch of clear, blue water.


Photo of the view from a scenic overlook at the park.
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Breathtaking view

Hikers peer over the treetops for a breathtaking view from one of the scenic overlooks along the trails at Jay Cooke State Park. The St. Louis River is visible in the distance, surrounded by the vibrant green of the north woods.


Photo of the autumnal view from Oldenburg scenic overlook.
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Oldenburg Overlook

Once the leaves have changed colors in autumn, the same overlook showcases a yellow and gold version of the river valley.


Photo of granite Oldenburg Memorial.
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Oldenburg Memorial

The Oldenburg Memorial, a large granite boulder on a base of basalt stone, is a tribute to the memory of Henry Oldenburg from the people of Carlton County. The plaque mounted to the boulder recognizes Oldenburg as one of the people who made Jay Cooke State Park possible.


Photo of an 1887 headstone in Pioneer Cemetery.
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Pioneer Cemetery

Although some of the writing has eroded over time, names and dates are still legible on the headstones in Pioneer Cemetery. This one dates back to 1887.


Photo of a rocky rapids in fall.
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High Water

Water rushes through the rocky rapids against a backdrop of autumn color.


Photo of fall colors behind  the swirling St. Louis River.
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Autumn Color

Trees and shrubs bursting with oranges, greens, and yellows surround the swirling St. Louis River.


Photo of dark, foamy water in the rapids.
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Wild River

Cola-colored water foams as it pours over ledges, sending up spray and drenching nearby rocks.


Photo of a mini-waterfalls.
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Waterfalls

Water tumbles over jagged rocks in the river, creating mini-waterfalls.


Photo of fall colors beyond the rapids.
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River Rocks

Here and there, water spills over crooked rows of rocks jutting across this shallow stretch of the river.


Photo of the Willard Munger State Trail in autumn.
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Willard Munger State Trail

The Willard Munger State Trail runs through Jay Cooke State Park, providing a paved surface for biking, in-line skating, and walking. The 70-mile Hinckley - Duluth segment of the trail is now completely paved. More information about this trail.


Photo of a family playing at the edge of the water.
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Explore

Jay Cooke State Park has many locations where visitors can hike down to the water's edge.


A family picnics at the edge of the river. 33 of 61

River Picnic

A family of four enjoys a riverside picnic on a sunny day at the park.


A woman poses for a photo at the edge of the rapids.
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Picture This

Picturesque Jay Cooke State Park offers countless photo opportunities. Here's a shot of a man snapping a picture of a woman sitting on a rocky slope, with water cascading through a scenic bend in the river behind her


Photo of the interior of the Interpretive Center at the River Inn.
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Interpretive Center

Visit the Interpretive Center at the River Inn to pick up a trail map and other information when you arrive, and check out the interpretive displays to find out more about the park.


Photo of a class underway in the interpretive center.
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Learning Fun

Jay Cooke State Park offers year-round interpretive programs that provide learning fun for all ages. Many of them begin here at the River Inn, where there is a fireplace at one end and plenty of seating at picnic tables and benches.


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