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Spring bloom and boom at area state parks

A hepatica was the epitome.

Yes, things are in full bloom at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park near Onamia, from plant life to life in the campgrounds.

And Kathio isn’t alone.

With the mild winter and early spring, Brainerd area state parks are seeing an up-tick in visitors for this time of year, even though some of the amenities aren’t yet available at the parks.

“Camping has been early. The campsites are open year-round, but last weekend 16 campsites were taken,” said Kris Erickson, assistant park manager at Kathio. “It’s busy for this time of year.”

There have been other early arrivals at the park, too.

“We had a hepatica bloom — we first noticed it April 3,” Erickson said of one of the many flower varieties that call Kathio home. “Jim Cummings, our park naturalist, said it’s the earliest bloom he’s sighted at the park.”

Those at Crow Wing and Charles A. Lindbergh state parks are seeing a lot of the same. Crow Wing State Park just south of Brainerd has had campers since mid-March.

“We had a couple people camp over the weekend and probably 20 campsites rented (this spring),” said Paul Roth, park manager at Crow Wing.

According to Ty Gangelhoff, park manager at Lindbergh in Little Falls, the park got is first camper of the spring March 24.

“We open the gate once the snow is gone and the campsites are firm enough to park on,” Gangelhoff said of the mild, mostly snowless winter in the area. “We had lower snowfall. Pike Creek didn’t flood.

“The advantage of a low (precipitation) amount is hopefully there will be less mosquitoes.”

That’s sure to make for happier campers this year — campers who are just happy to enjoy state parks. Last year’s government shutdown forced the closure of, among other things, Minnesota’s state parks for 21 days in July.

“It’s so dependent on the weather, but I’m optimistic it will be a good year,” Roth said. “High gas prices have been keeping more people local, and with last summer, because of the shutdown, I think people are anxious to get out and enjoy the state parks.

“Within the last few weeks, we’ve been getting people calling that are making reservations and wondering what the individual campsites are like. And we’ve had a lot of calls for the Fourth (of July) already. You can’t predict how it will go. We’re usually busy on the major holidays and weekends. It starts to build up in mid-June.”

Amy Barrett, public information officer for the Division of Parks and Trails, said the state parks’ new reservation system is now working smoothly after some glitches when the system debuted in March.

“We are ahead of where we were last year at this time, in terms of the revenue collected and the total number of reservations taken,” Barrett said. “As of April 19, the Minnesota state parks reservation service had taken 20,107 camping and lodging reservations since March 22. We took just over 20,000 reservations last year from Jan. 1 to April 30, so we are ahead of last year’s pace for year-to-date reservations.

“There are still plenty of campsites and cabins available this spring and summer, and up to 30 percent of the campsites at Minnesota state parks are available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

While Brainerd area state parks are open to campers in some capacity, other amenities, such as drinking water, showers and bathroom facilities will be up and running by mid-May at the latest at area state parks. For more information on park amenities and reservations, go to

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to For his blogs, go to