Minneopa State Park Entrance Sign Minneopa State Park Minnesota

Where is Minneopa State Park

Located on the southern shore of the Minnesota River, Minneopa State Park resides entirely within the state of Minnesota. The state park contains the namesake Minneopa Falls and Minneopa Creek, as well as a campground and several trails that are utilized by visitors for hiking and cross-country skiing. The closest city to Minneopa State Park is Blue Earth, Minnesota. Minneopa US State Park is located 152 miles and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 87 miles and about an hour and thirty-minute drive south of Minneapolis, and six miles and about a ten-minute drive west of Mankato. The park is also located near several other outdoor recreation areas. These areas include the Kiwanis Recreation Area, the Rasmussen Woods, and Seven Mile Creek County park.

How Large is Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park covers a total area of about 4,600 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of heavy woods and expansive prairies. The park is also divided into two distinct sections by a corridor of roads, railroads, and private property. The Minneopa Falls are also two distinct sets of falls. The upper falls are smaller and only cascade the Minneopa Creek for about six or seven feet. The lower falls are about 39 feet high. Minneopa Falls is often referred to as the tallest waterfall in Minnesota. However, the Minnemishinona Falls located nearby are less popular but taller. The name “Minneopa” is a shorting of the Dakota word “Minneinneopa,” which means water that falls twice. Other translations provided for the name are “water of the dancing elk” and “water of two falls.”

Minneopa State Park Weather

The weather at Minneopa State Park changes frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 55- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 5- and 30-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Minneopa State Park receives around 75 days of rain per year. These 75 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 25 inches. Minneopa State Park also experiences snowfall consistently every year. Snowfall in the park normally occurs in December, January, and February and averages around 40 inches per year.

Waterfall During Summer Minneopa State Park Minnesota

When did Minneopa State Park Become a State Park

Minneopa State Park first became a state park in 1905. The park was the sight of several skirmishes between the Dakota people and their enemies. European settlers arrived in the area starting in 1853. The area now contained within Minneopa State Park soon became a popular recreation sight among European settlers and the Dakota people. A bill organized by Ezra Gates saw the park gain designation and creation in 1905. The park is managed and maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Things to do in Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to explore and enjoy the great outdoors of Minnesota. Our State Park Visitors Guide highlights the most popular adventures and activities found in Minneopa State Park below.

Explore the Ranger Station and Nature Store

Visitors arriving at Minneopa State Park should start their Minnesota park adventure at the Minneopa Ranger Station and nature store. The Minneopa Ranger Station can provide visitors with park trail maps, information on the surrounding area, and other various information regarding the park. Rangers working in the station can also provide answers to specific questions and additional guidance.

Join in on an Interpretive Program

Visitors looking to learn more about Minneopa State Park should look to participate in one of the park’s interpretive programs. These programs normally start near the park’s ranger station or at one of the park’s trailheads. Topics discussed during these programs normally relate to the park’s geography, geology, ecology, and history. The schedule for these events is normally posted at the park’s ranger station and online on the park’s website.

Take the Bison Drive

The Bison Drive in Minneopa State Park allows visitors to take an auto tour through the park and witness the magnificence of the American Bison. These animals were reintroduced to the state park in 2015. The various Bison present in the park reside in a fenced enclosure that is visible from the Bison drive.

Hike to the Minneopa Falls

The Minneopa Falls are the most notable feature within Minneopa State Park. These falls are in fact a double set of falls. The lower falls are much larger and reach a total height of 39 feet. Visitors looking to take in the Minneopa Falls can hike the short .5-mile trail near the area. Park staff working in the ranger station can provide additional information regarding trailhead location and optimal time to visit the falls.

Cast a Line or Two

Anglers visiting Minneopa State Park will want to bring all of their freshwater fishing equipment and tackle along with them to the park. Visitors casting a line into the Minnesota River can target flathead and channel catfish. While the Minneopa Creek supports several other game fish. Every visitor looking to fish from within the park should obtain a Minnesota state fishing license before arriving at the park.

Wildlife Viewing

Minneopa State Park contains a very diverse selection of wildlife species. The parks most notable species is the American Bison. However, other wildlife species commonly spotted in the park include white-tailed deer, coyotes, beavers, meadowlarks, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and a variety of other woodland and avian species.

Camping in Minneopa State Park

The campground at Minneopa State Park contains 61 campsites. Of these 61 campsites, six of them contain electric hookups. Visitors looking to camp within the park can make reservations for one of the park’s campsites online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to camp within the park during peak season should make reservations several months in advance.

Bison Roaming in Snow in Minneopa State Park Minnesota

When to Visit Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park is open year-round, and visitors can subsequently visit the park during every season. However, visitors will want to visit the park when the activities they wish to experience are best enjoyed. The summer season brings warmer temperatures and increased hours of daylight which allow for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The spring and fall seasons are optimal for wildlife viewing and experience fall foliage. Visitors hoping to take advantage of the park’s cross-country skiing trails should visit the park in the winter.

Must Have Items to Bring to Minneopa State Park

It's no surprise that every trip outdoors requires some packing and planning. A trip to Minneopa State Park is no exception. The items listed below should be considered when packing and planning for your trip to Minneopa State Park.

Water & High Energy Snacks

List of Parks advises that water is essential for every hiking and camping trip. High energy snacks are also a great item to bring with you on the trail or enjoy in camp. Snacks like beef jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, and protein bars can allow hikers and other outdoor recreationists to replenish their energy and provide a needed boost after a long day or hike.

Sturdy Hiking Boots

A pair of sturdy hiking boots are essential for a successful trip to Minneopa State Park. Several of the park’s trails venture over various types of terrain and can become quite hazardous during wet spells that descend upon the park. 

Layers of Clothing

The temperatures in Minneopa State Park can vary greatly from day to day. Visitors looking to be comfortable throughout their stay will want to arrive at the park with a variety of clothing layers. These layers can be added and removed throughout the day as temperatures increase or decrease.

Camping Supplies

When packing for any camping trip, creating and using a camping equipment checklist is a helpful practice. A checklist will make sure you don’t forget any necessary equipment when packing for your trip to Minneopa State Park.

Minnesota Wildlife Field Guide

Wildlife enthusiasts looking to visit Minneopa State Park should bring along a North America or Minnesota specific wildlife field guide. The best field guides contain color images and species descriptions that make species identification educational and simple. Visitors interested in the park’s vegetation, insects, or geology can also purchase field guides specific to their interests. 

View of Bridge Over Minneopa Falls in Minneopa State Park Minnesota

Where to Stay in Minneopa State Park

Visitors looking to stay within Minneopa State Park should look to make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to camp in the park in the summer should make their reservations several months in advance. Visitors of Minneopa State Park who would prefer to stay in a hotel in the area can first search for options in nearby Mankato. However, visitors who wish to stay in a larger city can make the one hour and thirty-minute drive to Minneaopolis.

Food Near Minneopa State Park

The closest food to Minneopa State Park can be found in Mankato. However, visitors looking for more options and variety can make the one-and-a-half-hour drive to Minneaopolis. This large city is the capital of Minnesota and contains a long list of restaurants, bars, and pubs that will provide visitors with tasty meals and refreshing drinks. The city also contains several grocery stores that visitors can utilize to restock on supplies.

Airports Near Minneopa State Park

The closest International Airport to Minneopa State Park is located in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport is 88 miles and about a one-and-a-half-hour drive away from the park. The next closest airports to Minneopa State Park reside in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. These airports are not international airports but do provide several connecting flights to larger airports.

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