Today’s post is 930 words, 21 photos, a 4 minute read. Enjoy!
This week I take to you to Sibley State Park in west central Minnesota near the town of New London. This post is the last of four from our two-week stay in the area. If you missed my previous posts click here, here, and here.
Sibley State Park
My Traveling Partner and I spent thirteen nights in the Minnie, our travel trailer, at Sibley State Park during our Habitat Care-A-Vanners volunteer commitment. We had a nice spot with electrical hookups in the Oak Ridge Campground. The weekend we were in residence, the campground was full but during the week it cleared out, leaving only a few sites occupied. This park attracts about 300,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most popular in the Minnesota State Park System.
This 3000 acre park has a variety habitats; prairies, hills, forests, wetlands, and lakes. Wildlife abounds. It’s a prime spot for bird-watching.
The State Park occupies most of the north side of Lake Andrew. This lake covers nearly 800 acres and has a maximum depth of 26 feet. Boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming are the main water activities. Those fishing can expect to catch mostly walleye and northern pike, but also bass, sunfish, and crappies. From Lake Andrew there is access to three smaller lakes (Middle, Henchien, and Swan) through portage points.
Below is a photo of the beach area on Lake Andrew. On the cool, sunny day, there was someone lying on the beach working on her tan next to the life preserver. It is Minnesota after all where bathing suits don’t get put away until the snow flies!
Near the Oak Ridge Campground is the Interpretive Center. The center was closed when we stopped by during the week. It has three rooms of interpretive exhibits on the main features of the park and surrounding area. Behind the center is a viewing deck and boardwalk that overlooks a small shallow wetland. There was a one mile interpretive trail that takes hikers around the pond.
Sibley features several miles of hiking trails with a few combined with biking and horse trails. There are a few walking trails that are paved and accessible.
You’ll note in the sign above that there are also horse trails in the park. On one of our drives through the park, we saw a sign pointing us towards the “horse camp,” also known as the Equestrian Campground. We decided to see if there were any horses or equestrians camping there. There weren’t but there was evidence the horses had been there!
The campground features several sites with tie downs for the horses and a picnic table for the equestrians. Out behind the vault toilets is a place to dispose of horse manure and straw.
The view of Henchien Lake from the campground was stunning. I can see why the horses and equestrians frequent this campground.
When visiting Sibley State Park, the hike or drive to Mt. Tom is a must. Like most “mountains” in the Midwest, it’s really a high hill, nothing like the Rocky or Cascade Mountains.
We took the curvy drive through the canopy of trees to the parking lot just below the summit of Mt. Tom.
A sign directed us to a paved path through the forest until we came to the open prairie at the top of the hill.
Above us, the viewing shelter and platform became visible. The base of the viewing shelter was constructed in 1938 by the Veteran’s Conservation Corps, a New Deal program. The upper deck was added in the 1990s as the surrounding trees began to obstruct the view. This move drew more and more visitors to the park.
From the top of the platform, we were above the tree line and could see for miles in every direction. We spent several minutes taking in the view, pointing to places of interest that we learned about during our stay in the area.
In this photo, we could see the radio tower in Willmar, about fifteen miles to the south of where we were standing.
Around the base of the shelter, displays offered lessons on when and how the hills and lakes in the Sibley area were formed.
The Mount Tom trail is a 3.3 mile loop that takes hikers through a forest of mature oak trees and native prairies to the scenic overlook. The elevation rise is over 200 so could be strenuous for some walkers. On our next visit, we’ll try this trail, looks like fun.
Nearly every day we were greeted by deer that roamed the park. They usually ignored us as they foraged for food. On this day, this doe gave us a glance! WE did see a couple of nice bucks but they kept their distance. At night, we had to be more cautious as the deer could dart in front of the Red Rover thus testing the reaction of the driver and the brakes on the truck!
In addition to camping, water recreation, hiking, and scenic drives, Sibley State Park has picnic areas and shelters, a volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, boat and canoe rentals during the summer. In winter, Sibley is popular for sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. So lots to do and see year round. This is a great place to commune with nature. To learn more about Sibley State Park, click here and here for more information.
Well, that does it for this series of posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about and seeing photos from this beautiful area of Minnesota. It’s worth the trip!
Until next week, happy travels!