Minnesota Historical Society

Prairie, Lake, Forest

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Minnesota's State Parks

Photography by Doug Ohman, Text by Chris Niskanen

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 1, 2010)

Waterfalls and underground caverns, lady’s slippers and dwarf trout lilies, cross-country skiing and fishing adventures—alluring photographs and captivating stories survey these and other delights of Minnesota’s popular state parks.


“We went for a hike. The beach was a tumble of exposed bedrock, some formations looking like model pirate ships in silhouette, but soon the gravel narrowed and an outcrop of jagged rock faced us. The girls scrambled up a well-used trail, and then I saw Grace climbing, hand over hand, up the final short rock wall. I was about to yell my customary warning, but she had summited and Bailey was on her heels. They raised their arms, the Lake Superior wind whipping their hair, and I breathed two words: their Everest.”—from the text by Chris Niskanen

Minnesota is home to prairies and forests, lakes and rivers, bison and gray wolf—and a treasured system of state parks. Emblems of natural history, many were created to protect an ecosystem such as the giant hardwood trees at Nerstrand Big Woods, features like the spectacular waterfalls at Gooseberry or limestone caves at Forestville, and historic structures such as the early settlement of Fort Ridgely along the Minnesota River. Recreational opportunities are equally diverse— and so are the people who pursue them.

Photographer Doug Ohman visited each of Minnesota’s sixty-six parks to capture their classic beauty, storied wildlife, and wealth of activities in all seasons. More than two hundred color photographs illustrate sixteen essays by outdoors writer Chris Niskanen, who chronicles the sights, sounds, and experiences of exploring the parks through the eyes of those who know them best—rangers, naturalists, and long-time users. There is the traveling salesman who is also an avid birdwatcher; a couple so excited about their state parks adventures that they worked geocaching into their wedding theme; and daughters on a camping trip to the rocky outcrops of Lake Superior’s North Shore, a personal tale recounted by Niskanen.

The result is an elegant package of memories for those who frequent the parks—and an invitation to all comers to see Minnesota’s natural world at its best.

Author information

Photographer Doug Ohman's work is featured in the Minnesota Byways series, which includes Barns of Minnesota and Cabins of Minnesota.

Chris Niskanen is outdoors editior for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and also contributes to Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine.

  • 224 pages
  • 200 color photos, 1 map, index
  • 8.5 x 11 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873517713

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