MINNEAPOLIS — Next to the tent pads and fire rings are electrical outlets to charge smartphones, plug in coffeemakers or power up entire motor homes. Each campsite features a strong Wi-Fi signal. Showers in the bath house are heated by solar panels.
Minnesota’s newest state park campground, which opened recently in northern St. Louis County, has been dubbed a “next generation” campground with its modern amenities and eco-friendly design.
Perched on a ridge at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the 33-site campground booked up quickly for autumn weekends, though reservable spots still remain available weekdays through season’s end on Oct. 22.
“There’s a lot of folks that love Lake Vermilion. Now to be able to have a state park campground … is pretty great,” said assistant park manager Dawn Voges. “It’s another jewel for the park system.”
Campers check in through self-service kiosks, allowing park staff to roam the campground carrying notebook computers and answering questions or helping with problems.
“We’re out in the field, coming to the camper, basically,” Voges said.
Wi-Fi signals are strong because 16 towers were built among the sites so each has free coverage. People want to stay connected socially to the internet, Voges said, and some still need to be able to check in with work.
The campground also strives to be eco-friendly. The solar panels have meant using little propane to heat the water so far, Voges said. The bath houses also feature a greywater recycling system. That means water flowing into sink and shower drains gets treated with an ultraviolet light and sent back into use to flush toilets.
While the park continues to be developed, three campsites accessible only by boat are available on a first-come, first-served basis this fall; boat-in sites will likely be reservable next year, Voges said. Three group campsites will also be available next year.
The individual campsites are all listed as “Drive-In Electric” on the park’s online reservation system. About 10 sites are off-limits this season so that new grass can take root. All the drive-in sites are already available to be reserved next summer, though. By then, a quarter-mile hiking trail to the lake should be completed. More trails around that part of the park will also be constructed.
“We’re still … kind of in the infancy of this whole park being developed,” Voges said.