One of the most famous state parks in the Minnesota chain is historic Fort Ridgely located on 72158 County Road 30 in Fairfax, Minnesota. This is easy to reach for visitors who can take Highway 4, six miles south of Fairfax or 12 miles North of Sleepy Eye, then follow the directional signs to the park entrance. The park office can be reached by telephone: 507 426 7840 or by fax: 507 426 7112. The park is open from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day, from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. The Fall and Winter office hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
This area served as one of the major influences of the Gopher State’s early history as Fort Ridgely was an important part in the conflict between the U.S. and the Dakota territories. There is more about this history at the cemetery where visitors can learn additional facts about this skirmish. However, the biggest draw is for camping, although the park offers plenty of interesting and fun things to do as well. There is a nine hole golf course on site, horseback trails, fishing, volleyball, and in the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing or sledding.
There are a great deal of sites for patrons who are interested in camping at historic Fort Ridgely. 31 drive-in sites exist here, located in both the Rustic and Creekside campgrounds. On the latter side, all of the locations are out in the open but do offer some shade. Rustic does have one small shelter on its site, but its does use vegetation for screening for privacy. There is drinking water and vault toilets in the building as well. Although the camp grounds are open during the winter months, water is only available at the park office and at the chalet building.
Fifteen sites exist that are equipped with electrical hookups and these are located in the Creekside campground. This area also contains one site designated as pull-through. Three spots are also reserved for walk-ins and they are rather secluded being more than 300 yards from the nearest parking area. For campers, this means that water must be brought in as there is none available.
Twenty five sites (15 of these with electrical hookups) are designated for horse camp. The area also has a sanitation unit with showers and flush toilets. Most of the sites have limited shade, but water for horses and there owners are provided as part of the package.
Finally, there is one site called a group camp that can safely accommodate as many as 40 people at one time. It has water, picnic tables, vault toilets and fire rings for preparing food/building fires.
One of the most interesting features at Fort Ridgely State park is the recently updated nine hole golf course that dates back to 1927. It incorporates much of the topography into the design, including wild flowers and some of the more interesting land features. Although the course is challenging in some areas, it is certainly not made to be frustrating — even the most ardent duffers would be willing to agree. There are no tee times to be reserved, as it is first come, first served. Power carts are not allowed and this makes for a relaxing family outing as even non golfers are encouraged to join their hacker for a round of nine on the par 35 track. Weekday rates are a paltry $9 for 9 holes or for more fun, players can pay a one time green fee of $14. Weekend/Holiday rates are slightly higher at $13 and $18 respectively. Pull carts and club rentals can also be obtained through the Pro Shop.
Fort Ridgely state park is also including the golf fees into some of their packages for the next season. A “Stay and Play” bargain can be had at either $48 or $60 depending on whether the tourist desires a site with electric or non-electric hookups. The entire deal includes 3 nights and 2 days of camping, plus two all day greens fees.
There is also the FairRidge Trail, which is about 7.3 mile long and connects the park to Fairfax. It is great for hikers, bikers and walkers too. The amphitheater now has additional area of access with new walks built to allow people of all levels of mobility to enjoy this great facility.
No matter what the occasion is; Fort Ridgely State Park has something of interest for people of all ages.