Garden Island State Recreation Area is located in the remote northern portion of the Minnesota State Park system. The park is located on an island 19 miles from the south shore of the Lake of the Woods. The island is complete with beaches that often welcome visitors who enjoy watching the water’s tides. Many people find the fishing in the area relaxing and peaceful. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the island to accommodate those take a break for nourishment and relaxation. In the winter, visitors also enjoy snowmobiling near the Lake of the Woods.
Wildlife on Garden Island
The island is characterized by sandy beaches, marshes and heavily wooded areas. The wildlife in the area is plentiful. Many birds and other wildlife consider the park home. Several bald eagles visit the location annually. Pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, deer, beavers, bears, minks, foxes, otters and snowshoe hares have all been spotted on the island. Grey wolves have been seen occasionally.
History of Garden Island
Historically, the island has played a role in the human development for thousands of years. The earliest settlers of the area thrived off the land by eating fish, eating wild rice and hunting game and wildlife. Many explorers and fur traders traditionally came to the area in the latter part of the 16th century to engage in their trade. Early French explorers also tended their gardens and grew corn in the area during the 17th century. John Tanner was one such explorer that became a nationally known figure after he was kidnapped from the area by the Shawnee tribe. He sold his furs and hides to the local trading posts. He wrote an autobiographical account of the events that gained him significant notoriety in history.
Numerous gardens existed on the island through the early 1900s. Gardening became less popular after the construction of the Kenora dam raised the lake levels. Later, fishing became more popular than gardening. Whitefish, sturgeon, walleye, sauger and northern pike were the primary interests of commercial fisheries. Currently, the area is known for sport fishing. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians continue to own 36 acres on the island.
Hiking and Trails on Garden Island
There are no hiking trails on Garden Island. However, a snowmobile trail exists. Winter enthusiasts may gain access to the trail 35 miles from Baudette. The trail extends beyond Oak Island and the Angle Inlet. Visitors to the area have commented that the snow-covered ice is reminiscent of Artic tundra. Visitors who brave the cold Artic air for this experience may seek shelter along the trail. A second snowmobile trail is available from Warroad to the Angle Inlet.
Camping on Garden Island
The Island is intended for day use only. There is no running water on site. A few pit toilets are available near the picnic tables and along the trails. Garden Island is primarily used as a lunch stop for boaters in the area.
There are some camping cabins. However, none of them have running water and only some have electricity. Showers and bathrooms are located elsewhere near the park’s campground. Camping reservations may be made up to one year in advance. However, 30% of the campsites do not accept advanced reservations and are only available on a first come, first serve basis. The cabins may accommodate five to six people. Group centers are ideal for scouting trips, reunions or other groups.
Lodging is available in Itasca State Park. The accommodations range from guesthouses to chalets. There are numerous options available for everyone. Reservations may be made 24 hours a day and seven days per week.
Zippel Bay State Park will have more information on Garden Island. They may be reached at 218.783.6252.