Grand Portage State Park is a one-of-a-kind adventure. Imagine the stunning scenery of this day park in northern Minnesota bordered by Canada and the Pigeon River with Lake Superior only a mile away. If that doesn’t make you grab your camera, add the magic of waterfalls to the mix. You’ll be clicking awesome photos after you catch your breath.
The Pigeon River shoots water over the state’s highest waterfall, High Falls, splashing 120 feet down. The unique waterfall, surrounded by lush forest, attracts photographers and hikers. Those unable to hike the trails can enjoy the breathtaking view of the waterfall due to a half mile boardwalk trail leading to overlook decks. Another waterfall, Middle Falls, is also located in Grand Portage.
The northern-most of 8 parks in the region, Minnesota’s Grand Portage State Park is also historically significant. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty Marker is in the park as well as the Grand Portage National Monument. In contrast to the other northern Minnesota state parks that focus more on the culture of the early fur traders, Grand Portage State Park emphasizes the culture of the Native Americans and the rich heritage of the Ojibwe tribe.
The early Ojibwe tribe fished on Lake Superior during good weather and retreated inland to hunt and trap wild game during the harsh winter. The tribe created a trail to transport goods from their winter camps to summer camps. This 8 mile trail evolved into the Grand Portage trail. The Grand Portage Indian Reservation still exists inside the park. The Native Americans not only live there, they are still involved with the park’s operations. Many park employees belong to the Grand Portage band of Ojibwe.
Grand Portage is the only state park in the United States not owned by the government. In 1989 legislation was drafted to make the area a state park. Over 5 years later the complex transaction was complete. The tribe agreed to state park designation in order to make it possible to build safe walkways for people to enjoy the beauty of the falls and allow the state to make other improvement without disturbing the natural beauty of the park. Ownership of the land is held for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Department of Natural Resources leases the park for $1 a year after paying about $300,000 to use the land. The two groups operate the park together.
Hiking in the park on a 3.5 mile trail is one of the recreational activities available. Families enjoy picnicking in 8 different spots while fishing is also a popular attraction. Due to the ownership of the land belonging to the Chippewa, both a Reservation and a Minnesota license are required to fish on the Pigeon River. Snowshoeing is also allowed anywhere in the year-round park but trails are not plowed.
Visitors to Grand Portage State Park should keep in mind there is no running water in the park. Vault toilets are available near the waterfalls. The visitor’s center does have modern facilities. Water is also stored in a tank within the park borders.
Grand Portage is a day park only. The closest park for overnight camping is in the nearby Pigeon River Provincial Park across the river in Ontario. About six miles from the park, camping in Grand Portage, MN is another option.
If you are interested in more details about Grand Portage State Park, you can write to 93939 East Highway 61 in Grand Portage, MN 55605 or call 218.475.2360.