Jay Cooke State Park, located in northeastern Minnesota, will reopen to the public on Monday, Oct. 22 at 8 a.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The park was closed for four months due to historic flooding that severely damaged highway access to the park in June. Camping will resume and interpretive programs begin Nov. 3, although some trails will remain closed and some portions of the park will be difficult to access during ongoing reconstruction.
When the park reopens, campgrounds and camper cabins will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and visitors will have access to most recreational trails. The River Inn Interpretive Center, park office and gift store will be open daily from 10 to 4 p.m.
Park staff expects 38 miles of hiking trails to be available on both sides of the river, and 8-10 miles of cross country ski trails to be groomed during the ski season. When fully open, the park offers 50 miles of hiking trails and 32 miles of cross-country ski trails. A map with information about which trails will be open is available on the DNR’s website.
Beginning Nov. 1, reservations will be accepted for camper cabins and advance reservations will be accepted for 2013. Backpack campsite reservations will not be available for 2013 because of limited access to the sites.
“What won’t be available this fall and winter is access across the swinging bridge,” said Park Manager Gary Hoeft. “The bridge needs extensive repairs before it is reopened. In the meantime, access to the trail system on the south side of the park will be limited. Visitors can still access these trails from Highway 23 on the southeast end of the trail network, and there is limited access from the Carlton Trail on the west side.”
The swinging bridge is anticipated to reopen in the late summer of 2013.
The Willard Munger State Trail, a popular multi-use route, requires repairs in 31 locations to stabilize it and to prevent further damage. The 14-mile segment of the trail between west Duluth and Thomson will remain closed until further notice. Trail users are asked to respect the closures and to stay clear of construction activity for their own safety. Initial repairs are anticipated to be completed by Dec. 1 – potentially in time for the winter snowmobile season. Additional repairs will be needed in the spring to restore paved surfaces.
Visitors are encouraged to check the DNR website for public announcements and more information about ongoing repairs to the swinging bridge and the Willard Munger State Trail.
More than 50 miles of paved trail remain open from the city of Thomson south to Hinckley, as well as the six-mile paved Alex Laveau Memorial State Trail from Carlton through Wrenshall.
Visitors must enter the park using the western entrance from Thomson. Motorists should expect possible road construction activities that involve flagging operations on Highway 210 between Thomson and the park headquarters as ongoing highway repairs are made. The Highway 210 entrance through Carlton is closed for repair.
Motorists traveling north on I-35:
Exit I-35 at Exit 242 (Thomson/Esko), turn right (south) on County Road 1, stay on County Road 1 for four miles until reaching Highway 210, turn left on Highway 210 to enter the park.
Motorists traveling south on I-35:
Exit I-35 at Exit 245, turn right on County Highway 61 for four miles until reaching Highway 1 in Esko. Turn left and take Highway 1 south for five miles until reaching Highway 210, turn left on Highway 210 to enter the park.
Established in 1915, Jay Cooke State Park is best known for its iconic swinging bridge, which leads across the thundering St. Louis River. The park also features hardwood forests, a historic cemetery and massive rock formations.
Access to the park, recreational trails and bridges, and water and sanitary sewer services were disrupted when the area was ravaged by historic flooding on June 20. No campground facilities were damaged during the flooding; however, the limited road access and damage to trails prompted evacuation and closure of the park until conditions could be made safe for visitors.
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What won’t be open yet:
Visitors are encouraged to check the Jay Cooke State Park page for current programs, updated maps and additional visitor information.
Reservations can be made online or by calling 866-857-2757 (TTY: 952-936-4008).