With the ice age seemingly in full retreat — finally — it’s time for a lot of Minnesotans to make travel plans that have more to do with state parks than getting documents from the State Department.
The old-school way of state park camping was driving up with a car full of tent, toys and tots, then driving around to see which of the open campsites was the best.
It worked — and lots of us have many great memories of trips that started just that way. But it can be risky. “Campground Full” signs can put mom and dad in a frenzy.
Less problematic but almost as bad is having to settle for a treeless spot by the entrance road when you had envisioned a cozy lakeside spot with whispering white pines to shelter the tent.
But we’re not old-school anymore. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a pretty good system for ensuring your vacation expectations and reality match.
It starts with the DNR’s campsite reservation system at http://reservations.usedirect.com/MinnesotaWebCQ.
You provide details about what you need (a rustic backpack site, camper site — it even asks your designed pad size, traditional tent site, etc.) and it shows you a list of sites to choose from. You can choose to see those sites on a map.
And then, the magic happens.
Roll over a site and you’ll see a photo of it, along with a long list of attributes ranging from what kind of grill is installed to the distance to the bathrooms to whether it’s a drive-through or back in site with room for a left-side or right-side RV pull out. Niiiice.