Minnesota’s Backyard: Hiking, Horses and History at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park – Duluth News Tribune

PRESTON, Minnesota — If the 1850s frontier village of Forestville on the north bank of the Root River could be considered a true “ghost town,” it’s clear that Minnesota has some of the best-dressed spirits and ghosts around. of the world.

The restored riverside settlement — which was founded by Europeans exploring the Minnesota Territory in 1851 and was all but abandoned in 1910, when it was bypassed by the region’s expanding rail network — is perhaps be the centerpiece above ground of

Forestville State Park / Mystery Cave

. But for those serious about staying out of the sun, there’s a whole other underworld to explore in Minnesota’s stunning southeastern country.

Between May and October, the Minnesota Historical Society maintains the preserved buildings in Forestville, which includes period utilities like a sawmill and gristmill. During those same months, Mystery Cave is open for guided tours ranging from 60 minutes to six hours through the 21 kilometers of underground passageways first discovered in the 1930s.

Of the state’s network of state parks, some are known for fishing and hiking, some are known for history and horseback riding, and some are known for canoeing and fly fishing. At Forestville/Mystery Cave, visitors discover the best of all these worlds.

Forestville State Park / Mystery Cave
Many buildings in Historic Forestville are maintained and staffed by the Minnesota Historical Society inside Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.

Contributed / Deborah Rose / Minnesota DNR

Forestville State Park / Mystery Cave
Accessibility efforts have made portions of the cave tour accessible to everyone inside Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.

Deborah Rose/Minnesota DNR

Jon Holger, one of the park’s supervisors, took a recent visitor for a ride in his state-issued van to show the campground purpose-built to accommodate horses and their riders, making it the park of ‘Most popular state in the state for horseback riding enthusiasts. A strenuous two-mile hike on the Overlook Trail to sweeping views of the surrounding cliffs included hoof prints on compacted rock and gravel, as well as plenty of (ahem) natural fertilizer left behind by recent four-legged visitors.

Down the hill at river level, a few fly-fishing enthusiasts were knee-deep in water trying to lure trout into their baskets. While nearby Whitewater State Park is generally considered fly-fishing nirvana, Holger expressed some bias for his hometown when talking about landing treats from ‘pure water.

“What I think is the best trout fishing in the state is here,” he said. “We have three trout streams – Forestville Creek, Canfield Creek and the South Fork of the Root River, which is one of Trout Unlimited’s Top 100 Streams in America. From the opening of the trout, we go all the way.

Forestville State Park / Mystery Cave
When the water is flowing, anglers for trout in the South Arm of the Root River are commonplace at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.

Contributed / Deborah Rose / Minnesota DNR

Even on a midweek afternoon in late spring, there were dozens of people camping, with and without horses. Like all state parks since the pandemic forced more people outside, they’re busy all the time, and Holger noted this especially in the spring when the weather gets warmer earlier than in the parks. from the northern part of the state.

Rivers and streams are constantly finding new routes, which means maps have to be periodically redrawn to be accurate. On the South Fork of the Root River, the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park map also had to be redrawn not too long ago. The acquisition of formerly private land has given the park a new one-mile loop trail along steep limestone cliffs on the opposite bank of the river, making it a stunning hiking setting at any time of day. the year. In the southwest corner of the park, the Palisade Trail has its own parking lot and is a relatively new and popular area to explore.

Forestville State Park / Mystery Cave
Naturalist Natalie Johnson recently led an underground tour at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. The park offers a variety of cave tours ranging from one to six hours.

Deborah Rose/Minnesota DNR

This article is part of the “

Minnesota’s backyard

“series that returns for the summer of 2022.