Located about 4 hours north of Minneapolis, Lake Bemidji State Park (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00205#homepage) offers a welcome escape from the urban jungle. Filled with pine forests, this popular park also boasts a bog that’s home to some of the state’s most unusual blooms. And there’s no better time to visit than during the early summer, when the orchids and insect-eating plants are at their peak. So pack your bags and spend a night or two at one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks.
Spend the Night
Although the campground has some accessible campsites, if you’d prefer a few more creature comforts, then reserve the accessible Tamarack camper cabin. Not only is it a good choice for wheelchair-users and slow walkers, but it’s also located in a secluded nook away from the campground,
There’s accessible parking near the cabin, with a level dirt path over to the unit, and ramp access up to the screened porch. There’s electricity and heat in the cabin, and a water spigot is located outside. Furnishings include a table with two benches, and two bunk beds — one with two singles, and one with a full on the bottom and a single on top. The lower bunks are 22-inches high, and there’s an access aisle between them.
One of the best features of this cabin is that the screen porch is adjacent to the forest, so it offers maximum privacy. There’s also an accessible picnic table and a raised grill in back; and the cabin is a short walk from an accessible vault toilet.
The men’s and women’s shower houses are located in the Aspen Lane Loop of the campground, about a quarter-mile away. It’s a level walk down the paved campground road; however if you’d like to drive there’s parking available in a paved unstriped area near the shower houses. Each shower house includes roll-under sinks, a large accessible stall, and a roll-in shower with grab bars and a corner shower seat. It should also be noted that there’s no hand-held showerhead and it’s not possible to reach the shower controls from the shower seat.
All in all, the Tamarack cabin is a pleasant and accessible place to stay. Just bring along bedding, groceries and towels and you’re good to go. Visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/camper_cabins.html or call (866) 857-2757 to make reservations.
The trail over to the bog begins next to the cabin parking area, and travels .2 miles through the forest, before it crosses the road and connects with an old logging road. This undulating trail is rated as accessible, however some manual wheelchair-users may need assistance with a few of the steeper stretches. On the plus side, there are a number of benches along the way. There’s an accessible restroom located about a half-mile up the trail, and the bog boardwalk begins nearby.
The quarter- mile boardwalk winds through the bog, and although it’s level, there are a few steep cross slopes where it has settled. Some folks may need a bit of assistance in these areas, so be on the lookout for them. The boardwalk lacks rails, so there are unobstructed views of the tamarack forest. Keep an eye out for avian life too, as white throated sparrows, osprey and Cooper’s hawks have been spotted there.
Of course the wildflowers are the highlight of the hike. Interpretive plaques point out some of the more unusual plants, such as as insect-eating pitcher plants and round-leaved sundews. The dark pink dragon’s mouth orchids bloom in early summer, and by late June the lady’s slipper orchids put on a good show. Add in some marsh marigolds, bog cranberries and violets and you have quite the show; in fact a total of nine orchid species and over 100 other plants bloom in the bog during the summer.
The boardwalk opens up to Big Bog Lake about halfway along the trail, and then loops back to the beginning. All in all it’s about a 2.5-mile round-trip hike. Plan ahead though, as the boardwalk gets crowded later in the day. Get an early start, and you may even have the trail to yourself.