La Salle Lake land in northern Minn. opens to the publicby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A 1,000-acre piece of land in northern Minnesota that contains the second-deepest lake in the state is now open to the public.
The state officially acquired the La Salle Lake property on Thursday, officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
The La Salle Lake State Recreation Area is located in Hubbard County about eight miles from the north entrance of Itasca State Park. La Salle Lake is a relatively small lake with depths reaching 213 feet.
The area is characterized by a high bluff where visitors can see up and down a valley, said Chris Weir-Koetter, northwest region strategic program manager for the DNR.
"It's spectacular," she said. "I was out there the other day doing some work and the colors of the wetland plants were just amazing, and you can see up and down the tunnel valley down toward Itasca and up toward Bemidji — north and south."
The Trust for Public Land, a conservation organization, worked with the DNR to acquire the land for about $8.5 million. Most of the funds came from the outdoors portion of the state's Legacy Amendment, which voters approved in 2008 to send money from a new sales tax to the outdoors, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and culture.
The land is open to fishing and hiking now and will soon be open to hunting, Weir-Koetter said. Parking is limited, but there is a small boat ramp for the lake.
Weir-Koetter said officials are working on a master plan for the area and will decide what areas should be developed to improve access for the public. The area already has a few hiking trails, a snowmobile trail and is near a popular canoe access on the Mississippi River. There's also talk of a bike route from Itasca State Park to La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, she said.
"All those are on the table, and we're really cranking to get the master plan fleshed out and under operation," she said.
The site has several cabins, an indoor recreation building with a pool, and a campground with 40 sites that have full hook-ups. DNR officials haven't yet decided what to do with those.
The state recreation area is next to the La Salle Lake Scientific and Natural Area, a 200-acre parcel of land the state acquired last year.