Minnesota National Parks

September 2009

Map of Minnesota's national parklandsThe latest project from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles the history of the country's national parks.

There are four federal park sites located entirely in the state of Minnesota. They protect some of the state's unique waterways, along with historic and culturally significant places.

To coincide with Burns' film, we're taking a closer look at the sites in Minnesota.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area: An urban wilderness

The newest of Minnesota's five national park sites sits right in the middle of the state's biggest population center. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area encompasses 72 miles of the river, from the town of Ramsey south to Hastings, including through downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Read more...

National Park Service: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Voyageurs National Park

St. Croix National Scenic River: A legacy of protection

The upper St. Croix River is protected from development by the National Park Service. It's unusual for a river so close to a major metropolitan area to have such a special designation.Read more...

National Park Service: St. Croix National Scenic River

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park: 'It's all remarkable'

Voyageurs, on the border between Minnesota and Ontario, is known for its vast wilderness and stunning beauty. It's unlike many of the country's national parks. For starters, you pretty much need a boat to get around. More than one-third of the park's 218,000 acres is water. The park includes four large lakes dotted by more than 1,000 islands. Read more...

National Park Service: Voyageurs National Park

Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone National Monument: A spiritual place

In the southwest corner of Minnesota, thousands of visitors each year take in the Pipestone National Monument's untouched prairie and its famous red rock. For centuries, Native Americans have placed great religious significance on the pipestone found there. They've quarried and carved the stone into pipes and other objects, and the practice continues today. Read more...

National Park Service: Pipestone National Monument

Grand Portage National Monument

Grand Portage National Monument: A model of cooperation

One of the state's more remote attractions is found on Lake Superior's North Shore. The Grand Portage National Monument celebrates the history of the state's fur trade. It also serves as a bellwether for cooperation between the federal government and American Indians. Read more...

National Park Service: Grand Portage National Monument

Park vs. monument vs. river: What's in a name?

When we started thinking about a series of stories about Minnesota's national parks, we were quickly confronted by a tricky question -- just how many parks does Minnesota have? Some sites are called parks, some are called monuments, and others are national rivers. What's the difference? Read more...

National Park Service: More info on the various park designations

Have you visited any of these national park sites in Minnesota? Send us your photos and tell your story.

Include your other national park photos in MPR's Flickr group pool, or discuss the national park sites in Minnesota on Gather.


The National Parks: America's Best Idea,
Ken Burns' new film at PBS.org.

Burns speaks at the National Press Club,
broadcast on Midday on Sept. 28, 2009.

Producer/writer Dayton Duncan,
a guest on Midmorning on Aug. 28, 2009.


Reporters: Tom Robertson, Mark Steil, Bob Kelleher, Jeff Jones
Broadcast editor: Kate Smith
Online editors: Melanie Sommer, Than Tibbetts