Great Outdoors: Winter Camping at Jay Cooke State Park

CARLTON, Minn. – People can enjoy plenty of activities year round at Jay Cooke State Park near Carlton, but many may not consider camping once the temperature drops and snow covers the ground.  Still, some people do it.

“Winter camping definitely is something that some people do enjoy,” says Park Manager Lisa Angelos, “and also people with RVs as well that have their own heat sources.  So we do plow a variety of both non-electric and electric sites in one loop that are available for year-round use.”

Another way people get their camping fix when daylight becomes short is to use the park’s five cabins, available year round thanks to being heated.

“They have electric heat,” says Angelos, “and so they provide that opportunity for people when it’s just a little bit too cold for the tent for them to still get out and enjoy the park.”

Angelos says the cabins are no secret.  “Weekends get booked up pretty, pretty regularly.  There’s a little bit more availability if you have the flexibility to come during the week. But I would say as soon as you know you want to come, check out the website and make a reservation.”

If you do plan to go to camp at Jay Cooke during the winter months, keep in mind that some of the accommodations are limited compared to the other seasons.

“We do not have year round shower and restroom facility in the campground,” says Angelos, “so it is more of a rustic experience. We do have our outdoor vault toilets, and then we have when our interpreted center and visitors center is open we have the indoor facilities there.”

However, Angelos says the reward for being next to some of the park’s natural attractions at a time of year when it is less crowded may be worth it.  “It’s definitely a different experience to see the river in the winter. The ice tends to form on the edges of the rocks, and kind of highlight with some beautiful formations that provide some excellent opportunities for those photographers.  Also the winter light is much different.  So you get kind of that low angle winter light for sunset and sunrise and provide some beautiful scenery.”

Find out more about camping at Jay Cooke State Park here.

Photojournalist Nathaniel LeCapitaine captured the sights for this feature.

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