Wild River State Park, 39797 Park Trail, Center City, MN 55012
We decided to go camping, spur of the moment, and this is the park that had an opening. It was the 3rd of July, the day was clear, and we were off on an adventure.
We packed our camping gear and headed northeast. The park is right along the St. Croix River. Do not use the GSP system to find the entrance. It will lead you astray.
As we checked in we were told that there had been black bears seen in the park and that we would need to hang our food from a tree. They gave us a safety sheet and sold us a rope. Now if you are out camping and they tell you there are bears, black bears are the ones you want. They generally avoid people, they scare easily, and they are not going to hunt you. They will steal your food if they can. We were armed with our information, our rope, and a can of bear spray.
We were told that we could pick up dead wood and us it for our camp fire. We had a hand saw with us to cut up the wood which was super convenient. I was glad that there was plenty of dead wood in the area because we had the last campsite on the trail. This was a hiking campsite which all of the ones along the military trail were.
We parked as close as we could. The road leads right up to the river with a perfect place to launch a boat into the St. Croix. The trail was an old military road so it is nice and wide. We marched our two full backpacks and the tent all the way to the end of the trail. The trail itself seemed perfect for horses. In fact everything about this park seemed ideal for horses.
There are stables right next to the entrance of the park for the avid rider who wants their horse close to a great riding trail. There are horse camp sites. Most have electricity. Overall this place has a ton of campsites and most of them you can drive to and car camp. There are even six cabins. Some have electricity and some do not.
Even with all of the stuff that we brought the hike down to our campsite wasn’t terrible. There was a picnic table at the perfect spot so that we could rest a moment before finishing the hike. I didn’t get a lot of pictures along the way, but the campsite was amazing.
We were right on the St. Croix River. You could watch boats travelling up and down the river. The boaters were so joyous with the 4th being the next day. There was a little tree that provided us some welcome shade.
The campsite had a fire pit with a grate for cooking. There was a picnic table and a couple of spots to choose from for the tent. We picked the spot under the tree. The tent went up and then we were off to find firewood.
There were dead trees all over so picking out a few to drag back to the campsite was easy. I cut up the firewood with my handsaw. Some of the wood burned extremely fast.
The bathroom, the vault toilet, was just a little further down the path and had a privacy wall. Don’t forget the bear spray and toilet paper because you might need them.
We made mac chili in a bag which was pretty good. We brought snacks, but we only ate the cashew nuts for fear of drawing in the bears with our jerky. All of the trash went into a plastic bag and that went into my sleeping bag carrying pouch along with the other food we brought so that we could hang it all from a tree.
We setup some music and enjoyed the view of the river and the fire and as it got dark the stars. You never get to see the stars in the city. We could hear fireworks going off all around us, but none of them were visible to us. Instead we were treated to a show from the fireflies in the area.
As we finally settled in for the night all we could think about were the bears. This was my second camping trip as an adult and lets just say I have yet to have a great night in a tent, ever. Every rustle outside sounded like it could be the bear coming to get us. Something kept eating grass really close to our tent and it was so loud. All of the noises were probably squirrels, rabbits, or something else completely harmless, but we didn’t sleep and couldn’t just pack up and go home.
We got up the next day, completely fine. Our food bag was still in the tree where we left it. Nothing came into our tent and ate us. I still have no idea what was eating grass near us. We packed everything up and hiked back to our car so that we could go home and sleep.
If we could have slept instead of being paranoid and feeding off of each others paranoia I think the whole trip would have been great. I loved the campsite. The trail would have been better suited for a horse. I have no idea how the rest of the trails are, but from what I saw I would only want to enjoy this one on horseback.
I wouldn’t necessary be opposed to camping here again, but then again I do not like worrying about bears. I loved that the site was far from the next campsite. We couldn’t even hear them. I assume the bears have been seen near the other sites where more people would be cooking and possibly dropping food. If I could have slept the camping experience would have been great.
If you do not fear black bears I highly recommend camping here. If you have a horse I highly recommend riding through this park. If you are looking for a good hike, go somewhere else.