The draw to Banning State Park – on this day – was the “Mother’s Delight” rapids along the Kettle River. We started our adventure with a picnic atop a bluff. As we enjoyed the light breeze and dappled spring sun from the newly budded trees, I reflected, “What a day.”
To which Finley responded, “This is no ordinary day. This is Mother’s Day!”
Quarry Loop Trail
We opted for the 1.8 mile Quarry Loop trail, with a .25 mile spur trail to Hell’s Gate rapids (sadly, the trail abruptly stopped so we missed seeing the rafters ride the supposed treacherous water). Along the main trail is a self-guided tour of the Historic Banning Quarry, a sandstone quarry from the late 1800s. At the park office, we secured a free pamphlet explaining each of the 17 interpretative stops along the tour.
The Tip We Shouldn’t Have Ignored
In our quest to visit all of Minnesota’s state parks, we often refer to Anne Arthur’s book as she offers tips for each park. Her #1 tip for Banning is, “Bug spray is a must.” Being that it was in the 40s in Duluth when we left, we hadn’t thought to pack bug spray.
We should have.
The mosquitos were out in force. I suppose the silver lining was the aerobic workout due to our brisk pace to keep the bugs at bay.
After visiting the park, we headed down the road to the Audubon Center of the North Woods, an environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation center, to visit the birds of prey that our children fell in love with during a recent Family Weekend. We also were delighted to watch a pair of geese with their babies alongside the road.
Per our tradition after each new park we visit, here are the highlights from the kids’ perspectives.
Park Highlights as Reported by Finley (5 ½ years old)
- Eating a piece of a rhubarb fruit strip every 5 signs
- Climbing the stone steps at the end of the hike
- Having a picnic and eating all the fruit
- Stopping at the #5 sign because I’m 5 1/2 years old
Park Highlights as Reported by Daley (9 ½ years old)
- Eating the rhubarb fruit stripes
- Going to the Audobon Center
- Eating crackers and cheese at the picnic
- Climbing on the big rocks
- Seeing the rafters float down the river
- Learning that they drilled holes by hand to put gunpowder in to explode the rock
To learn more about Banning State Park, check out the DNR website. The park is just off of I-35 near Sandstone, about an hour south of Duluth.
Have you been to Banning State Park? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!