National Park Week in Minnesota


Saturday, April 20: Junior Ranger Day

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The week of festivities officially begins with an entrance fee-free day, when all are welcome to visit national parks free of charge. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is free year-round, although some partner parks, museums and historical sites within the MNRRA boundaries require parking passes or charge admission fees. Minnesota has FIVE national parks.

Junior Ranger Day is part of a program that encourages youth to engage with national parks across the country through workbooks, activities and an opportunity to earn a Junior Ranger badge/patch and certificate.

Sunday, April 21: Military & Veterans Recognition Day

The National Park Service gives priority to veterans during any job application process. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area employs four veterans full time in 2019. This day is dedicated to learning how veterans have impacted our parks and our nation. Two VA health services in the metro area are located next to the park:

Monday, April 22: Earth Day

More than 50 parks in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are hosting cleanup events in honor of Earth Day. Most events take place over the weekends rather than on the actual day. Get your dog in on the action, too, by joining the poop-pickup brigade at Minnehaha Dog Park on April 20th.

Tuesday, April 23: Transportation Tuesday

Explore a new way to travel along the Mississippi by learning about the history of the river’s transportation systems or trying a new activity or route along the river.

  • Big River Journey: Mississippi Park Connection and the National Park Service offer school field trips that take students on the river on a Padelford Riverboat excursion. The award-winning program offers an integration of river and classroom experiences that connect 3rd-5th grade students with the science and heritage of the Mississippi River and promote stewardship.

  • Biking: There are hundreds of miles of bike paths and bike lanes crisscrossing all over Minneapolis and Saint Paul and following the natural paths created by rivers and lakes in the area.

  • Transportation History: St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend with new hours and an updated tour schedule. A few special after-hours events are in the works that will allow visitors to watch the sun set behind the Minneapolis skyline from the viewpoint of the lock wall. Sign up for our newsletter to be updated on more information for these special events when it becomes available.

  • Paddle Share: A new and exciting recreational and transportation opportunity for people who have some kayaking experience, don’t own a boat, and want a safe and enjoyable river experience. This is a first of its kind in a national park and in the country.

Wednesday, April 24: Wild Wednesday


Recent re-wilding efforts of the Mississippi River are visible in many areas of the park. Government, nonprofit organizations, citizens and businesses alike have come together to conserve park land and restore previously urbanized areas. Many more projects are still in the planning stages, but speak to the greater collective desire to protect the environment. The National Park Service will be hosting two events in May that will give the public opportunities to view and comment on current and future restoration efforts at Coldwater Spring. Sign up for our newsletter to be updated on more information for these special events when it becomes available.

Plant for the Future | Coldwater Spring | Great River Passage

Thursday, April 25: Throwback Thursday

As you traverse the park, notice the place names, statues and information kiosks that help tell the story and mark cultural and spiritual significance for Minnesota’s first people.

  • The confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers is one of the most powerfully historic places in the Twin Cities, and is set in what is now Fort Snelling State Park. To the Mdewakanton Dakota it has deep historic and spiritual meaning. They call the joining of the two rivers Bdote Minisota. (source)

  • St. Anthony Falls holds cultural, political and spiritual significance for the Dakota and Ojibwe, who refer to it by several other names. The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, a self-guided 1.8 mile walking tour encompasses numerous parks and historic sites with informative kiosks which include information about Native Americans. (source)

  • The six burial mounds at St. Paul’s Indian Mounds Park are among the oldest human-made structures in Minnesota. The oldest mounds were constructed 1,500–2,000 years ago by people of the Hopewell tradition. Later the Dakota buried their dead there as well. (source)

Friday, April 26: Friendship Friday

Photo by Bethany Birnie

Photo by Bethany Birnie

Virtually every national park in the country has a friends group or co-op that gives monetary, programming, staffing and/or operational support. Friends groups are vital to the daily operations of the park as well as providing supplemental programming and funding where the government budget falls short. Mississippi Park Connection works side by side (we share office space with park rangers!) with the National Park Service to bring educational programming, environmental stewardship opportunities and fun events to the community surrounding the park. You, too, can help support your park with a donation or by becoming a member!

Saturday, April 27: Bark Ranger Day

There are a number of dog parks within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area where your pet may run loose. Here are a few sites that offer pet-friendly facilities. Make sure to familiarize yourself with each park's pet policies.


  • Pets are permitted at Coldwater Spring provided they are on a leash no longer than 6 feet (2 meters).

  • Other partner parks and areas within our borders may have additional restrictions.

  • Please pick up after your pets; keep our parks clean for other visitors.

  • Remember that not all people like dogs and off-leash dogs--even friendly dogs--may alarm other visitors, as well as having detrimental effects on wildlife.

  • Join the poop-pickup brigade at Minnehaha Dog Park on April 20th.

Sunday, April 28: Park Rx Day

The park abounds with opportunities for recreating, exercise and volunteer opportunities. But don’t forget that it can simply be a place to relax and unwind. There are well-documented benefits of nature that improve mental health, spiritual health, and social health. Having both active and passive recreation opportunities in parks allow for people with different abilities and preferences to reap the health benefits of nature (source). Take some time this week to return to your favorite spot to watch the sunset, listen to birds on a park bench or take a nap in the grass. You deserve it.