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National Public Lands Day is coming up. Just how much land do Minnesotans own? Lots.

September 14, 2018

Sept. 22 is National Public Lands Day, and there are about 12 million reasons to celebrate in Minnesota.

Our state counts more than 12 million acres of public lands, from federal, state and county holdings. That’s about 24 percent of Minnesota, and it’s managed for the benefit of us — the citizens, the owners.

Some of these holdings on the Minnesota landscape are well-known: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; Superior National Forest with its lakeside campgrounds; Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi trickles from Lake Itasca; and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, whose historic beacon is used as a landmark for motorists and boaters alike, on the North Shore.

Others of these gems are tucked away and rarely visited.

Unassuming fields sandwiched between Hwy. 61 and the Mississippi, south of Wabasha, make up the McCarthy Lake Wildlife Management Area, next door to the Kellogg-Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area. Rare Blanding’s turtles make their home in this peaceful delta landscape.

Some Minnesotans are surprised to hear we have a full-fledged national park in our state. It’s called Voyageurs, a nod to the early travelers on its waters. The location, on the border with Canada, perhaps puts it out of sight, out of mind. But this landscape is classic North Woods, with sparkling blue waters lined by towering pine, and it’s worth the drive.

Remnants of Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie remain at Lake Louise State Park, near the southeastern town of Le Roy, but not many people stop by for a visit.

Maybe that will change on National Public Lands Day, when I encourage people to head out to explore the land that is theirs. In Minnesota, that includes 66 state parks, nine recreation areas and 59 state forests. There is so much, I bet most people are within an easy drive. And it’s enough land to make an owner proud.

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.