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William O'Brien State Park, Marine on Saint Croix

(35 reviews on the web)
State Park Nature / Park
William O'Brien State Park is a 1520acre state park of Minnesota, USA, along the St. Croix River. Its hiking trails traverse rolling glacial moraine, riparian zones, restored oak savanna, wooded areas and bogs. It is a popular place for birdwatching, picnics, camping, cross-country skiing, canoeing, fishing, and other typical outdoor recreational activities.The park is located approximately two miles north of the town of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.HistoryThe St. Croix river valley was inhabited by Dakota and Ojibwa. European trappers commercialized the fur-trade in the 17th century. Extensive logging took place in the mid-19th century; white pines were the target and most other tree species were ignored. Once the white pine was gone the lumber companies were happy to sell, and a lumber baron named William O'Brien bought up much of the land for his personal estate. In 1945, 20 years after William O'Brien's death, his daughter Alice offered 180acre along the riverfront to the state. The donation was eagerly accepted, as Minnesota did not yet have a state park near the Twin Cities, and the park was ratified by the legislature two years later. The proximity to the metro area was a mixed blessing. Land was added to the park at every opportunity, to reduce crowding and to prevent housing developments from being built right up to the boundary. In 1958‚ S. David Greenberg donated Greenberg Island in memory of his parents. Accessible only by canoe‚ the island has become a haven for wildlife and wildflowers. The park was expanded into the bluffs west of Highway 95 and a second campground added. A large tract was added in 1973, leapfrogging a rail line, and another 120acre came in 1986. William O'Brien remains one of the top five most-visited state parks in Minnesota.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We stayed at William O'Brien State Park for Mothers Day weekend. It was the perfect distance away from the Twin Cities for a quick two night camping trip. It was very clean, quiet and we really felt l...  more »
  • I thought from the name of the "Savanna" campground that there would be open spaces and maybe some trees. There were. I also hoped that the park would account for the lack of trees by making the camps...  more »
  • We are so fortunate to have our state park system. Inviting, typically well kept, and so many recreational opportunities. O'Brien lives up to that, too. Great hiking trails even in the spring they are...  more »
Google
  • Great little park. Happy feel, beautiful scenery. One of my favorites near the cities. Excellent riverfront and facilities, campsites and staff. My only qualm is the busyness for its proximity to the cities, and now all sites are 100% reserveable; book your site early!!! Not as easy to roll in and have sites open for those making a day trip into a night trip on a whim. In the summer this place is jam-packed. Be mindful.
  • Went camping here. Great park. Word of warning though, while it says regular camp sites are good for up to 6 people, many of them are not large enough for 6 unless you are all sleeping in one tent. So if you have more than 4 people, I would go for a group camp in this particular park.
  • What a fantastic state park. I went for a day hike, but the camping areas seem great too. The sites on the upper half of the park have old growth trees surrounding the sites. I never The trails were amazing, very well kept, even for early spring. The trails take you through marsh, heavily wooded forest, rivers, and prairie fields. One thing I look for when going to a park is how well they are maintained and how well the park is signed. This state park has been the best so far. I don't think there was one fork in the trail that didn't have a sign with a detailed map and a noted spot of where you were along with distances till the next fork in the trail. Within this park you should see and hear a great amount of wildlife. Everything from deer, frogs, beaver, and all sorts of bird life. Truly a nice park, I will be back for sure.
  • Large park that borders the St. Croix on the Minnesota side. I've honestly really only used it as an endpoint for kayaking from Interstate Park in Taylor's Falls, but I always see folks walking around this park. You can really walk around a bunch here and get some fresh air here.
  • We wanted a campground within an hour of the twin cities for us to camp with our two you kids(5 and 3). This one had everything we wanted on paper so we camped here for a weekend. Cons: 1) the river has bluffs all along it where the walking trail is. Its about a 10-15 foot drop in to the water, making it extremely stressful and dangerous to walk with young kids who just want to look in to the water. 2) the campsites are small and super close together. Get one along the edge of the trees or else you can hear your neighbors scratch themselves, you're that close. 3) if you go during leaf change in the fall i bet its beautiful, but in june it was not anything especially scenic. Nothing you wouldnt see in any other park near the cities. Pros: 1) lake alice has a large sandy swimming beach and a fishing pier. These 2 areas were great for our young kids. 2. The bathrooms and showers were sparkling clean and there is a secondary family toilet for use when the main bathrooms are being cleaned 3. Proximity to side trips- fawn doe rossa, interstate park and franconia sculpture park are all within about 25 minutes of the park. Fawn doe Rossa is an absolute MUST if you want to get out of the park! It was the highlight of the trip. Plus at only 45 minutes from home its a manageable drive with young kids.