William O'Brien State Park, Marine on Saint Croix
Categories: State Parks, Nature & Parks
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.Before you head to Marine on Saint Croix, plan trip itinerary details with our user-friendly Marine on Saint Croix tour planner, to make sure you see all that Marine on Saint Croix has to offer, including William O'Brien State Park.
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Lots to do at this park.One of the largest of the MN State Parks for camping. There are wonderful groomed trails to hike. All the way from the easier set up for handicapped to the more rugged trails u... read more »
We visit this campground frequently, summer and fall! You can use a camper with electric or use a tent with rustic facilities. The lower campground is very close to the river. Last time we were there ... read more »
We spent an impromptu 24 hours at William O'Brien State Park during the Labor Day weekend (2016). Here are a few tips and recommendations: If you're tent camping, try to reserve campsite 47 in the Riv... read more »
Beautiful tucked away state park. Nice walking trails, lots of grills and picnic tables, clean secluded camp sites, small swimming area, boat launch & lots of public parking. The swim are and boat launch is pretty far from the savanna campgrounds, but this is a great place to check out. Just north of lovely Still Water.
Wonderful weather camping along the lower camp ground closer to the river, Riverway. The camp spots were nice and the fire felt good even in summer. It was fun to wake up in the morning and see the fog along the river and walk along the trail. I got firewood at the park office for 6$. You need at least 2 or 3 bundles, they burn fast.
Beautiful Minnesota State Park on the St. Croix River. Fantastic wildlife to observe and photograph. Canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals. Many picnic areas with 2 large, covered picnic areas that can be reserved for large gatherings. Great campgrounds both by the river and in the upper park; and camper cabins too! Lake Alice has a swimming beach and a fishing pier. The park will loan you fishing poles of you want to try it out! Beautiful wildflowers and frequently nesting Sandhill Cranes in the spring, breathtaking colors in the fall, and cross country skiing in the winter!
Camped on the riverfront Campground and was very pleased by the park. There are showers and electrical outlets available at both the riverfront and Savannah camp sites. However if you are planning. However if you are planning to camp be certain, if you're looking for an electric site, to register well ahead of time. The Minnesota DNR Parks system has moved with same-day registration and reservation for all campsites. So if you're looking for a more rustic site without electricity you might be lucky and be able to get a campsite same day. As well though, if you're looking for one of the backpack in or canoeing sites you may want to be certain that you get a reservation as those are highly desirable. This state park also has a quite developed trail system for hiking and cross country skiing. If you're looking for something to do that's not on the st. Croix River starting out at the trailheads at the visitor center is a great weekend activity.
It has close proximity to the cities so I think this is why there's such a big draw but in my opinion, there's not much going on here relative to adventure. There are nice amenities that the park provides: Geocaching, decent cross country ski trails, canoe launch, etc. I think it's laughable that you have to pay an extra $9 to use the cross country ski trails. Once, my brother-in-law and I went there with our young children. He had 2 kids, I had 3 kids (one toddler). The sites were $23. You had to purchase wood there (about $8 to have enough for a marshmallow fire) , $10 for a vehicle permit. They told us we had to rent 2 sites since there was a 6 person limit. I told them we only had 2 tents, 5 small kids and one was a toddler. They wouldn't budge and insisted we pay for 2 sites even though we would not be using the other site for a tent, car, nor fire! ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! (2 sites= $46 = $8 wood, + $20 vehicle permits = $75 for one night of camping!) We calculated costs and found that we could go to a hotel, with a continental breakfast, a pool and 2 queen sized beds in Taylors Falls for cheaper than Willie O'brien! Think about it. The rangers there seem so bent on making sure everyone follows each and every rule to the T that it burdens the camper to the point of agitation and ruins the experience. I don't really need a preemptive reminder that I can't make my fire too big or make too much noise after 9 pm. Try separating your sites with more than just a dandelion and maybe folks won't have to worry as much. I get more privacy in my back yard. For the amenities and diverse ecosystems the park provides, the park gets one extra star. For the hospitality, and governance, the park gets a solo. Cross over the river to Willow River in WI for a MUCH better experience. Huge waterfall, great fishing (trout), beach, trails, climbing, river walking, you can collect your own firewood (dead and fallen), and the rangers actually go out of their way to help you and talk to you like equals and not a sub-species.
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