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Lake Carlos State Park
Lake Carlos State Park Prairie clover © Nancy Bauer
Lake Carlos State Park Butterfly on swamp milkweed © Nancy Bauer
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2601 County Road 38 Northeast
Carlos, Minnesota   56319

Phone: 320-852-7200
Toll Free: 888-646-6367
Reservations: 866-857-2757
Email: park email button icon
Sculpted by ancient glaciers, Lake Carlos State Park contains a tamarack bog, marshes, woodland ponds, and lakes. A variety of recreational activities revolve around the lake. Clear and deep, Lake Carlos offers visitors a perfect setting for swimming, fishing, boating, camping, hiking and horseback riding. In the winter, ski from the tamarack bog to a maple-basswood forest.
History of the Area
Early settlers drifted into the area after the signing of the Traverse des Sioux treaty in 1851. This treaty opened much of central Minnesota to white settlement. Alexander and William Kinkaid settled at the junction between Lake Agnes and Lake Winona, the area that was to become the town of Alexandria. During the U.S./Dakota conflict of 1862, most of the settlers moved east to Sauk Centre and St. Cloud, but returned to the area later that year. During the Great Depression, the state purchased the land that became Lake Carlos State Park in 1937.
1. Lake Carlos State Park offers a designated swimming beach for visitors.
2. Lifeguards are not provided, so swim at your own risk.
3. Swimming is allowed during park hours from 8 am to 10 pm daily.
4. The lake's clear waters make it ideal for snorkeling and underwater exploration activities as well.
5. No diving equipment or inflatables are permitted in the swimming area of the lake.
6. The sandy bottom makes wading into water easy even for beginners.
7. Swimming lessons aren't offered within this state park.

The park offers a variety of boating options for visitors. There is an accessible fishing pier and two boat access points on Lake Carlos, providing opportunities for both motorized and non-motorized watercraft use. Canoe rentals are also available within the park, allowing guests to explore the lake at their own pace. Additionally, there's a swimming beach where you can launch paddleboards or kayaks.
Enjoy fishing in a variety of locations, including Lake Carlos and its surrounding lakes. Species include walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass and panfish. Ice fishing is popular during winter months for hardy anglers seeking crappie or sunfish under the ice cover. Fishing equipment rentals are available on-site if needed.

1. Lake Carlos State Park offers numerous picnic tables with grills.
2. There's a large, enclosed picnic shelter available for rent.
3. Picnic areas have stunning lake views and nearby restrooms.
4. Enjoy picnicking near the beach area or hiking trails.
5. Some sites offer fire rings for outdoor cooking experiences.

Biking enthusiasts can explore 14 miles of multi-use trails, suitable for both mountain and fat tire bikes. Be aware that these paths are shared with hikers.

The park's terrain is diverse, ranging from flat to steep hills; caution should be exercised accordingly.

During winter months, biking opportunities exist on groomed snowmobile routes but require a special permit.

Remember: safety gear such as helmets and reflective clothing is recommended due to the mixed use nature of the trails.

Please note that off-trail riding in this area isn't permitted - stick strictly to designated pathways only.

Lastly, always respect wildlife encounters while cycling through their natural habitat by maintaining distance.
Birdwatchers can enjoy over 200 species of birds, including waterfowl and warblers. Birding trails are also available.
Nature Programs
The park's 1,305 acres lie within a hardwood transition zone between the prairies to the southwest and the coniferous forest to the northeast. The park's glacial moraine topography is dotted with woodland ponds, marshes, wet meadows, and lakes cradled among the hills. Visitors can hike or ski from a tamarack bog to a maple-basswood stand, or from open grassland to forested ridges...all within minutes.

Receding glaciers left most of Douglas County blanketed with layers of gravel and sand. This "drift"contains pebbles and round stones of all sizes. Retreating glaciers also left huge chunks of broken ice. When these blocks melted, they formed the area's lakes. Lake Carlos is 150 feet deep in places. The outlet at the northeast corner is thesource of the Long Prairie River. Although no rock outcrops occur in this area, boulders taken from glacial drift supplied farmers in the area with building blocks for the foundations and walls of their homes and barns. This granite masonry can also be seen in the park's beach house and pump station.

One third of Minnesota's 80 mammals and over 150 species of birds inhabit the park seasonally or year around. Visitors often see beaver, deer, loons, grebes, ducks and heron.

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The park entrance is located 10 miles north of Alexandria on State Highway 29, then 2 miles west on Highway 38.

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Minnesota State Parks