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Step into new year with First Day Hikes

January 1, 2019
Sara Holger Lead Interpretive Naturalist | Division of Parks and Trails Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Whitewater State Park

WHITEWATER STATE PARK — If your New Year’s resolution is to be more active in 2019, Minnesota state parks can help you start on the right foot. Or whichever foot.

Naturalists at state parks around the U.S. are hosting annual First Day Hikes New Year’s Day.

Whitewater State Park’s third annual First Day Hike at 1 p.m. also kicks off year-long festivities marking the park’s centennial anniversary. For 2019, park officials plan at least one park anniversary-related event each month, including a July Centennial Picnic and singalong with the Okee Dokee Brothers.

“We’re kind of going overboard but it’s once every 100 years,” said Sara Holger, park interpretive naturalist.

The hike will be family friendly and on flat ground for a mile-long loop on the meadow loop trail, Holger said.

“We’re not going up any hills — it’s pretty icy.”

There is still plenty to see at the park in winter, Holger aded.

Fresh snow gives hikers a chance to spot tracks and figure out what type of animals left them.

“This time of year, when the foliage is gone, you can see the geologic aspects of the park and see some of the cave features,” she said.

A pair of golden eagles are spending the winter at Whitewater, Holger added.

The first hike will also coincide with the park’s annual Christmas bird count. More than 1,200 birds of 42 species were spotted in last year’s count.

Hikers will meet at the park visitors’ center to register and then ride to the meadow loop trail at 1 p.m.

The annual hike is spearheaded by the America’s State Parks organization. Last year, more than 33,000 people welcomed the new year by taking one of more than 1,180 guided hikes that covered 70,500 miles, according to the ASP.

Later this month, state parks will host candlelight night hikes. Whitewater hosts one Jan. 26 as a park anniversary event. Participants in that snowshoe hike will explore a “ghost campsite” that was originally a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, later a German POW camp but eventually destroyed by a tornado in the 1950s.

Each hike is free to the public, but park officials require permits for vehicles entering state parks. One-day permits are $7; year-round permits are $35.

A complete schedule of the First Day Hikes at other Minnesota state parks is available at mndnr.gov/firstdayhike or contact info.dnr@state.mn.us for more information.

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