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WCCO Viewers' Choice For Best State Park In Minnesota

NORTH SHORE, Minn. (WCCO) -- State Parks are plentiful in Minnesota. Whether you want to hike, bike or take in a bit of nature, there are more than 75 to choose from. But WCCO's Natalie Nyhus wanted to know which one you like best. WCCO viewers voted, and, with a half a million visitors each year, it's no surprise that the winner is one of the most-visited state parks: Gooseberry Falls.

The rocky Lake Superior shoreline and five waterfalls highlight Gooseberry Falls' landscape. But this state park offers so much more than just a pretty view. If you open up, there's an experience for all five of your senses.

"Obviously you can see the falls. They are gorgeous to look at. They are very pretty, but one of the things I focus on when walking through the trails is my sense of hearing, listening in for the roar of the waterfalls going over the edge, the bird sounds out in the woods," seasonal naturalist Abe Hartsell said.

He taught Natalie that a sniff of the air will let you know what's in season.

"What we are smelling is that milkweed in the air. If you take a look you can see all the bees that are clustering on the milkweed. We are celebrating the diversity of the pollinators and how they are so important to this ecosystem," Hartsell said. "If you stop and really look, you can find some caterpillars."

And mother nature didn't forget about your sense of taste. "We have raspberries, blueberries, thimbleberries, juneberries. All are edible," park ranger Nick Hoffmann said.

Gooseberry Falls will also appeal to your sense of curiosity. It's a unique combination of geology and human history.

"Where we are standing right now is by the remains of the old Civilian Conservation Corp Camp. This camp was here during the 1930s. They started in 1933 and stayed until 1941," Hartsell said.

The CCC was a program set up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression to get people back to work. There were 200 boys and men living and working at Gooseberry, building it to be what it is today, giving us the state park you voted best of Minnesota.

"If we did not have the CCC here, Gooseberry wouldn't have been opened up," Hartsell said. "We wouldn't have the 80 different structures that make up this park and the cool history we have in this area as well."

It's up in these areas, where you can discover just how massive this 1,500 acre park is.

"A lot of people come to the falls. This particular spot where we are at with this overlook doesn't get quite as many people. If you want to get away for some peaceful silence, this is the place to come," Hoffmann said.

So after you explore the falls and capture your moment in front of the roaring waters, trek a little deeper and you'll discover there's even more.

"Opening your senses and walking through the woods is a wonderful part of being here," Hartsell said.

Hoffmann shared a tip for visitors: If you come before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m., parking will be much easier, and the park will be less busy.

And don't forget that the park is open year-round, the winter offering cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing.

Your other favorite parks are Jay Cooke State Park and Whitewater State Park.

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