[The Minnesota State Parks Series chronicles the ever-expanding Kingston family's quest to complete the State Park Passport Club challenge.]
TourDad teased me mildly on our way out to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. How, on the day in 2003 we decided to take the State Park Passport Club challenge, I had boasted we’d polish the 72 parks off in five years, tops. Of course, this was before the babies began to arrive. Four in 6 ½ years has slowed our progress some. Also, we’ve long since completed the parks within a two-hour radius of our home in St. Paul and are now facing remote corners of Minnesota that require overnight stays. We’d been stalled at 53 parks visited for two years until this past weekend when I decided to jump start the challenge with a trip to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston, Minnesota.
This park takes patience to find. Particularly the cave is hidden off the main roads in the area, but that only increased our anticipation. The reward is a remarkable subterranean tour of buttery flowstone, catwalks, ancient fossils and underground wishing wells. Emily’s favorite cave feature, as was mine – the contemplative Turquoise Lake – lit from within by dissolved minerals.
The children held up beautifully on the hour-long tour into Minnesota’s longest cave. It’s not designed for younger children or toddlers (only bring them if you must) but I noted the older kids on the tour (including our Andy, 7 yrs.) got a thrill out of descending below the surface to discover the whereabouts of the mysterious “disappearing river”.
I would have given the kids an out if they hadn’t wanted to take a second formal tour that afternoon. But it appeared that (contrary to what I’d been told at the state park office) tourists are required to visit the historic buildings of Forestville in the care of costumed guides. Each one role plays an actual person who once inhabited the town in the days of its decline. Didn’t catch the name of the character who sat for a game of checkers with Andy outside the Meighen Store.
Plan to spend a whole day exploring the carefully preserved sites of this park in the beautiful bluff country of southern Minnesota.
For the Files: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is located about 15 miles SW of Preston at 21071 County 118, Preston, MN 55965. Minnesota State Parks daily ($5) or annual ($25) permit required to enter. Additional fees apply for Mystery Cave Senic Tours: $10/adults, $6/youth 5-12. Check out the menu of tours here. Tours run throughout the summer plus spring & fall weekends. Rates for historic Forestville tours: $7/adults, $5/youth 6-17, under 6 & historical society members free. Open Memorial Day – Labor Day and for fall special events.
About the Author: Anne Kingston is the Owner and Founder of Tourmoms.com.