By Bill Hudson

AFTON (WCCO) — Outdoor lovers have a new way to spend the night at three of Minnesota’s state parks. The new shelters have the feel of a tent only with comfort of a cabin. They are known as “yurts.”

The Department of Natural Resources has built seven of the Mongolian-style yurts that can be reserved for overnight stays beginning in a few weeks.

Afton State Park is now home to two of the insulated fabric structures. Built over a round wooden frame the tent-like shelter is native to nomadic tribes in Mongolia.

“They’ve been around for centuries,” DNR’s Peter Hark said.

They were designed to be put up and taken down, as the tribes move their herds across the Gobi desert. However, these structures will stay in place for the camping public to enjoy.

“You’re a little more feeling like you can hear the rain coming down on these things, see the snow, but at the same time it’s a place out of those elements,” Hark said.

Seven of the new yurts will soon be reserved for $50 to $55 per night — much like reserving a state park camping site or cabin. With wood floors and bunk beds, they’re a step up from sleeping on the ground in a tent.

Camper Rob Goodmanson can’t wait to reserve one for his family.

“We’re waiting for them to get done so we can try them out, there’s no question, they’re beautiful. We snuck over and peaked in the windows,” Goodmanson said.

The DNR is still waiting for the woodstoves to arrive so campers can heat the structures in the cold months ahead. Each yurt is furnished with a card table, couch, rocking chair and bunk beds.

Hark pointed to a large skylight in the fabric ceiling and said, “this is a vent that cracks open about six inches.”

There are all the comforts of home, in this yurt in the woods.

“In each of these settings there’s just quite a diversity of stuff you can do during the day. You play hard during the day and have comfort at night, that’s what these offer,” Hark said.

Besides the two yurts at Afton State Park, there are five others around the state: Two at Cuyuna Country Recreation Area near Crosby and three at Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake.

Bill Hudson

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