Last week, I talked about the wild rice demonstrations at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum. Not far from the museum is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.

The park’s two-fold name has two roots. “Mille Lacs” is the term French explorers used to describe the area, and it is an apt term, meaning “1,000 lakes” in English.

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The roots of “Kathio” aren’t as clear, but one train of thought says an explorer called the area “Izatys,” which he had heard the Dakota people call themselves. But when he wrote the name and others tried to read his poor handwriting, the “Iz” was thought to be a “K” instead, and the rest of the word was thought to be “athio.” Kathio, then, really has no translation or specific meaning.

Regardless of naming issues, this is another example of a beautiful park in the Minnesota State Park system (and foliage is probably about to hit its prime, so it’s a great time to visit). The park contains two lakes, Ogechie Lake and Shakopee Lake, and the Rum River flows through it as well.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

A small but thoughtful visitor center has exhibits and explanations of the history, geology and wildlife of the area. This is a pretty rich history, as there are 9,000 years’ worth of human history that have been discovered in this park, and it’s been designated a National Historic Landmark.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There are 35 miles of hiking trails, some that lead to areas when archaeological digs have found evidence of much earlier visitors and residents. Archaeologists have identified 19 separate historic sites within the park, some of which (along Ogechie Lake and the Rum River) have remnants from Dakota life from centuries ago.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

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This area in particular was thought to have been a Dakota village. The evidence uncovered suggests that the Dakota had separate residences for summer and winter, with the winter homes more inland and set deeper into the ground, with deep fire pits inside.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

There are even two deep holes that were once used for threshing and storing wild rice, using the same techniques that are demonstrated at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

The trails that go through the park have various sections with interpretive signage, explaining the historical significance of each area. But even if history isn’t your primary interest, just the beauty of the area and its overall peacefulness (some trails are far enough from Highway 169 that you can’t hear any traffic) make it well worth a visit.

(credit: Amy Rea)

(credit: Amy Rea)

For the brave among you—or at least those not worried about heights—there’s a 100-foot observation tower that you can climb for spectacular views.

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What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Tuesday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.