The sun was shining, birds were chirping, people were fishing out on a boat, youth were playing just outside the visitor center, some people were sitting on the beach or in the water during a July 2 day at Lake Bronson State Park.
“A lot of things that were not open last year are pretty much open this year,” Lake Bronson State Park Manager Tim Williamson said. “ … As close to possible, I think, we’re back to the way people remember the park being prior to 2020.”
One of 75 state parks or state recreation areas in Minnesota, Lake Bronson State Park follows the COVID rules from the Governor’s office related to public spaces. Now, things have started to opened up. For example, its Interpretive Center and bathrooms are open. It also has its first rental of the season at the Visitor Center.
“The biggest difference from last summer to at this point is pretty much we’ve reopened all the buildings,” Williamson said, “and (are) encouraging people… the unvaccinated, to wear masks, people to keep some spatial distance.”
With things having opened up more, Williamson talked about how busy the park has been leading into the Fourth of July weekend, the opportunities the park provides, what he enjoys about working at the park and being outdoors, how much the park was utilized through the pandemic, and what he hopes people get from their experience at the park.
Coming to the Lake Bronson as its new Park Manager at the tail end of last summer— around July 2020— Williamson is spending his first full summer at Lake Bronson State Park. He also works as the Park Manager of Old Mill State Park in Marshall County. He has enjoyed the opportunity to meet both the locals and all those who travel to visit the state parks.
“In sort of my position I do meet and talk to quite a bit of people,” Williamson said.
He has also enjoyed seeing how the park changes throughout the year, in terms of both nature and people.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing the seasons through the park and I’ve enjoyed walking the trails,” Williamson said. “… The park goes from having a lot a lot of people to not a lot of people and that’s been interesting as well… It’s been interesting to see the park sort of go through a season.”
In his first full summer here, he said it has been busy.
“A lot of that I think has been weather driven, with not having much rain region-wide and this being one of the few recreational lakes in this part of the state,” Williamson said. “People have been coming here on the beach and in the water… We’ve been pretty busy on the weekends.”
Lake Bronson State Park is open 8 am to 10 pm daily.
Vehicle permits are required and can be purchased at the park office or entrance kiosk. One-day vehicle permits cost $7, year-round permits $35, and year-round motorcycle permits $30. Discounted permits are available for disabled veterans, active duty military personnel, people with disabilities, and additional vehicles.
Pets are welcome at the park, but must be kept on a six-foot leash. The park asks that people pick up after their pets, be with them at all times, and not allow them into buildings or on the beaches.
As for camping, the various camping fee options are as follows: “Drive-in, electric” costs $33, “Drive-in, non-electric” $23, “Backpack” $20, “Canoe-in” $20, and “Group” $75. Minnesota residents with a Minnesota disability permit or a Federal Access Pass are eligible for half-priced campsite fees Sunday through Thursday.
Campground quiet hours are from 10 pm to 8 am, and only registered campers may be in the campgrounds during these hours. One can reserve a campsite online (www.mndnr.gov/reservations) or by phone (888-990-4322) before they occupy it.
For firewood, one must purchase it at the park or from vendors who sell wood approved by the park. People are not allowed to gather firewood in the park.
At the park, Williamson explained how one can find both land and water-based activities to enjoy. He also mentioned numerous hiking miles, birdwatching areas, horse trails, many campsites— providing the option for tent camping, RV camping, and camping at a group center.
“The draw here is the lake itself,” Williamson said. “And so we’ve had plenty of people boating, kayaking, and fishing. But again, some of that has been driven by the weather,” Williamson said. “… We’ve had pretty much what everybody’s done here in the past. All the water-based activities are done here.”
He also mentioned the Interpretive Center. It’s an area, Williamson explained, that provides people with the natural and cultural history of the area, the Bronson family, and some of the activities that went on here before it became a state park and before the dam was built.
Lake Bronson, along with Old Mill, provides a spot for people of all ages to get away, take a step back, and experience nature, Williamson explained.
“These have been… stressful times and for a lot of people the outdoors have been an escape,” Williamson said. “You can come out here and sort of de-stress and get away from things for awhile while you be a part of nature.”
As he mentioned, “Your state parks… they’re a gateway to the outdoors.”
With the reopening of some things, that state park gateway, including at Lake Bronson, is beginning to feel more like its previous self.
To see the complete story, read the July 7 issue of The Tribune or the July 8 issue of the North Star News in print or online.