Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
1802 County Road 137, Waite Park, MN, USA
www.co.stearns.mn.us/Recreat… - (320) 255-6172
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve Waite Park Reviews
Hiking, Swimming, Skiing, Climbing, Scuba Diving - and rocks! Jul 26, 2014
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve is located in Waite Park, a suburb of St. Cloud, Minnesota. The park was an active granite quarry for over 100 years and is now a county park. The park is open year round and has so many fun things to do. It is only a few miles off I-94 in central Minnesota.
The park consists mainly of 20 quarries with gravel walking trails connecting many of them. Most of the quarries are filled with water, with bare granite rock rising above the water on several sides. One of the first areas you come to while walking down the trail is an old derrick with various equipment and granite blocks. There is an audio guide you can access via your smartphone and QR code reader that gives the history and other interesting facts on the quarry and equipment. You can also download mp3 files from the county website before you go.
The highlight of the park for many is the swimming quarry. This quarry is filled with water - and over 100 ft deep! You can access the swimming quarry from a dock on one side, or by jumping off the cliffs on the other side! The swimming quarry is a 0.5 mile walk from the parking lot. It is a very popular place on warm summer days. Most people bring some sort of floatation device (air mattress, inner tubes, etc) and just float in the center. One side is definitely designated the cliff jumping side, with cliffs up to 15' above the water surface. I'm not sure you are supposed to jump, but tons of people were. Signs do warn of submerged rock ledges, so it is all at your own risk. There is no lifeguard, either. Most people swimming and jumping were older children and adults. Not too many little ones there, as there is not a ton of shallow water. As this was my first trip, I didn't know what the swimming area looked like and didn't have a swim suit with me. It sure looked inviting though! I think I would recommend bringing a floatation device because the water is very deep and there are limited points along shore that you can climb out of the water. There is a very small area of shallow water (1 ft deep) by the dock.
You can also go rock climbing or scuba diving at select quarries, with a (free) permit. There is an area for bouldering, as well. You can fish in some of the quarries, too.
The hiking trails are fairly level and either gravel or grass. There is a steep trail up a rock pile to the observation platform, but there wasn't much to see. Mostly the tops of trees. There is a long, floating boardwalk across a big wetland - I found it a little unnerving to walk across, but I suppose most people might think it is fun. Most of the trails are wooded, but some are in open areas.
Some of the trails allow mountain biking in summer, and some trails are maintained for cross country skiing or skate skiing in winter. You can even ski by lantern along most trails.
This park is definitely worth a visit if you like the outdoors. Bug spray and sunscreen recommended in summer. The parking fee is $5 daily or $16 annual. There is a guardshack at the entrance to pay. If no one is at the shack, self resgister or risk getting fined. I thought the parking area was quite large (and empty) when I pulled in around 11 am, but when I left at 2 pm, the lot was overflowing and the line to get in stretched back to the main road. My advice is to get there early if you plan to go on a summer weekend. The website has plenty of information on the quarries, activities, permits, fees, and maps.
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