Up north near Sandstone, Minnesota, there is a state park along the Kettle River that may be one of the coolest in the state. It has many cliffs, trails, rivers, and forests. But what makes this park special is that it is not entirely natural, but a result of an environment changed by humanity. That park is Banning State Park.
Hundreds of years ago, modern day Banning State Park used to be a tree filled area by the Kettle River. But in the 1890s, miners came to the area to mine for sandstone to be used in construction. The miners removed many massive blocks on sandstone from the cliffs over the course of a few decades. In 1896, the small town of Banning was soon built on the banks of the river. At one point, the town had a population of 300 residents. But in the early 1900s, steel became more popular than sandstone for building materials, and the quarry at Banning eventually ceased operations. After that, with not much business and fires sweeping through the area often, the town was nothing but ruins by 1912. The mining in the area may be gone, but a huge impact was left behind. Massive cleanly cut cliffs tower over the forest below. Various buildings are scattered around in ruin. In 1963, Banning State Park was established to preserve the area.
Banning State Park has 17 miles of hiking trails that pass by the cliffs, forests, and river in the park. The Quarry Loop Trail, the most popular in the park, is a 1.8-mile loop. This trail passes by many ruins of buildings that were used in the old mining days. There are various signs and plaques that explain what the buildings were used for over 100 years ago. The trail also goes along the Kettle River and passes by the Hell’s Gate Rapids, a huge rapid that many people raft down. Banning is a great place to enjoy a hike!
Banning may be a fun place to visit in the summer, but it may be even cooler in the winter (no pun intended)! In the winter, massive sheets of ice hang down from the cliffs, the waterfalls are all frozen, snow covers the ground, and a whole new world of Banning is revealed. The park is a popular ice climbing where people climb up huge ice sheets with ice axes, rope, and crampons. The waterfalls in the park look gorgeous when they are frozen, with huge icicles hanging from the cliff. If you visit in winter, you must be careful around the ice, because it could be fragile and could fall at any moment. If you want to experience Banning in a whole new way, then visit in the winter!
Banning State Park is one of the coolest parks in the state and exhibits both natural and man-made beauty. Although the sandstone miners are gone, they left a huge impact behind, shaping the landscape and changing the ecosystem. Since miners decimated the area, trees and wildlife very slowly came back, almost restoring the forest back to normal. Banning is a state park where evidence of Minnesota mining history and the beauty of nature healing itself can be seen together. If you want to visit an area with nature, history, and adventure, then visit Banning State Park!