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Nature scavenger hunts offer fun way to explore Itasca State Park

This scavenger hunt is part of a statewide challenge happening at 69 Minnesota state parks and five local parks.

ItascaStateParkBiking.jpg
Biking is among the family-friendly activities enjoyed at Itasca State Park.
Shannon Geisen/ Park Rapids Enterprse
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Visitors to Itasca State Park can add some extra fun to their experience this summer with an educational scavenger hunt, launched by Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota (PTC).

This scavenger hunt is part of a statewide challenge happening at 69 Minnesota state parks and five local parks.

Each scavenger hunt is tailored to a specific park and highlights 19 different types of birds, mammals, wildflowers, trees and recreational activity that can be found in that location.

The hunts combine online technology with in-person experiences.

Participants access the hunts online in the form of an interactive checklist that features a photo of each item, along with a brief description or fun fact about that plant or animal. Some items are very common and will be seen by most people who visit the park, such as a black-capped chickadee, while others are more elusive, such as a sundew plant or a ruby-throated hummingbird.

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"Even if a participant isn't able to check off a specific item, we hope the experience of looking for that plant or animal opens their imaginations to the diversity of plant and animal life that exist in the parks," said Lisa Filter, PTC's external relations director.

Weekly prize drawings

Participants can submit their hunt in a weekly drawing for a $20 gift card to Minnesota state parks. Points are awarded for each item that is found as well as for completing the hunt with children. These points translate into entries in the weekly drawing until the event ends Sept. 12.

An additional prize drawing is being sponsored by the Friends of Itasca State Park. It will be awarded from all entries to Itasca State Park submitted by Sept. 12. This additional prize is a $30 Gift DNR/parks gift card.

“The Friends of Itasca State Park hope you enjoy the fun and opportunity of looking for and finding all the mushrooms, wildflowers, trees and animals in our scavenger hunt,” said John LaFond, treasurer. “Have fun exploring Itasca State Park!”

‘Kids love a challenge’PTC piloted the scavenger hunt idea two summers ago, as nearly all park programs were canceled due to COVID-19. The hunts were a self-guided, socially distanced option to fill that gap.

But, even as pandemic restrictions have lifted, these hunts have continued to evolve as a fun outdoor activity that many people enjoy doing.

The hunts are designed for all ages, but with special attention to parents of young children. "Kids love a challenge and the colorful photos we included make it even more engaging for them," says Filter.

Visit PTC’s website at parksandtrails.org to access the hunt or look for a flyer in the park for more details the next time you visit.

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PTC of Minnesota is a member-supported nonprofit that acquires, protects and enhances critical land for the public’s use and benefit. This mission is accomplished through land acquisition, advocacy at the state capitol and by working with local friends groups. Established in 1954, PTC has helped to acquire over 9,000 acres that have become part of Minnesota’s treasured landscape of parks and trails.

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