Bee on purple flower

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

CHARLES A. LINDBERGH STATE PARK

log with white flowers growing around it
Spring flowers Walt Huss/P&TC photo contest

About the park

Forested hiking trails follow the picturesque Pike Creek as it meanders through the park on its way to the Mississippi River. Visitors can rent a canoe or kayak from the park to explore this creek and river. In addition to this main area of the park, the Little Elk unit lies 3.5 miles north where the Elk River joins the Mississippi. This unit was added in 2003 and is rich in archeological resources. Visitors can enjoy hiking a roughly 1.5-mile loop trail.

The park was established in 1931, when 110 acres were donated to the state by the famous aviator, who at the time was considered a national hero for being the first to make a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Later, however, he espoused horrendous, white supremacist beliefs and associated with leaders of the Nazi party. Some of this history is on display at the nearby museum and former home of Lindbergh, which is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Our Work by the Numbers

3

LAND PROJECTS
completed or
in progress here

106

ACRES
of invaluable
land saved

25

PERCENT
of the parks' total
acreage saved by us

$474,150

DOLLAR VALUE
of land at time
of acquisition

Park Map

Our Project Stories

Saving the mouth of Pike Creek

footbridge over forested creek
A footbridge over Pike Creek will likely be brought up to accessibility standards for park visitors.
partial map of the park
Map section showing project site
Lawn with creek in distance
Lawn with creek in distance.
Home before its removed to restore natural condition of land.
Creek with lush greenery on shores
Creek as it runs through property.

Related news

TIMELINE: 2020 - TBD

ACRES: 21.8

LOCATION: SE area of park

VALUE: $197,650 (at time of purchase)

PARTNER: Friends of Lindbergh Heritage

Notched into a prime area for Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is a property that has been part of the Smuda family story for three generations, starting in the early 1900s. It occupies a critical place at the mouth of Pike Creek–a major water feature in the park. The creek widens and meanders here, blending into wetlands before passing under a bridge along Highway 52 and draining into the Mississippi River.

In 1999, the Smuda property was officially designated within the park’s statutory boundary, meaning it could be purchased if the owner wanted to sell. But, at that time it was still serving as the home for Alvina Smuda, and would continue as such for another 21 years. Finally, in 2020 the former park manager, Ron Jones, upon learning that Smuda was contemplating moving, enlisted P&TC’s assistance.

“This property is the most critical natural resource-based inholding remaining in the statutory park boundaries,” he explained. On Sept. 9, 2020 P&TC finalized the sale and plans to hold the land in trust while the MnDNR secures the necessary funding.

The modest house, situated along Highway 52 is surrounded by mown lawn to the north, which comes to an abrupt edge against the park’s forest. Behind the house, a collection of old sheds and barns dot the landscape and a foot bridge crosses the creek, whose shoreline and wetlands sprawl out in a relatively natural state. All these buildings will eventually be removed once the park takes ownership and begins to restore the entire property to a natural condition. The foot bridge will likely be brought up to accessibility standards and integrated into the park trail system.

Smuda, 87, now lives in the nearby town of Little Falls and says she is happy the land will become part of the park. “I can go visit and maybe start another zoo,” she joked.

The county had previously purchased a small parcel from Smuda where they’ve built a public boat launch. Boats can be launched into the creek and pass under the highway bridge into the Mississippi River. A water trail on the Mississippi promotes canoeists and kayakers to paddle up the creek to a campsite in the park. According to Park Supervisor Barry Osborne, the landscape around the mouth of the creek offer interesting elevations and with this addition, park trails could be moved closer in toward the creek to offer nice views.

Saving an archaeological treasure

Project Years: 2001 - 2004

ACRES: 92.3

LOCATION: Little Elk Unit

VALUE: $625,000 (in 2004)

We had to act quickly when we learned that the organization that had worked for 16 years to develop the Little Elk Heritage Preserve was having financial trouble and could no longer manage it.

That group, the Institute for Minnesota Archeology (IMA), asked if we could help transfer ownership and management of the property to another agency to ensure its continued existence as a heritage preserve.

With Charles A. Lindbergh State Park just 3.5 miles south of this property, we began discussions to transfer the land to the park.

“The Parks & Trails Council came to the rescue like Paul Revere galloping in and providing an answer,” said Chuck Stone, one of the founders of the Friends of the Lindbergh Heritage, a nonprofit group that will help the DNR with the operation of the preserve. “They had the finances to buy it and get it in the hands of a different agency that could keep this special place accessible. Parks & Trails Council deserves a great deal of credit.”

The Little Elk Heritage Preserve is a 93-acre archaeological and nature park at the confluence of the Little Elk and Mississippi rivers about two miles north of the city of Little Falls. In addition to its significant natural features, Little Elk Heritage Preserve also contains numerous archaeological sites that reflect human interactions with local resources and ecosystems dating back thousands of years. The preserve also contains a one-mile looped hiking trail that will soon allow visitors to once again see and learn about such archaeological sites as a 1700s French fur-trading post, an 1800s Ojibwe Mission and a settlement called Elk City to name a few. The trail and a self-guided walking tour that were developed by the IMA are great additions to the state park system. In fact, Chuck Stone and the Friends of the Lindbergh Heritage have even designed a study guide for student groups to use when they begin returning to the site for field trips.

Saving an old oak forest

Project Years: 1998 - 2000

Project Acres: 2

This small parcel of oak woodlands was offered as a donation by the landowners to the MnDNR. Although the parcel was outside the existing park boundaries, and action had to be taken quickly due to possible forfeiture for back taxes, the MnDNR was committed to acquisition. The MnDNR approached Parks & Trails Council for help and we acquired it.

More Land Projects

Each place has a unique story that led to it becoming part of Minnesota’s parks and trails. Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota steps in when most needed, sometimes that has been to create an entire park, other times, to purchase a small yet invaluable parcel, without which, the park or trail would have lost part of what makes it so special.


Click on the park or trail to explore these stories.