Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/8/2012 (1421 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Now that Canadians who make short trips to the United States are allowed to buy more stuff without paying duties, there's an increased emphasis on cross-border shopping during the September long weekend.
Go visit Target, if you must. But don't forget what else our neighbours to the south have to offer -- the best hiking within a day's drive of Winnipeg, properly funded state parks and rivers few Manitobans ever consider paddling.
Here are two of the finest non-retail attractions south of the border:
Lake Bronson State Park, Minnesota
Arguably the closest park to Winnipeg that few of us ever visit, Lake Bronson State Park sits only an hour away in northwestern Minnesota. There are three campgrounds here and a total of 282 campsites, with roughly a third available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Although this is hardly a wilderness park, Lake Bronson is a good place for young families to introduce their kids to back-country camping, as the park offers three hike-in sites and two canoe-camping sites that are easy to access.
The closest hike-in site is only one kilometre from the trailhead, while two others at 1.5 and three kilometres can take you completely out of earshot of the car campgrounds.
Get there: From Winnipeg, take Highway 59 south across the U.S. border to the town of Lake Bronson. Turn left at County Highway 28 and drive three kilometres to the park entrance.
Fees: There's a US$5 vehicle entrance fee and rustic camping will set you back $12 US per night, per campsite. Serviced sites are $21. While the park isn't far, it's still a good idea to call ahead. Advance campsite reservations can be made at 866-857-2757 (with 24 hours notice) and the park office can be reached at 218-754-2200.
Park info: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_bronson/index.html.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
I've written this many times before, but the most beautiful place in the entire state of North Dakota is Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which also boasts the best wildlife-watching opportunities on the U.S. Great Plains, some of the best backpacking anywhere and badlands that rival those in South Dakota.
The combination of sagebrush, wildflowers, cacti and unearthly eroded-rock formations is nothing short of spectacular. The park also boasts numerous bison, pronghorn, black-tailed prairie dogs (the real thing, not ground squirrels), mule deer and in the South Unit, feral horses, all easy to spot. You may also see coyotes, wild turkeys, horned lizards and if you're lucky, a cougar.
There are two main units to Theodore Roosevelt, each with a campground, a scenic drive and several day-hiking and backpacking trails. The premier North Unit route is the 27-kilometre Achenbach Trail, which can be hiked in one long day or as an overnight. It involves two crossings of the Little Missouri River and two ascents and descents of the 240-metre river valley.
In the South Unit, the 39-kilometre Paddock-Talkington loop can be hiked in two or three days; you'll need to cache drinking water along the way (easily done, as the trail crosses the scenic drive), as badlands river water contains poisonous minerals and can not be filtered or boiled. The 21-kilometre Petrified Forest Loop is a shorter and more secluded overnight option.
Get there: The park is seven to eight hours from Winnipeg, so leave this second or plan to take Tuesday off. To reach the South Unit, take Manitoba Highway 75 and U.S. I-29 south to Fargo, then take I-94 west to Medora, N.D., and the entrance to the park's South Unit.
Fees: Park entrance fees are $10 per vehicle. Back-country camping permits are free, but you must register at either the North or South Unit ranger station. Car-camping sites are $10 per night, with no reservations.
Park info: Purchase a Trails Illustrated map to the park for topographical maps to all the trails. Park information is online at http://www.nps.gov/thro/index.htm.