Banning St. Park is located right off of I35 at exit #195 near Sandstone, MN. Despite it's proximity to the highway, once you are in the park you forget how close it is.
History from the website:
In the late 1890s, the Banning Sandstone Quarry employed 500 workers who chiseled the rock into massive blocks. The strength and pink color of this sandstone made it very popular for building construction. On September 1, 1894, the great Hinckley forest fire swept through the area inflicting heavy financial losses on the company and on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad line serving it.
Business resumed after the fire and by 1896 a village was platted on the fields above the quarry. The village was named in honor of William L. Banning, president of the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. The village grew and by the turn of the century it was incorporated with a population of approximately 300. By this time, however, contractors were beginning to use structural steel for building construction. By 1905, all work at the quarry ceased.
Fires continued to be a problem so that by 1912, the town of Banning virtually ceased to exist. Today, all that remains of the site are weathered ruins along the Kettle River. Banning State Park was established in 1963 by the Minnesota state legislature, with 5,246 acres.
In 1971, the park acreage increased to a total of 5,877 acres. In 1986, the park boundary was expanded to include the Log Creek Drive area, for a total of 6,237 acres. A 10-mile stretch of the Kettle River, designated as a state Wild and Scenic River, bisects the park. In 1995, the local community of Sandstone, the DNR and the Pollution Control Agency worked together to remove the Kettle River dam and return the river to its natural state which now showcases the Big Spring Falls and the Sandstone Rapids. The park's water resources include the Kettle River, Wolf Creek, Log Creek, six streams and three springs. The scenic Kettle River includes five spectacular rapids: Blueberry Slide, Mother's Delight, Dragon's Tooth, Little Banning and Hell's Gate. These rapids provide one of the state's most challenging whitewater experiences for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
We did the self guided Quarry Loop trail, taking advantage of the trail extension along the river. The weather was a sunny 85*, bugs were minimal on the regular trail and obnoxious closer to the water. While there were other people out and about, I didn't feel overly crowded. There is talk of going back later this summer to hike some of the other trails and enjoy a picnic lunch, but I've been warned that the mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies can get really bad - so we might have to wait until cooler Fall temps prevail.
|Natural uncut stone wall|
|Flowers growing in the rocks|