North Mississippi Regional Park is hidden behind the I-94 freeway wall and offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding woods and prairie. The park was formerly held jointly between the Minneapolis Park Board and Three Rivers Park System, but it has recently been shifted entirely to Minneapolis Parks.
North Mississippi is the home of the Carl Kroening Interpretive Center and is a favorite of my children. You can read more about the interpretive center at the link above.
The walk from the interpretive center to the play area is through a beautiful prairie. If you choose to follow it, the path winds full-circle back to the building following along the river on the way back. There is wildlife to see if you look and places to stop and explore, including a life-size Lincoln log area. I'm not certain it was meant for climbing on, but we did.
The playground equipment is pretty standard, but the wading pool/splash pad is beautiful. The pool opens Memorial Day weekend and closes on Labor Day. The playground and pool area also offers picnic space. There is not a lot in the way of nearby restaurants, but there is room to grill if you bring your own food. The interpretive center also sells a few snacks.
In the summer, watch for the Nature Pop-Up Education Station while you’re at the playground or splash pad.
This would be a good park to bring the bikes and take a family bike ride. (Anne writes about doing just that here.) It has bike trails running through it that connect with other city trails. Whether biking or walking, watch for deer, fox, beavers, otters, muskrats, woodchucks, chipmunks and other small rodents. It is also a good place to bird watch. You may spot raptors, including bald eagles and red-tailed hawks; waterfowl; wading birds like the great blue heron and a variety of songbirds. You can check out a birding backpack from the Interpretive Center if you don't have your own birding kit.
Nature Play Area and Adventure Trail
The eagerly awaited Nature Play Area and Adventure Trail is scheduled to open in the summer of 2019. They will be located next to the interpretive center. You may have noticed that there is already a giant Lincoln Log structure in that area. With a goal to foster imagination and connection with nature, MPRB will be using more materials like logs, sticks, rocks and water to add to this natural theme.
Also planned for the park is an "adventure trail". It will feature dynamic components to entice hikers to climb, hop, run, swing, and jump their way through the park. Of course, the park trails already offer plenty of fun, especially when paired with the adventure packs available at the nature center.
North Mississippi's nature play area will be unique among the growing list of other Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities because it will be the first accessible nature play area in Minneapolis. Accessible play elements will include an ADA aggregate path connector, transfer platforms, and ADA fixed-in-place nature play pieces. Find more resources for special needs in our Twin Cities Special Needs ShortList.
Update Fall 2019: Note this information came from a press release and email exchanges with park staff in June of 2018. I have not seen any additional information via press releases nor have I seen anything I would label a "nature play area" (more than that the whole park is kind of a nature play area) or "adventure trail" (more than that the whole park is kind of an adventure trail). We will keep watching and keep you updated.
Birthday Parties at North Mississippi Regional Park
This park has three picnic shelters available to for the public. The can be reserved for birthdays and other events between April 15th and October 15th. Permits are available by the half day (9-3 or 4-10) or for a full day. Reservations can be obtained by calling 612-230-6400 during business hours, online or in person. The Beaver and Turtle shelters each hold 50 people and can be rented for $125/half day and $250/full day. The larger shelter holds 150 people. A half-day rental is $225 and a full day is $450. See Kroening Interpretive Center directory page for indoor birthday parties.
Paddle Share Program at North Mississippi Regional Park
Beginning in late August of 2016, The Minneapolis Parks have teamed up with the National Park Service and others to test a pilot program that will allow park users to rent kayaks to explore Mississippi.
These kayak stations will work much like the Nice Ride bicycle program. Users reserve their kayak online for a specific date and time, watch a safety video, sign a waiver and pay for the reservation. They will then receive a code to unlock a kayak and equipment (including life jacket) at North Mississippi.
Users can paddle upriver or downriver, but the rental equipment must be returned to the return station at Boom Island Park their rental expires. All stations are aligned with Nice Ride stations so users are able to paddle downriver and then bike back to where they started. Sounds good in theory.
Articles Related to North Mississippi Regional Park
- Summertime Together: North Mississippi Regional Park Play Area
- Carl Kroening Interpretive Center
- Twin Cities Spring Nature Play & Programs Guide