Lake Louise State Park – Fun for the Entire Family

Lake Louise Park

By Barb Partington

Located in southeast Minnesota, this is a great park to visit.  It’s a gorgeous park in a serene prairie setting. Lake Louise State Park is a mix of woodlands, savanna and meadows on the eastern edge of the tall grass prairie biome. The lake is a historic mill pond located at the confluence of the Upper Iowa and Little Iowa Rivers. This park is ideal for those who like a variety of outdoor activities.

The lightly used horse campground is very nice. There are six horse camp sites, all are drive through. High ties are available for the horses. Fire rings, picnic tables and potable water is provided. The restrooms/shower house is newer and kept very clean, conveniently located right next to the campground.  For those not wanting to cook, LeRoy is only 2 miles away.  

There are 9.7 miles of horse trails. The trails are all natural terrain with several stream crossings. Having shoes on the horses is not needed. The trails are perfect for the young horse or for those looking for a leisurely ride. Each month different wild flowers enhance the riding experience.

For the non-horseback rider there is a lot to do at this park. Kayaking, swimming, fishing, hiking, biking and bird watching are a few of the options. For those hot days, a refreshing swim at the beach is only a short walk from the campground.  The 20 mile paved Shooting Star Bike Trail winds through the park starting in LeRoy and ending in Rose Creek. When complete, the trail will connect the towns of Austin and Lyle.  

The campground hosts were so friendly and informative.  On our arrival, they handed out the local newspaper and flyers on the local attractions. They were a wealth of information.  

Only a few places are left where one can find the native wildflowers that once abounded across the hundreds of miles of prairie. Only a few remnants of those prairies and their wildflowers are left in Minnesota. The Shooting Star Scenic Byway is one of the first Minnesota designate wildflower routes. Lake Louise State Park is along the route. One of the most rare flowers is the delicate Shooting Star, now believed to remain only in the areas along the Shooting Star Scenic Byway.

Preserving and recovering more abundant wildflower growth has been enhanced through the practice of prescribed (controlled) burning. Prescribed burning is today’s best way to preserve the native prairie. Lake Louise has fall and spring burning which is a coordinated effort of the DNR, Mower County and the local fire departments.  

We have been told the best time to visit the park is late August and  early September when the blazing stars are blooming. These and other prairie flowers are a draw for the multitude of butterflies. Sometimes there are clouds of them.

Park History:  In 1962 the city of LeRoy donated the park and about 70 acres to the state and it was named Lake Louise State Park. Today the park is 1,147 acres. Forty-seven species of fish have been documented in the park or within the upper Iowa River or Little Iowa River that flows through the park. The park boasts of 146 species of birds, of which 99 are potentially breeding species. The park has records of some rare species too: the upland sandpiper, red-shouldered hawk and the state-endangered Henslowe’s sparrow. A small, great blue heron rookery is also present in the park. Butterflies and moths are abundant along with a healthy population of amphibians and reptiles.

The park is really important to the people who live in the area. The Friends of Lake Louise is a loyal group of volunteers. With the recent budget cuts, the DNR has struggled to maintain services at the smaller parks. Among other things, this friends group has volunteered to maintain the rest room in the beach area.

Camping at the park (located at 12385 766th Ave. LeRoy, MN 559551-6649) is available Memorial weekend through Labor Day. Daily or annual permits are required for all vehicles entering the park. Pets must be restrained on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Minnesota Trail Pass is required for all horse riders.