I found out that Crow Wing County only has four “public” beaches in the county limits: Gull Lake, Lum Park, Whipple Beach, and Serpent Lake Beach in Crosby. That’s it. You would think that with how much the BLA relies on our lakes for business and recreation, that there would be a larger emphasis on public beaches.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at the beaches that are a bit outside of town on the east side of Crow Wing County.
Crosby has been undergoing a sort of renaissance, one which has allowed the area to be noticed on a national scale. The little town boasts world-class mountain biking, upscale eateries, and has been a fisherman’s paradise for years, and it’s only a matter of time before the region’s best-kept secret starts to draw more visitors from out of town.
The thing you’ll notice first about the beach at Serpent Lake in downtown Crosby, is perhaps how sprawling the park is. On one end of the park, you’ll find a spectacular kids playground, while on the other end, nearly a half mile away is a pristine skateboard park. You’ll find a campground (which you can reserve at only $25 a night), ball fields, band shells, and the largest dragon statue you’ll see this side of Los Angeles.
The thing you’ll also notice is how the park hugs the lake, making use of all the shoreline as a well manicured green space for picnics or sunbathing. This was actually my favorite part, as I could sit comfortably on the grass while dangling my toes into the refreshing water.
This park/beach combo is a jewel in the Crosby area. They should be proud of the commitment needed to keep this place as well maintained as it is. The only negative I could say is that it took me a bit longer to get my kids into the car to leave for the next beach.
Cuyuna Lakes Mine Pits
The Cuyuna region has lived under two separate masks, it would seem. Initially, a hub for iron mining, the lakes area has shifted to a more tourist/recreation based identity. Indeed, the lakes in the Cuyuna region are the remnants of the large scale mining operations in the area. After over 75 years of digging for iron-ore, the last shipment was sent out in the early 1980’s, leaving the area to claim it’s newfound fame as a home to crystal clear lakes.
I wanted to give these lakes a try because I’ve heard how stunning the area is. I found that, and more! I must warn any families and water seekers that these beaches are going to be a bit different than any you’re probably used to. Since these lakes are basically water filled (extremely deep) holes in the ground, there is little “beach” to be found.
We went to two different mine pits to get a good feel for the area. Both featured a short wading area before steep drop offs. Moreover, since these lakes become so very deep so very quickly, I would recommend either be sure of your swimming abilities or simply using a floatation device, especially with children.
With that being said, these lakes are crystal clear. It’s no wonder they are a large draw for freshwater divers. Indeed, some lakes boast equipment from the bygone mining era and if you venture deep enough, you’ll be able to dart in and around bulldozers and crystalline trees, once you know where to look.
So, to sum-up our experience, if you’re looking for a unique swimming experience, complete with deep free swimming and crystal clear water, the Cuyuna Lakes Mine Pits are a perfect fit. However, you’ll have to compete with rocky approaches, less than ideal beach conditions (no soft sand to lay on), and the high likelihood of getting lost (as these are NOT maintained by parks departments). Very much worth it, though, in my opinion.
Lum Park has been a staple in the Brainerd area for over one hundred years. It’s a near perfect park with camping facilities, playground equipment that span generations, and green space for miles. Lum Park also features a small beach right on Rice Lake.
Created due to the dam just west of the beach, Rice Lake has a reputation of being a fisherman’s paradise. Lum Park offers a wonderful fishing pier and if you’d like to get into deeper waters, it also offers a boat launch.
It’s with all these other benefits of the park that makes the beach a secondary attraction, and, in my opinion, a less than enjoyable beach. In other words, since Lum Park offers all these wonderful attractions, attractions that are done well, that give the park solid marks, it’s kind of confusing how the beach is not as robust as it could be.
When we made our visit, we noticed garbage strewn across the sand, lying in among the weeds that washed ashore. There was a dead fish not ten feet from the dock area and the smell pervaded much further than that. In addition to all this, we found that a “swimmers itch” warning was in effect, barring any fun in the water that day. It didn’t break my kid’s hearts as they simply enjoyed the park in its beauty.
So, in my opinion, come to Lum Park for any other reason than the beach. It does all of that stuff well. The beach on the other hand…well…there are other beaches than these to explore in the BLA.