America's Favorite Park: You've Never Heard Of It

Bear Head Lake State Park in Minnesota captures title in Coca-Cola-sponsored competition for most popular park
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Bear Head Lake State Park in Minnesota captures title in Coca-Cola-sponsored competition for most popular park

Yosemite's gonna be pissed: Minnesota's Bear Head Lake State Park just won the title of "America's Favorite Park" in a national competition sponsored by Coca-Cola and the National Parks Foundation, the largest official charity for the national parks. Over 1.6 million people voted for the little-known (nationally, at least) state park near the Boundary Waters and Ely, Minnesota.

5.7 million people voted online through Coca-Cola's "Live Positively" social media and online campaign. I haven't thought "living positively" meant "drink a lot of Coke" since I was 14, but the company is awarding Bear Head Lake a $100,000 recreation grant that goes to things like kayaks, bikes, and reconstruction and repairs to activity areas. An additional $500,000 went to other state and national parks for the same purposes.

Surprised? Me too: Here's a bit more about Bear Head Lake, or "America's Favorite Park," as I'm sure the new signs will read:

Bear Head Lake State Park provides the opportunity to experience first hand the beautiful Northwoods for which Minnesota is so well known. A popular place to camp, canoe, and fish, the park has more than 100,000 visitors a year. Park highlights include 23 miles of pristine lakeshore and abundant wildlife, with stands of white and red pine trees that tower over birch, aspen and fir trees. Located just south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), it shares a similar wilderness quality, but amenities such as camper cabins, drive-in campsites and running water make it more accessible than the BWCA. As its name implies, Bear Head Lake State Park is home to black bears, as well as nesting eagles, wolves and moose.

That sounds pretty rad, but I'm still a little stunned by the results. But if we take a closer look, maybe I shouldn't be: Little Ely (pop. 3,724) has proven to be a surprisingly publicity-hungry and -savvy town. Each year, the tourism bureau launches a nationwide April Fool's campaign, usually to some success. I'm guessing those people had something to do with this win. It's either them or notable present and former residents Will Steger and Jessica Biel.

—Ted Alvarez

Image Credit: kern.justin