State Park Information
McCarthy Beach State Park
  3.5 Stars (2 Ratings)
  7622 McCarthy Beach Rd
      Side Lake, Minnesota 55781
  United States
  (218) 254-7979
  Unknown
Description

Come to McCarthy Beach State Park and you’ll remember the lakes. The sandy beach on Sturgeon Lake was rated one of the top 17 beaches in North America by Highway’s Magazine. Walk along the half-mile of shoreline, or venture out into the shallow water that extends hundreds of feet into the lake.

Launch a boat on Side Lake or Sturgeon Lake to explore the five connected lakes of the Sturgeon chain. Hikers, mountain bikers, and snowshoers enjoy scenic trails that wind along pine-covered ridges and through stands of birch. Snowmobilers and horseback riders take advantage of the Taconite State Trail to access miles of trails outside the park. Located near many tourist attractions, McCarthy Beach State Park offers opportunities for both relaxation and exploration.

Wildlife
The park's hills and trails allow for excellent opportunities to watch the birds and animals at McCarthy Beach State Park. More than 175 species of birds visit the area and visitors are treated to sights of loons gliding on the lakes and great blue herons stalking small fish in the shallows. Thirty-three species of wildlife inhabit the park including white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolves, chipmunks, red squirrels, raccoons, and several species of reptiles and amphibians.

History
Archaeologists have found American Indian artifacts in the park that help tell the early history of the area. A well-crafted stone spear point made of Jasper Taconite, and later reworked into a drill, was recovered in an archaeological excavation near the park office in 1999. The spear point and small copper awls found with it date back 10,000 years ago when Paleoindian people would have hunted this area. Other stone artifacts suggest Archaic people lived here. During Woodland times, 2,000 to 500 years ago, Woodland people made their camps along the shores of the lakes in the park. They used ceramic pots for cooking, processing and storing food. The same attributes that draw visitors to the park today have made this a popular stopping place for thousands of years. In the park office, you will find an interpretive display of these artifacts called 'Pieces of the Past'.

Before the European settlers arrived, giant red and white pines stretched as far as the eye could see. These pines attracted loggers looking to provide timber for booming sawmills in Hibbing and Minneapolis. The Swan River Logging Company built a railroad to the Sturgeon Lake area in 1895. Remnants of the old logging railroad grades can still be seen along the park trail system.

In the 1930s, 'McCarthy’s beach' became a popular picnic and swimming spot for families living along the Mesaba Iron Range. Named for former property owner John A. McCarthy, the park was established in 1945 as a living memorial to area servicemen that lost their lives in World War II. The original 135 acres of virgin pine between Sturgeon and Side lakes was purchased with money raised by the Chisholm and Hibbing communities and matched by the State of Minnesota. The park boundary has since expanded to include 2471 acres.

Geology
The hilly topography and lakes of McCarthy Beach State Park were shaped during the retreat of the last continental glacier around 12,000 years ago. Glacial debris forms the steep-sided sandy ridges that are found in the interior of the park. Pothole lakes were created by large remnant chunks of ice left by the glacier. As these slowly melted, the depressions they left behind filled with water.

The park is on the southern edge of former glacial lakes Agassiz and Koochiching. These huge lakes once stretched far up into Canada. Beach ridges on the shores of Sturgeon Lake and along the Sturgeon River, evidence of past high-water levels, can still be seen today.

Landscape
For those willing to leave the relaxation of the park’s sandy beach, the rolling hills and valleys of McCarthy Beach State Park offer visitors a variety of terrain to hike and explore. The park protects a northern boreal forest with stands of red and white pine, leatherleaf-black spruce lowlands, birch and aspen.

Park Stats
Campgrounds: 2 Campsites: 89
Photos: 24 Reviews: 2
Views: 392 Likes: 0
   

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Jeff P.
3 Star Rating3.0 out of 5 stars
  Tall pine trees and nice swimming area
Reviewed on June 19th, 2020
Overall a decent park. It is really wooded with some beautiful, tall, pines. The swimming area is nice. Unfortunately we didn't make it to any of the hiking trails so I cannot comment on those. Pros: 1. Beautiful tall pine trees. 2. Really nice lakes and swimming area. 3. Nice fishing pier in Side Lake Campground. 4. There is a gas station about 1 block away from the park entrance. Great for picking up gas, ice, and a coffee. Cons: 1. The park is really spread out. The two campgrounds are miles apart. 2. There is a major road that goes between the swimming/picnic area and Side Lake Campground. 3. As others mentioned, the hiking trails are nowhere near the campgrounds. 4. The main road that goes through the Side Lake Campground is supposed to be a two-way road. However, it's barely large enough to be a one-way! Several times we would pass people walking and other cars and had to nearly pull over off the road until they passed. It would certainly be nice if they could widen this. 5. There are only two mens and two womens showers for the entire park. We didn't have to wait too terribly long in line, but some more would have been nice.
Erin R.
4 Star Rating4.0 out of 5 stars
  The park grows on you
Reviewed on June 19th, 2020
On arrival, I was disappointed with how open the campsites were, as you can see many of your neighbors from your campsite. But after 3 nights here, my fondness grew for this park. The hiking paths are amazing, especially in the Fall. The staff were friendly. The park is well maintained. My only big annoyance was that many of the hiking/biking paths are located about 2 miles from the main campground. I was at the park without a vehicle for most of my stay, so hiking or biking a couple miles before I even got to the trails was not ideal. But, we made it work.
   Beatrice Lake Campground 
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   Side Lake Campground 
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