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Activities at Lake Bronson State Park nearing pre-COVID normal numbers

By Anna Jauhola
Lake Bronson State Park is in good shape and fully staffed, including an incoming assistant state park manager. From groomed cross-country ski trails and snowmobile trails, to snowmobiling and ice fishing, the park continues to be a winter mecca for recreation.
As of the weekend, the lake was home to at least 30 ice houses of all shapes and sizes, said Park Manager Tim Williamson.
“The anglers themselves were reporting about 15 inches of ice,” he added. “Of course, the DNR reminds everyone that no ice is 100 percent safe, but we’re getting to where people seem to wait until after the first of January to come on out.”
Anglers are reporting good fishing, but it is often dependent on the time of day and how fish are moving. To keep fish healthy and active throughout the winter, Williamson said the Minnesota Fisheries department does a good job of notifying him of dissolved oxygen levels in the lake. Sometimes, if the levels are too low, he will adjust the flow though the pipe in the dam.
“Sometimes we have to let some water out to create a little pull and put some air back in the bottom of the lake,” he said.
When Williamson began his position two years ago – at the height of the COVID pandemic – he counted 68 ice houses on the lake.
“So we’ll start to see an influx here and that should lead into the Lake Bronson Lions Club doing their ice fishing tournament,” Williamson added. “So that should be a really wonderful event. I’m glad it’s back on.”
He expects that weekend – Feb. 11 and 12 – should feature nice weather. And although the weather can present challenges with keeping the lake accessible, he and his staff will be working hard to ensure it remains open.
Kirk Kuznia is the buildings and grounds employee who keeps everything plowed and open throughout the winter.
Karen Sele has worked for the park for quite awhile, Williamson said, and takes care of buildings during the winter. She has been working more this winter inside the Visitors Center as rentals have been more frequent.
Diane Peterson is the office administrative assistant and keeps things running smoothly, Williamson said.
“Without her I would fall apart,” he added. “The four of us, through the winter, between (Lake Bronson and Old Mill) do our best to keep them open.”
Soon, the team of four will be five as a new assistant park manager joins the team. There is no definitive start date, so that official announcement will be made later, Williamson said.
As the new year and winter moves ahead, there are a few reminders for the public. Snowmobilers are definitely welcome in the park, but on grant and aid trails only, through which they can also access the lake. These maps are available at the park and online.
The cross-country ski trails are groomed and in great shape, especially with the snow depths in the park right now. A volunteer continues to groom the trails for the park and they are well used. Williamson said the volunteer is much appreciated.
Also, those interested in a bit of adventure can rent snowshoes from the state park office. Make sure to call ahead. Snowshoers can trek anywhere in the park and are asked to stay off the groomed ski trails.
As the employees of Lake Bronson State Park also manage Old Mill State Park in Marshall County, Williamson noted the sledding hill there is in full operation and seeing lots of use. They have again plowed down to the picnic shelter, which people often use as a warming house.
Williamson said the number of visitors was down in general last year as people veered away from small-scale camping and more toward large gatherings again. Despite that, he is looking forward to a good year.

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