Park Highlight: Robinson Park

Robinson Park is a 65-acre site located along the Wild and Scenic Kettle River in Sandstone, which is in Pine County and located directly off Interstate 35. Sandstone, which is named after the stone that was quarried out of this region, is conveniently located about 65 miles south of Duluth and about 75 miles north of the edge of the metro area, setting it approximately halfway between two major cities.

Robinson Park is located directly adjacent to Banning State Park on three sides and was once the location of a sandstone quarry that was in operation until the late 1930s. Many of the building structures located in Sandstone were built by James J. Hill, a well‐known railroad conglomerate, out of the sandstone rock quarried from this region and park site. When the quarry operations closed, left in its place was an approximate 100-foot-high rock cliff wall that separates the park into an upper and lower area that has attracted climbers to the park for many years. There are scattered remnants of the previous quarry operations and equipment still located throughout the site. Due to the significance of some of the artifacts and the previous historic land use, the park was added to The National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

The upper portion of Robinson Park consists of approximately one-third of the park property and is located directly adjacent to the city of Sandstone. This parcel of land is mainly undeveloped except for Sandstone water tower adjoining a large open area where a previous city building once stood and a shed that a climbing group has set up and maintained to provide water service from a local hydrant to irrigate the cliff walls for farmed winter ice. Foot trails are scattered throughout upper Robinson.

Lower Robinson consists of the remaining two‐thirds of the park property and is accessed off of Highway 123 along Old Wagon Road, which was once the road that connected to the old Wagon Bridge that crossed the Kettle River. Old Wagon Road enters into lower Robinson at the main parking lot and contains a boat ramp into the Kettle River. The river runs the entire 3,500-foot length of the park separating Robinson Park from Banning State Park on the east side.

The southern portion of lower Robinson contains a large wetland area fed by natural springs and has numerous rubble rock piles surrounding it. A fairly heavy cover of deciduous vegetation has taken over this area. There are three primitive camp sites located along an old raised railroad bed line that parallels the Kettle River with the remains of two previous powder storage buildings located along the wetland in close proximity to the Old Wagon Bridge abutments. The city has also recently added two group campsites overlooking the river.

The central and north sections of lower Robinson are where the majority of the park activity can be found. There are recreational improvements that were incorporated utilizing LAWCON funds back in the 1970s, such as the restroom building and picnic shelters. Two picnic shelters are available, one adjacent to the main entrance parking lot by the boat launch and a smaller shelter close to the restroom building. LAWCON funds were also used for the boat ramp and the main park entrance sign.

There are two small boat portages, one to the north and south of the previous dam location. The portages allow for pedestrian access to the Kettle River with the ability to avoid travel across the previous dam location where strong water currents and debris in the water can pose hazards. Adjacent to the dam location, the City of Sandstone has created an interpretive memorial containing signage to display the historical significance of the site.

More information about Robinson Park can be found at sandstone.govoffice.com and at visitsandstonemn.com.