Yesterday, Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely, MN was announced as America’s Favorite Park through online voting at Coca-Cola’s Live Positively campaign. As the winner, Bear Head received a $100,000 donation that they will use to build a new three season trail center. Up against state and national parks across the nation, Bear Head beat out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by over a half a million votes. In comparison, Bear Head receives about 100,000 visitors annually while the Great Smoky Mountains receives more than 9 million!
So what makes Bear Head so special? I have been there many times and can tell you that it is a great park. The lakes and trails are beautiful. the fishing is good. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and it is close to Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But the real reason is the wildlife. Some of the more common sightings include white-tail deer, red fox, common loons, and bald eagles. In fact for many years, a pair of bald eagles had their nest right in the picnic area. If you are lucky you might even see a wolf, moose, or bear.
But it is two particular bears that occasionally use the park that helped Bear Head win this contest. Lily and Hope, a female black bear and her cub became internet sensations when a camera placed in Lily’s den allowed Hope’s birth to be viewed live on the internet. On Lily’s facebook page, fans of the bears coordinated voting efforts so that Bear Head (a.k.a. Lily’s Park) would win the grand prize. Some fans reported voting over 1000 times throughout the contest and over 300 times in one day (there were no limits on how many times one person could vote).
- Bear Head Lake Park nabs $100K prize (Star Tribune)
- Bear Fans Back Bear Head Lake State Park (Ely Echo)