View of Lake Pepin is worth a million bucks
LAKE CITY -- It costs about $15 to pitch a tent at Hok-Si-La park.
At that rate, Steve Prigge figures he's gotten his money's worth, considering the park's stunning campsite views of Lake Pepin.
For 34 years, the Winona man and a group of relatives and friends have congregated at the same campsite each Memorial Day weekend.
"We used to call it our million-dollar site," Prigge said. "Now it's probably up to $3 million."
Park manager Joanne Klees says it's no secret why the Prigges and thousands of others have been drawn to Hok-Si-La for decades.
"It's definitely Lake Pepin," she said.
Visitors can soak in the views -- or the water -- of Lake Pepin for free at the park, which is owned by the city of Lake City. Visitors such as Lake City resident John Scheuer and his daughter come to enjoy the park's swimming beach and playground equipment.
"It's a nice park," he said.
Amenities abound at Hok-Si-La, including volleyball and basketball courts, an interpretive center, screened shelters and an amphitheater.
Of all its offerings, however, Klees believes the 52-year-old dining hall is "the gem of the park."
"It's just the perfect place for gatherings," she said.
Built in 1956 by the Boy Scouts, the hall boasts a massive seating space, a full kitchen and a walk-in cooler. The hall -- which from its east-facing windows frames majestic views of the lake and Wisconsin's river bluffs -- has become a destination for wedding receptions and company functions, Klees said.
Hok-Si-La became city property in 1974 when the Boy Scouts sold it. The park was purchased with a combination of city, state and federal dollars, Klees said.
It's the solitude of the setting that keeps campers and groups like Prigge's coming year after year, she said.
"It's a way to get away from noises," Klees said.
Campers can drive to their site and drop off their gear. After that, it's off to the parking lot, where all vehicles must remain.
"It's really unique, as far as just tent camping," Prigge said.
The park also has its share of wildlife.
Campers on the park's southern end can catch a glimpse of the nest of Hok-Si-La's resident eagle. The nest, which cradled an eaglet this year, can be best seen near campsite G4, Klees said.
Hok-Si-La staff fogs for the park's more notorious flying creatures -- mosquitoes -- but savvy campers are sure to keep a can of bug spray handy.
Despite more than three decades of exploring the park, Prigge said his group has no intent of bringing tradition to an end. In fact, he said one of the children who first visited the park on their annual trip will be getting married there later this year.
"It's special for us all," Prigge said. "We have a lot of good memories. We're still making them."
Hok-Si-La Park, 2500 N. Highway 61, Lake City: 252 acres, including public parkland, camping and waterfront.
Camping season from mid-April to Oct. 31 (weather permitting)
Call (651) 345-3855 or go to www.ci.lake-city.mn.us