Little Falls/Motley/Pillager/Staples

This southeastern region of the Brainerd Lakes Area marks the transition from prairies to the forests and lakes. Many outdoor recreation areas highlight this neighborhood, including the Pillsbury State Forest near Pillager. The forest, known for its magnificent trees, is enjoyed by nature-lovers searching out wildflowers, horseback riders enjoying the abundant trails, and hunters pursuing their favorite fall pastimes. The Crow Wing State Park, along the Mississippi River, offers nearly 20 miles of hiking trails, a handicapped accessible trail, as well as canoeing trips. Bird-lovers come to enjoy the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Little Falls, which is home to many migratory birds each year as well as a large population of nesting greater sandhill cranes. A major attraction in Little Falls is the Pine Grove Zoo, which is home to a variety of native, domestic and exotic animals. This nearly century old zoo has grown from two great horned owls in 1913 to dozens of animals and birds today. Just north of Little Falls is Camp Ripley, a state-owned, world-class military training site used by troops throughout the country. The Minnesota Military Museum, found at Camp Ripley, offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits that reflect the service and history of Minnesota’s armed forces. One powerful permanent exhibit recognizes all Minnesotans who received the Medal of Honor. In Staples, you can find the state’s longest fishing pier – the Dower Lake Fishing Pier. It was a cooperative project between the city of Staples and the DNR, made possible in large part due to the efforts of the late Senator Dallas Sams. The railroad through Staples has played a significant role in the city. The Northern Pacific Railway Depot and Freighthouse, built in 1909, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. It still is in service today with an Amtrak station.