Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park was established near Carlton, Minnesota in 1915 when the St. Louis Power Company donated 2,350 acres of land for the park. Large-scale development began when a CCC camp SP-2 occupied the park on June 22, 1933. Enrollees from this camp constructed the swinging bridge and the service yard, began developing the picnic grounds and worked on eliminating soil erosion. The camp also helped in landscaping the Skyline Parkway in Duluth so the road would blend with its natural setting.

The camp was one of three in Minnesota that were terminated unexpectedly in October 1935. The Lake Shore CCC camp north of Duluth (SP-18) provided the manpower to finish a number of projects, including the half-finished picnic shelter.

A second CCC Camp, SP-21 Company 2711, was established in Jay Cooke State Park in May 1939. This camp continued development at the park, rebuilding the swinging bridge and constructing the River Inn. The camp was terminated on March 25, 1942, just before the CCC came to an end.

As part of a statewide listing of CCC-built state park buildings and structures, the rustic-style buildings in the park were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

The River Inn

The River Inn in Jay Cooke State Park, at 123’ by 48’6”, is one of the largest buildings in the state park system. It was designed by Minnesota CCC architect Edward Barber and built by enrollees from Camp SP-21, Company 2711, between 1940 and 1942. Constructed almost entirely of dark, local gabbro, it was called a combination building because it contained rest rooms, a shelter, refectory, dining room and kitchen. It was one of the few park buildings in the state with a full-scale restaurant. A paved terrace along the south faces the St. Louis River.

The kitchen was removed in 1983 and replaced by offices. Exhibits now fill the former dining room and refectory space. The central area features a massive stone fireplace and a heavy timber truss system, both original to the building. Copper panels over the fireplace, installed at a later date, are based on the original plans for the building.

Swinging bridge

The iconic swinging bridge spans the rapids of the St. Louis River. A suspension bridge, it is supported by two massive concrete and stone pylons built by the enrollees in CCC Camp SP-2 to replace an earlier bridge. The CCC-built bridge was originally 18' above the St. Louis River. It has been modified and raised several times and re-built twice, once after a flood washed it out in 1953 and again after it was washed out by a flood in 2012. The CCC-built stone pillars remain in use.

Water tower and latrine

The water tower and latrine were built by enrollees in CCC Camp SP-2 according to the design of Minnesota CCC architect Edward Barber. The buildings have been slightly remodeled but retain their original look and use.

Additional historic buildings in the park include a custodian’s cabin, pump house, picnic shelter and drinking fountain.


Jay Cooke State Park
Barbara W. Sommer, Hard Work and a Good Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota, pp. 146-147.