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101 Things To Do: Geocaching-The Aquatic Quest

Naturalist Krista Jensen helps a girl use a GPS unit on National Get Outdoors Day. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources1 / 5
Geocaches are often hidden in unusual places and may require some searching even after reaching the GPS coordinates. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources2 / 5
The cards collected from each cache contain an animal or plant from that location along with facts about it on the back. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources3 / 5
Sara Holger, park naturalist, locates a geocache contained in an ammo box. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources4 / 5
Kids often enjoy getting outdoors and searching for the caches by using GPS units which can be borrowed from many state park offices, The Aquatic Quest organizers said. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources5 / 5

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in our new series, 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at

For families that enjoy seeing the Minnesota State Parks, like to get outdoors, and want to mix a bit of technology into their adventures, the geocaching program called The Aquatic Quest might be a great activity.

"It has been a very popular program," said Amy Barrett, information officer with the Parks and Trails Division. "This is a three-year program, and what people need to do to finish is find the geocache hidden at every state park and some of the state trails."

Participants use a GPS unit to find the caches and collect cards which resemble baseball or football cards. Each card "features some type of plant or animal that lives in the water that can be found at that location," Barrett said. "It is an outdoor treasure hunt in the woods that combines technology and nature which is very appealing to the younger generation. Kids are great at this."

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Each card has a nature photo on front and facts about the subject on the back. A total of 82 different cards are hidden in the geocaches and participants who find all 82 cards are eligible to have their photos on the Aquatic Quest Finishers Page on the DNR website. The challenge lasts until Oct. 31, 2020.

Families who have their own GPS units can use those, but many of the state parks have loaner units that are available for free. A link on the above website shows which parks have loaners available.

Park visitors can borrow a GPS unit and return it after they find the geocache. "Most of the caches can be found in an hour or less, depending on the pace of the group," Barrett said.

Although many people have GPS apps on their cell phones, Barrett warns that "we do recommend using the GPS units, if possible, because cell phones don't always have service in our locations. We don't want people to show up and expect to find a cache but then get frustrated if they can't find good cell service."

Participants who find they like geocaching can expand their searches well beyond the Minnesota State Parks. Keith Goetzman, a Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, estimates there are 28,000 geocaches hidden elsewhere in Minnesota. There are millions of caches across the United States and throughout the world, according to the website, which provides coordinates for geocaches and a wealth of information about geocaching.

How to participate...

What: Geocaching-The Aquatic Quest

Where: All Minnesota State Parks

Phone: 651-296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (646-6367)



When: Check the hours for each park

How much: Vehicle permit for one day is $7; for the season is $35

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872