Historic Lake Hanska County Park offers a quiet rural park close to a wide variety of activities. Shaded, level campsites with electric hookups are part of this Brown County Park located 17 miles southwest of New Ulm. The campground also includes a large tent camping area, clean restrooms with showers, sanitary dump and firewood for sale.
Lake Hanska County Park has a variety of historic highlights including a log cabin built in the 1850’s, an old fort site, and interpretive signage. There is also a DNR public lake access and fishing pier, playground, hiking and cross country skiing trails, sand swimming beach and a variety of picnic areas. Three picnic shelters can be reserved, at a nominal fee, for family or large group gatherings. The park is located a short driving distance from a variety of regional celebrations.
Archaeologists have determined from their excavations that pre-historic hunting people occupied this place from about 500 B.C. to 1000 A.D.. Agricultural tribes occupied the area from this time until the first contact with Europeans.
In the late 1850’s, after the Dakota Indians had been moved to reservations, Norwegian immigrants moved to the area. After the US-Dakota War in 1862, the highest hill in the park proved to be an ideal place for a fort to help protect settlers. Soldiers of the Ninth Minnesota Regiment were stationed here for many months.
Ole Synsteby purchased land here in 1879. He planted many of the unusual trees which still grow in the park. The land stayed in the Synsteby family until it formed the nucleus of the park. In 1900, Synsteby opened the Fort Hanska Amusement Park., which was a popular recreational park for 25 years. The present park was dedicated on June 25, 1978. Ole Synsteby opened the Fort Hanska Amusement Park below the fort site, near the shore of the lake, in about 1900. It was a popular recreational place for over 25 years. A great many people combined their efforts to create this park, which was dedicated on Sunday, June 25, 1978.
A lake restoration project was completed in 2000 to improve fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational use of Lake Hanska. The lake dredging project removed 4,816,375 cubic yards of lake sediment from the lake area southwest and immediately northwest of the park, deepening most of this area to an average 12' water depth.
A channel constructed in 1988 connecting Lake Hanska and the basin adjacent to the campground allows boat access to the camping area. A variable crest dam was installed at the Lake Hanska outlet to allow controlled partial drawdowns of the lake level to promote emergent vegetation along the shoreline in the upper 1500 acres of the lake, which improves waterfowl habitat and water clarity.
The Omsrud-Torgrimson log cabin was the first log cabin built in this area. The cabin was built around 1857 by the Omsrud/Thordson and Torgrimson families, immigrants from Valdres, Norway. The Thordson's occupied it until 1953. In 1986, Omsrud (Thordson) -Torgrimson descendants moved the cabin to this site. The cabin stands as a memorial to all Norwegian pioneers who were the first Euopeans to permanently settle this part of Brown County.
Several kiosks throughout the park provide additional historic and present day information for park visitors.