Hands down, one of the all time best campsites I've ever been to. Not many places you can camp and wake up to the sound of water babbling on the Mississippi River. This site was not only easy to get in and out of, but had more amenities that most campgrounds I've paid to stay in.
Baxter Canoe Camp is certainly accessible by canoe, and possibly by foot/car, but I'm not certain about the latter. There is a trail for maintenance workers to drive in (they come by regularly to empty the trash cans!), but I don't know if it's for drive in traffic as well. We were on a canoe trip down the Mississippi, which led us to this gem on the water.
note: this camp is not located exactly where it shows on the map. I'm not certain if the camp was moved after the map was printed, or if it was just printed in the wrong spot on the map, but it was about a 1/2 mile to a mile farther south of Brainerd than we were expecting
There are two spots off the water where you can get out of a canoe and hit dry land. The first has some stairs, but they are VERY steep. Not easy to ascend when you have heavy bags and sea legs (hey…that rhymed!). After trying that once or twice, I discovered a landing (better for canoes anyhow) about 20 yards farther down shore that was a better spot for docking as well as entering the campsite we chose. Although it was a steep step up a nook in the hillside, it was still easier that teetering on the wooden steps previously mentioned.
Immediately, we were stunned at the size, cleanliness and location of everything this site had to offer. There were trashcans. There was an outhouse style building with a pit toilet and…guys are going to love this…a urinal! (my husband said he has NEVER seen this before in any pit toilet style set up). And…drumroll…there was a giant, huge, monstrous sized pile of firewood. The DNR had left it there. All you had to do was chop it and you were toasty for the night! We had a huge picnic table, and the tent pad was level! No joke…flat as a pancake and right on the river. There was another official site with a fire ring and picnic table, and there were also plenty of unofficial spaces (open area) to drop a tent or hang a hammock. There were tons of hammock trees! Not to mention that some larger rocks just off shore made the water sing a bit when the water sloshed over them, so we had some lovely nighttime tunes.
We did have a nighttime visitor in the form of something big and black and furry. We didn't see him (her?), but heard the sounds of a bear. There was a trail behind the tent that led into the woods, and I think it belonged to this creature of habit. It never approached the tent, we never had to yell, and it never threatened. Simply grunted and "barked" a few times, and then wandered away. Fortunately, we had properly hung our food in a tree and left all the Snickers in the bear bag.
Bottom line, if you have a canoe and don't mind paddling a few miles, this is absolutely worth a day trip. Quiet, peaceful and serene. Except for the bear. But that's just part of the fun, right?