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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


What's On:

birch Grove Elementary - School News - April 18, 2018

Birch Grove Elementary - School News with Dayne, Isabel and Jack.

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April Sky

Northern Sky: April 14 - 27, 2018

Northern Sky by Deane Morrison for  April 14-27 2018
 
If April can just let up on the rain and snow a bit, there are bright planets in both morning and evening for us to enjoy.
 
In the evening, we have Venus, the brightest of planets. It’s hard to miss—a real beacon in the west after sunset. But its beauty obscures a rather different reality. Venus has a thick atmosphere that’s mostly carbon dioxide. The planet owes its brightness to very reflective clouds of sulfuric acid droplets and crystals. Its surface atmospheric pressure is more than 90 times that of Earth’—as high as the pressure 3,000 feet down in the ocean. And its surface temperature hovers above 850 degrees Fahrenheit. In short, Venus is a hellish place with a heavenly face.
 
For an even more heavenly sight, have a look on Tuesday, April 17, when the moon pays a visit. On that evening Venus and a young fingernail crescent moon will make a lovely pair.
 
If you go outside on or before the 17th, before the moon gets bright enough to interfere, try comparing Venus to Sirius, the brightest of stars, which will be rather low in the southwest. Spoiler alert: It's no contest; Venus easily outshines Sirius.
 
Sirius and the other winter stars are busy exiting the sky to the west. In their place is the spring constellation Leo the lion. It’s now high in the south during prime evening viewing hours. Look for a backward question mark of stars with a bright one--namely, Regulus--at the base. That question mark is known as the Sickle, and its stars represent Leo's head and heart. The hindquarters and tail are a triangle of stars just east of the Sickle.
 
In the morning sky, the best thing to see is Mars because it's getting really bright now as Earth gets closer and closer. It appears as a red dot low in the southeast for a couple of hours before dawn. West of Mars is Saturn, and even farther west is brilliant Jupiter.
 
In astronomy news, a University of Minnesota researcher--formerly at UC Berkeley--led a team that found the most distant individual star ever observed. Its light took nine billion years to reach Earth--or, more exactly, the Hubble Space Telescope. It's a large blue star, but it could never have been seen from, as NASA puts it, more than halfway across the universe if nature hadn't given us a cosmic magnifying glass. That magnifying glass is a cluster of galaxies that are between us and the star, which the team named Icarus.
 
It works like this. Massive objects like stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies act like lenses. Their gravity is so strong, it bends the space all around them, and light bends with it. Icarus is behind that cluster of galaxies, but when light from the star got near the cluster, it was bent by the cluster's gravity and curved around the cluster, then continued on toward us. The bending focused and magnified Icarus’s light by about 600 times. But that wasn't enough; the researchers hypothesize that Icarus only became visible—briefly—when a sun-sized star in the cluster of galaxies moved in front of Icarus. Then, that star took the light from Icarus-- already magnified 600 times--and focused it again, resulting in a total magnification of 2,000 times. Enough for Hubble to pick up. This work gives astronomers a way to study stars in very distant galaxies. We see them as they existed billions of years ago, when the universe was much younger.
 
The team named the star Icarus because it had a brief, you might say, moment in the sun, just like its namesake from Greek mythology. He made wings of feathers, held together with wax, but he flew too near the sun. The wax melted, and that was it for Icarus.  
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - April 13, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      April 13, 2018  
  

The promised land of April reaches the halfway point this weekend. Some folks out Gunflint way have been waiting all winter for month four. They’ve been holding high hopes for the harbinger of spring. Yet as I initiate this weeks’ Trail scoop, the fourth segment of ’18 has been less than “vernal” like.                                                                                                                                                   

It’s the middle of April with the Walleye fishing opener just a month away, and the territory remains locked in ice and snow. Last week was bitter cold again, as this neighborhood experienced more zero and below mornings.                                                                                                             
Just when I commented a while back we were likely done with the sub-zero stuff, “old man winter” delivered a curtain call for his long-running performance. In what should be his final act he left a subtle reminder of what it will be like again before we know it, “he will be back.”                                                                                                                                                                                

In the interim, the moisture drought continues in border country. No pun intended, but “hope springs eternal” as this broadcast finds it somewhat warmer and precip in the forecast.                                                                                                     

We’re in the month of the Ojibwe, “maple sugar moon”, and it makes me wonder if maple sugar makers around the county aren’t having a frustrated harvest in the absence of consistently warm days and light freezing nights. Then again, maybe they got it all done when it seemed spring-like in March.                                                                                                                                                       

Other than the winds in the pines, this is a time of stillness in the forest. Winter activities have ground to a halt. Notwithstanding the extended frostiness, we should be full bore into “mud season.” Nevertheless, not being in full-fledged slop, most up the Trail businesses are taking their annual pause from a hectic winter to catch their breath, and re-group for the coming of warmer times.                                                                                                                                                            

At the same time, numbers of upper Trail winter neighbors have been heading to places where they can thaw out, free their vehicles from the seasonal sludge and keep 'em that way. Meanwhile, north woods silence remains supreme for those of us choosing to see the “cool” of this six-month stint through to the end.                                                                                                                

Challenges to maneuver in the upright position have not improved much around here. In fact, they may be worse than last week as the power of “Sol” seems to polish my icy driveway and the Mile O Pine daily. In spite of my “senior” character, taking life at a little slower pace, I’ve even slowed from that mode to “barely moving” in many slippery places. It seems ice grippers on my boots will be the order longer than anticipated, while bug netting on my head will have to wait.                                                                                                                                                                     
Other than our regular visiting critters, I’m not seeing or hearing of any larger “wild neighborhood” animal episodes. Even the bears may have turned over for a few more zzzzz with our early April downtick in the thermometer.                                                                                                            

Enthusiasm for an easy meal at the Wildersmith eatery never wanes regardless of the seasonal atmosphere. The Smith’s continue entertained by countless red squirrels, with up to as many as five or six at any one time on the various feeding nooks. It’s an on-going battle among the red rodents to maintain position until the Pine Marten arrives, when a mad squirrel scramble ensues, to avoid becoming a menu supplement.                                                                                      

While I log many wintertime facts, a startling trivia really pops out when I recount the sunflower seeds consumed to date. There may be other north woods folk who feed more, but to date, I have gone through a record seven, fifty-pound bags, yes, three hundred fifty pounds! It’s a wonder there aren’t some fifty-pound squirrels and blue jays. Wish I had a nickel for every shell lying on the snow below my deck!                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, while we look for first buds of the re-birth!
 

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Superior National Forest Update - April 13, 2018

National Forest Update – April 13, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Michael Crotteau, district ranger on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that may affect your visit to the Superior.  It is a Friday the 13th edition, and there may be more April snow on the way, but we’ll try to help you get through the next two weeks at least.  Hopefully, the next time we talk to you, there will be blue skies, greening grass, and short sleeves - but it is northern Minnesota, so don’t count on it.

Road conditions continue to vary mile by mile and hour by hour.  Shady spots where the ground is still frozen are solid and easy to travel, but low lying areas in the sun may not be up to holding the weight of large heavy vehicles.  With this in mind, there are weight restrictions in place for gravel surfaced Forest and county roads, but be alert for soft spots and washouts even if your rig is well below the weight limits. 

You should also be alert for deer.  If you have been out driving at all, you are probably well aware that this is the season that deer are on the roads.  Grassy berms along Highway 61 and other roads provide some of the earliest grazing opportunities, and deer seem to all agree that the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  You should never text while driving, but this is a good time to try to minimize all distractions and really watch for animals in and alongside the road.  As you watch while one deer crosses, don’t forget about all of its friends who are likely to cross right afterward.  It only costs you a few seconds to really slow down or even stop and wait to make sure the whole herd is across.  Of course, it’s not only deer you have to watch for, it is all the scavengers feeding on the deer that didn’t make it to the other side of the road.  When your car scares birds off a dead deer, the crows, ravens, and gulls can usually get enough altitude to make it over the roadway, but startled eagles (and turkey vultures) are often only at windshield height as they cross. (in fact, I saw a turkey vulture earlier this week between Tofte and Grand Marais – a sign that spring is indeed here as they are returning to their summer breeding grounds from their winter vacation homes in the southern and southeastern US).  Other than when they are flying across in front of you, it is a great time of year to watch our eagles.  Most eagles should be into laying and incubating eggs, but you can still see some carrying sticks around and doing courtship flights where the pair lock talons in flight.  For some great close up views, visit the Minnesota DNR’s bald eagle cam on the web.  Or, of course, you could be a pitcher at a Twins game….

Because of soft roads, there is very little logging activity right now.  Trucks may be found on the Trappers Lake Road in the Tofte District, and on the Greenwood and Firebox Roads on the Gunflint.  Otherwise, things are waiting until the roads firm up again in summer.

With snow and damp, it may seem strange to think about fire, but that’s just what is on the minds of our fire crews at Tofte and Gunflint.  The fire weather outlook calls for near normal temperatures and precipitation through June, which means the prediction for the spring fire season is that most days would only have the potential for small fires, but there may be a day here and there with the potential for larger fires.  Either way, a large number of our wildfires are started by people, so as the woods dry up in the spring, it is time to get your Smokey on and be careful with fire.  You can actually start this now by getting acquainted with the Firewise program and doing some yard work to make your yard area surrounding your home Firewise.

When writing these updates, we ask for input from everyone working at the Forest Service locally.  The best response we received this week was a terse two-word reply:  “Still winter”.  Hopefully, by the time of our next update in two weeks, that won’t be the case, and we will be undeniably moving into spring.  In the meantime, take the time to visit the Forest and enjoy the changing seasons. 

Until next time, this has been Michael Crotteau with the National Forest Update.
 

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Deer Tick.jpg

Despite cold start to spring, tick season is here

It might not feel like spring outside, but certain critters in the region don't seem to mind... including ticks.

In this interview, WTIP Volunteer Mark Abrahamsom talks with Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist Ellen Hill about ticks, what to look out for and how to protect ourselves from these curious (and hungry) arachnids. 

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Program: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     April 6, 2018    

As one might expect, “old man winter” was playing “April Fools” with us during March. Since right around the “Blue Moon” as month three gave way, spring hit a snag with a return to ice making conditions. In this neighborhood, the thermometer has even dipped below the zero mark a few mornings while daytime highs have hovered in the teens and twenties. It was cold, “no foolin’” as the Easter Bunny greeted April with a minus-four at Wildersmith along with a skiff of white.                                                                                                                                                           
While it’s been cold, the area continues to miss significant precipitation deliveries, leaving our snow in the woods having neither increased nor diminished to any extent.       
                                                                     
My opinion of winter to date is it’s been fairly wimpy. Some Trail folks relate to the season being too long and terrible. While we’ve had snow on the ground in this neighborhood since October 27, the Wildersmith total stands at only 73 inches, some 30 inches below last years’ total.     
                                                                                                                                                             
Thinking of Gunflint neighbors’ notions on severity, perhaps theirs is based on the deep ice accumulation in area lakes. Yet my viewpoint lends itself to observing a good deal of winter burn on juvenile white pines along the Trail. I base this theory on the inconsistency of temps tricking the whites into not staying frozen in solidarity. So maybe both thoughts have some credibility. Guess wimpy or harsh is in the eyes of the beholder.       
                                                                                                                                   
Regardless of what it’s like outside, gardening enthusiasts up the Trail have seeds germinating indoors in anticipation of getting their hands in outside dirt ASAP. I know of a couple serious “green thumbs” on Loon Lake that have their greenhouses at a summer setting.      
                                                                                                                                                                    
On another hand, while many are thinking green, others are talking around the coffee table about when lake ice will go out. Conjecture is, it will easily take until May. However, there is open water at the confluence of one lake to another in some areas.                                              
For the record, the latest ice out data, since 1982, on Gunflint Lake is May 19, 2014, while two years before, the earliest ice-out ever was March 25, 2012. So it’s anyone’s guess to this point. There are probably many dates from which to pick if one is in an ice out guessing pool.    
                                                                                                                                                        
Taking planting beyond the usual edible garden varieties, “2018 is the year of the bird.” This in mind, gardeners can do a lot of good if thought is given to planting species to improve healthy bird habitat. So as “Earth Day” approaches and many get fired up about growing things, why not explore sowing the right varieties around your yard to attract and sustain our winged folk. To learn what bird species and even butterflies need to thrive where you live, enter your zip code at audubon.org/native-plants.    
                                                                                                                                                   
In spite of the renewed cold, I’ve discovered a couple creepy crawlers emerging from winter quarters. Within the last week, two of those eight-legged web makers caught my attention while I was making woodshop sawdust. While this is a passing ritual of Arachnids, it also signals the inevitable, biting insect season is not far off.                                                                                                                                                                
And finally, it seems hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since volunteers gathered along the Trail to begin the process of helping the forest heal from the horrendous Ham Lake Fire. The “Gunflint Green-up” brought together hundreds of volunteers who in turn planted up to 75,000 coniferous seedlings in many ravaged areas near the end of the Trail. Those baby trees are now juveniles standing stately as a reminder of tragedy and triumph!     
                                               
A Green-up reunion/celebration is being organized for May 5th up at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Look for more details as they become finalized.    
                                                                                                                                                           
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of a renewed nip in the air!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - April 6, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     April 6, 2018   
 

As one might expect, “old man winter” was playing “April Fools” with us during March. Since right around the “Blue Moon” as month three gave way, spring hit a snag with a return to ice making conditions. In this neighborhood, the thermometer has even dipped below the zero mark a few mornings while daytime highs have hovered in the teens and twenties. It was cold, “no foolin’” as the Easter Bunny greeted April with a minus-four at Wildersmith along with a skiff of white.                                                                                                                                                           
While it’s been cold, the area continues to miss significant precipitation deliveries, leaving our snow in the woods having neither increased nor diminished to any extent.     
                                                                       
My opinion of winter to date is it’s been fairly wimpy. Some Trail folks relate to the season being too long and terrible. While we’ve had snow on the ground in this neighborhood since October 27, the Wildersmith total stands at only 73 inches, some 30 inches below last years’ total.     
                                                                                                                                                             
Thinking of Gunflint neighbors’ notions of severity, perhaps theirs is based on the deep ice accumulation in area lakes. Yet my viewpoint lends itself to observing a good deal of winter burn on juvenile white pines along the Trail. I base this theory on the inconsistency of temps tricking the whites into not staying frozen in solidarity. So maybe both thoughts have some credibility. Guess wimpy or harsh is in the eyes of the beholder.   
                                                                                                                                       
Regardless of what it’s like outside, gardening enthusiasts up the Trail have seeds germinating indoors in anticipation of getting their hands in outside dirt ASAP. I know of a couple serious “green thumbs” on Loon Lake that have their greenhouses at a summer setting.      
                                                                                                                                                                    
On another hand, while many are thinking green, others are talking around the coffee table about when lake ice will go out. Conjecture is, it will easily take until May. However, there is open water at the confluence of one lake to another in some areas.                                              
For the record, the latest ice out data, since 1982, on Gunflint Lake is May 19, 2014, while two years before, the earliest ice-out ever was March 25, 2012. So it’s anyone’s guess to this point. There are probably many dates from which to pick if one is in an ice out guessing pool.   
                                                                                                                                                         
Taking planting beyond the usual edible garden varieties, “2018 is the year of the bird.” This in mind, gardeners can do a lot of good if thought is given to planting species to improve healthy bird habitat. So as “Earth Day” approaches and many get fired up about growing things, why not explore sowing the right varieties around your yard to attract and sustain our winged folk. To learn what bird species and even butterflies need to thrive where you live, enter your zip code at audubon.org/native-plants.   
                                                                                                                                                    
In spite of the renewed cold, I’ve discovered a couple creepy crawlers emerging from winter quarters. Within the last week, two of those eight-legged web makers caught my attention while I was making woodshop sawdust. While this is a passing ritual of Arachnids, it also signals the inevitable, biting insect season is not far off.

                                                                                                                                                               
And finally, it seems hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since volunteers gathered along the Trail to begin the process of helping the forest heal from the horrendous Ham Lake Fire. The “Gunflint Green-up” brought together hundreds of volunteers who in turn planted up to 75,000 coniferous seedlings in many ravaged areas near the end of the Trail. Those baby trees are now juveniles standing stately as a reminder of tragedy and triumph!        
                                            
A Green-up reunion/celebration is being organized for May 5th up at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Look for more details as they become finalized.    
                                                                                                                                                           
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of a renewed nip in the air!
 

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West End News - April 5, 2018

West End News - by Clare Shirley    April 5, 2018

This weekend, April 6th through the 8th marks the last weekend that all four mountains at Lutsen Mountains will be open for skiing. As usual, a celebration is in order. The annual Mountain Meltdown starts at 1 on Saturday, with live music on the outdoor stage. The stage will be full until 5 on both Saturday and Sunday. When the sun goes down on Saturday night, White Iron Band will take the party indoors at Papa Charlies at 9:30.

It’s true that skiing season is winding down all around the West End. The Sugarbush Trail association reports that the Onion River Road is still in pretty good condition and is the only trail being groomed right now. There’s plenty of snow on the rest of the trails too, for the time being. It’s spring skiing so snow is often crusty in the morning and soft in the afternoon. Skiers are reporting good days skiing on waxless or skin skies. The Ober Mountain warming cabin will be open for maybe another week, so get your last fix on the trails in while the snow is good and the sun is shining!

The lake skiing is still good too. Sawbill Lake, for one, still has 24 inches of clear hard ice with 15 inches of solid hard-packed snow on top of that.

Many of you have probably heard of the very successful and helpful tech nights provided in Grand Marais where you can show up with all your technology questions and high school students will help guide you through the problem. But did you know there are also tech support opportunities at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland? Every Thursday from 1 to 3 pm you can get the same sort of support and information on how to use your new phone or computer. They do ask that you call ahead to make sure they have space for everyone. You can reach them at 218-353-0300 to make an appointment.

Many West Enders have been enthralled by the irruption of owls this winter, especially along the Shore. On Saturday, April 7th at 10 am Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center will have an hour and a half long program called Tracking Minnesota’s Owls. This program will talk about the Owl Monitoring project, which was developed due to growing concern about changes in the distribution, population status, and habitat loss for many species of owls. Most existing bird surveys don’t account for owls very well, so the Owl Monitoring project worked to fill that gap with a volunteer-based owl specific survey conducted in April every year, starting back in 2005. Dave Grosshuesch, Wildlife Biologist from the Tofte District on the Superior National Forest will be presenting. Come hear the answers to questions like which years were exceptional for northern owl species like great Gray and Boreal owls? What has the project learned about Minnesota’s owls? What is the Superior National Forest doing to aid the owl populations? It’s sure to be an interesting and informative time!

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 

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Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North - April 4, 2018

Magnetic North April 4, 2018
Liftoff and Reentry

Welcome back to Spring in Magnetic North, where folks are still swaddled in parkas and mukluks. However, even with April, aka Mud Month, and downright balmy daytime temps of almost 40 degrees, no-one with a grain of sense would jinx the good weather by boxing up winter gear. Do that and a blizzard is all but guaranteed.
 
This is also the month when many snowbirds return from their winter sun spots, or for folks like me, leave for a week or so, just to keep the wheels from coming off after putting up with winter for five months. Both of us have the same challenges when traveling, lift-off and reentry, each with its own perils. Here are mine:
 
First off, due to my own lack of impulse control, I have what amounts to a small zoo to maintain. In all, there are twenty laying hens, five laying ducks, seven bantam hens and roosters, two big geese, five goats, two bunnies, two big dogs and two cats. No turtle doves or partridges in pear trees.  But a turkey and some guinea hens might be in my future.
 
I do the daily watering, feeding, and such, practically in a trance. It’s automatic, so writing out chore instructions for a critter and house sitter is tough. Just out of college I edited computer software manuals and my boss told me the trick to vetting the writing was to imagine I was writing directions for tying my shoelaces. The chore instructions are like that, miss one thing and, well ....there can be complications.
 
So my chore instructions are lengthy, often illustrated with names of friends to call for help and numbers for power outages, plus my recipe for washing skunk stink off any of the above four-legged animals.  The goal is to arm them for any eventuality but not scare them.
 
That said, some sitters have obviously never looked at my instructions. Back in the 90’s, one such allowed our dear departed twin Labs to run far and wide, prompting calls from friends reporting the dogs were harassing picnickers at Magney State Park, a good four miles from our farm. She was, to be fair, focused on more interesting matters. Upon returning home, Paul and I found every candle and oil lamp we owned arrayed in our bedroom, along with the pungent aroma of Aramis cologne. 
 
Another sitter called us while we were in Norway to say that the well pump had quit, but not to fret because he had called “someone.” When we got home, the sitter had left hours earlier and the guts of our well were spread out over our back deck and yard. 
 
Memories like this are why I call coming home from a trip Reentry, as in the return of a rocket ship from outer space. For me, it carries the twin emotions of relief to be coming home and dread over what might greet me when I walk in the door.
 
The good news is that Paul and chose to live in a place where we are surrounded by caring neighbors and friends who seem sometimes to be waiting by the phone for our call for help.
For example, one time we got home on July 4 one year and found a note: from the sitter,  “Had a great time here, but dropped a screwdriver down the upstairs toilet and now it won’t flush.” Why a screwdriver would be employed whilst using the facilities is a mystery, but the point is that within the HOUR a kindly (and strong) neighbor was merrily shaking our toilet bowl over the back deck, dislodging the tool, after which he reinstalled the throne. 
 
And just last week I got home to find everything in tip-top shape, but, no fault of the sitter, the electric heat meter was broken, leaving me with no hot water and a slowly frigid home.   Naturally, it was Sunday night and cold. But after three calls I had an electrician at my door at 9 pm. My heat and joy over being home were restored immediately.
 
“Only in Cook County” is a line oft said when commenting on some of our negative or bat-crazy quirks, but I also say it when speaking of the generosity of time and caring we extend to each other. Even on holidays and wintery weekend nights.
 
As for the flip side of leaving home, “Liftoff,” it’s all about logistics. We are 110 miles from one US airport in Duluth and 160 miles to another in Minneapolis. Plus we have the added factors of snow and ice in winter and roadwork detours in summer. No question, living far from the madding crowd has its challenges, too many for most city dwellers, even those besotted with the North Shore and woods.
 
Lucky for me, I find that the biggest challenge of trips away is not liftoff or reentry, but the very act of leaving this place I love and that loves me back. So yes, leaving a place some call Paradise is a hassle, but I like the proverb “Take what you want and be willing to pay for it,” Sort of like signing a blank check. Only something someone in love would do.
 
 For WTIP, the is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North
 

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The story of "the Pond" in downtown Grand Marais

Most local residents know that an area of downtown Grand Marais has a periodic flooding problem. But what may not be well known is the history of that area. Early photos, maps and paintings of Grand Marais show a body of water called "the Pond." Over time the role and appearance of the pond changed - from an idyllic spot for wildflowers and recreation, to a dumping ground - and the pond was eventually filled in to facilitate expansion of the downtown area.

In this edition of the Lake Superior Project, feature producer Martha Marnocha talks with local historian Eugene Glader and the executive director of the Cook County Historical Society, Carrie Johnson, to learn more about the history of "the Pond."

​Click on slideshow above to see more historic photos of "the Pond."

Photos are from the collection of the Cook County Historical Society.

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