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Superior National Forest Update



Contributor(s): 
USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update - August 10, 2018

National Forest Update – August 9, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, with the National Forest Update.  Every week we bring you information on things happening around the east end of the Superior that might affect your visit from timber hauling traffic to how bad the bugs are.
 
We can start with the weather this week.  If you live here or have been visiting the last week, you’ll know that we’ve had everything from nights cold enough to start a fire in the morning, to hot humid conditions, to perfect clear days, to thunderstorms with hail.  And fog.  Can’t forget the fog.  It’s a great time to remind people that we can get all sorts of weather.  If you’re camping, be sure to pack for anything, not just the weather your trip starts in.  If you are fishing or just out boating, watch the sky.  Summer thunderstorms can build quickly, and you’ll want to be off the water before they strike.
 
When you are out and about, you may run into our CCMI crew for the summer.  CCMI stands for Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa.  These young people have signed on for the summer to work in the outdoors doing a wide variety of jobs for the Forest Service and other natural resource agencies.  They have helped this year with portage maintenance, trail work, rec site maintenance, and other tasks – including appearing on floats in both the Bay Days and Fisherman’s Picnic parades!  We’d like to thank them for all the work they’ve done, and if you see them, be sure to wave!
 
Despite the thunderstorms, we are in a normal period of August drying in the Forest.  Lake and stream levels are low compared to spring, but are about average for this time of year.  They are low enough though that if you are planning a canoe route, some of the streams passable in spring will be portages instead.  This also means that between rain clouds, our fire danger can creep up.  As always, be careful with fire and make sure your campfires are dead out when you leave them.  We have many of our staff helping with wildfires in the west, from crews on the fire line to people helping with logistics and weather reporting.  The west needs all the help it can get out there, so it would be good not to have to deal with any wildfires back here at home.   We can be thankful that due to weather and people like you being careful, we’ve had a year without major fires so far.
 
There is not a lot of timber activity on the Forest right now.  You may find haul trucks on the Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, and Cook County 60 on the Gunflint District, and on the Trappers Lake Road, the Wanless Road, Dumbell River Road, 4 Mile Grade, Caribou Trail, Springdale Road, Sawbill Trail, and Carlton Pit Road on the Tofte District.  While you need to watch for haul trucks in those places, you never know what may be around the next corner.  A visitor on the Cramer Road recently came over a hill into a swarm of cyclists occupying the entire width of the road.  Cycling on gravel roads is becoming more and more popular, and encounters like this are becoming more common.  All users of the roads need to be aware and share the roadway – don’t assume that because it is a gravel road, car traffic will be slow or absent.
 
Until next week, enjoy all the weather August has to offer from campfires on cold evenings to swimming on steamy days.  This has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - August 3, 2018

National Forest Update – August 2, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Supervisory Administrative Support Assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update, information on things happening around the east end of the Superior that might affect your visit.  It is August, and we are in mid-summer!
 
Mid-summer for many means berries, and though we are little past the peak of blueberries, raspberries and others are still plentiful in the woods.  Many of these berries do best in areas of new growth where a fire or logging activity created a clearing.  When you’re picking, make sure to look back on occasion and be aware of where you came from.  The dense regrowth in prime berry habitat can make it very easy to get lost in a hurry, so be sure to memorize your way back to the car.
 
We are also easing into our end of summer fire season.  While there is a lot of green out there, dry weather in August can create good conditions for a fire.  Last week, we had a collection of several small fires on the Forest which were a good reminder to practice safe campfire management.  Campfires should be in safe areas, in fire rings or fire grates at developed camping sites, and by DNR regulations, should be no more than three feet in diameter.  When you leave a campfire, it should be cold to the touch and dowsed with plenty of water.  Smokey has been saying ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires’ for years, and it is just as true now as it was in the 1950’s.
 
I said the words “end of summer” back there, and as much as we hate to admit it, this is the start of the end.  Loons are starting to gather in groups on lakes prior to heading south.  There is a lot of warbler activity as well, some of which is due to birds who nested farther north already started to migrating south.  If you have a hummingbird feeder out, you may have noticed more hummers recently.  Hummingbirds switch to insects during the height of summer for feeding their chicks and often aren’t seen at feeders.  Now that the young ones have fledged, they will start using feeders more as they prepare for migration.  Traveling through the woods, you can actually find some bush honeysuckle which has turned red, and even the occasional moose maple or aspen with some color showing.  If your summer to-do list includes sealing the driveway or staining the deck, you’d better get at it because soon the nighttime temperatures will be too low to have projects like that dry correctly.  We had a taste of that last week with morning temperatures in the low 40’s, so consider yourself warned by Mother Nature that fall is just off the horizon.
 
While traveling, watch for logging traffic on the Trappers Lake Road, the Wanless Road, Dumbell River Road, 4 Mile Grade, Caribou Trail, Springdale Road, Sawbill Trail, Carlton Pit Road in the Tofte area, and on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Old Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Ward Lake Road, Cook County 39, and Cook County 60 in the Gunflint District.
 
Until next week, try to pretend that summer will last forever and enjoy some wonderful August weather.  This has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - July 20, 2018

National Forest Update – July 20, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretive and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, information on things happening around the east end of the Superior that might affect your visit.  We are getting into the warmest days of the year and some of the busiest days in the Forest as well.

I spent a day with some Girl Scouts this past week helping them earn a badge by learning about Leave No Trace.  In my humble opinion, Leave No Trace is badge we all should try to earn before we head out into the Forest, Scouts or not.  It is a national system of outdoor ethics and while the basic idea is really really simple – that you should leave no trace of yourself behind after you visit an area – the application can be difficult.  The concept is broken into seven principles, which the Scouts got to act out in charades.  Radio is a bad medium for charades though, so I’ll just tell you what they are.  The seven principles are Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.  These are all important ideas, but as we head into our busiest season, I’d like people to take some time to think about that last one in particular:  Be Considerate of Other Visitors. 

Being considerate means that if you are camping at a developed campground, keep your noise level down and respect quiet hours.  Don’t park in ways that block campground roads.  Remember that those roads are often used by kids on bikes, so drive slowly and cautiously in campgrounds.  At boat ramps, prepare your boat for launch away from the ramp, and clean weeds from the trailer in a place that doesn’t block the ramp.  If there are people doing inspections for aquatic invasives, cooperate with them.  They are there to help you protect our lakes.

In the Boundary Waters, keeping noise levels down is even more important.  Most people’s vision of the wilderness does not include people yelling in the background.  Remember that the “four boat, nine person” limit is for anywhere in the Wilderness, so you may have to patiently wait in your canoe for portages to clear if adding your boat to the mix would exceed the limit.  If, on the other hand, your group is the one on the portage and people are waiting, find another area to have lunch.  Choosing campsites early may be good plan since there are many campers right now, but be gracious in claiming a spot. 

Sharing the road is part of being considerate as well, and in some places that means sharing it with truck traffic.  There is a fair amount of log hauling going on right now.  Watch for trucks on the Gunflint District using the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Old Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Ward Lake Road, Cook County 39, Cook County 60, and the Springdale Road.  On Tofte, look for trucks on Dumbbell River Road, Trappers Lake Road, the Wanless Road, Lake County 705, Carlton Pit Road, Springdale Road, the Sawbill Trail, and the Caribou Trail.

While we’re talking Leave No Trace, I’ll mention the fifth principle too:  Minimize Campfire Impacts.  There’s been some rain the past two weeks which has moderated our fire danger, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful with your fires.  Part of our fire team traveled to Ontario to help with fires in that province because wildfires don’t pay a lot of attention to national borders.  People will remember that during the Ham Lake Fire in 2007, Ontario fire fighters were there to help us.

Lastly, just remember that the most important part of Leave No Trace is summed up in the name.  Before you leave an area, scan it and ask, “Did I leave no trace of myself?”  Pick up litter, fluff up the grass that was under the tent, demolish your sand castle, and let the next person experience the joy of discovering a new place where no one has been before.

Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 22, 2018

National Forest Update – June 22, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest.  With the solstice this week and the official start to summer, we are looking at days that are almost 16 hours long and they are plenty full of summer activities.

To start with, this Saturday is the Lutsen 99er mountain bike races.  That means that several of the roads in the Forest from Tofte to Grand Marais are being used as race routes.  Information on good spots to be a spectator are on the Lutsen 99er website, as well as race route information for planning your travels in the same area.  Please respect cyclists, follow posted information, and be ready to cheer the racers on.

The cyclists will probably be going much faster than traffic on some parts of Highway 61.  There isn’t a lot of construction right here near the Forest, but south on the highway, there is plenty, so expect to encounter some frustrated drivers even up here.  That means to be extra aware of people passing when they shouldn’t and going faster than they should as they try to make up for lost time in order to ‘hurry up and relax’.  It’s time to remember that Minnesota Nice thing and just realize that it may take longer than you think to get places.

Our Forest Roads are actually in pretty good shape right now.  We’ve had enough rain to allow some grading in rough areas, but not so much as to cause major washouts or road damage.   Logging activity can be expected in Tofte on the Trappers Lake Road and the Dumbell River Road.  On the Gunflint District, trucks are using the Greenwood, Firebox, and the Old Greenwood Road (Forest Road 144).  While our roads are in good shape, all the rain in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan reminds us that it is a good time to remember what to do when you encounter a flooded roadway.  Even shallow water on a road can cause a vehicle to hydroplane and lose control, so it is best to slow down and even stop to evaluate the depth and the condition of the road beneath the water.  Over half of all drownings during flash flood events happen to people in vehicles, so the advice is always “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”.

This week also marks the start of our summer series of Naturalist Programs.  In cooperation with area resorts and Visit Cook County, Superior National Forest has produced naturalist programs, campfires, activities, and hikes since the mid-1980’s.  This year, we have presentations on moose, wolves, bats, voyageurs, and more, so pick up a flyer at a Forest Service office, the Visit Cook County information center in Grand Marais, or online at our website, then come to one of our campfire programs.  We hope to see you there!

All these activities are for people, but there has been a lot of animal activity this past week.  We’ve seen moose with calves, grouse with chicks, and deer with fawns.  Peregrine falcons have chicks in their nests along the cliffs on Lake Superior as well.  As part of a long-term study on peregrines, the chicks are being banded.  This involves people rappelling down the cliff to the nest, putting the chicks in an ‘elevator’ to take them up to the banders on the top of the cliff, then putting the chicks safely back home.  Of course, the parents don’t appreciate this, and the climbers may get hit 50 or 60 times by the parent falcons.  Luckily, chicks, parent birds, and climbers all recover pretty quickly from this experience.  Don’t do this yourself though.  It does stress the birds, so if you come into an area where falcons, goshawks, or other birds are screaming at you – heed their warning and move away from their nest site.

Bears have also been active in the woods.  We’ve had to post alerts at several Boundary Waters entry points due to bear activity.  When you are going camping or entering the BWCAW, make sure to take the time to read the bulletin board or kiosk for information like bear alerts or fire restrictions.  If there is a bear alert, this doesn’t mean the end of your trip.  Just make sure to follow what should be standard procedure anyway on keeping food safe from bears, and be aware that you may have a bear encounter.  Detailed information on handling food in bear country, and what to do if a bear is in your space can be found on our website.
 
So, between bears, birds, and bicyclists, it is pretty busy in the woods.  Join the activity and get out to explore!  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 15, 2018

National Forest Update – June 15, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Jon Benson, Assistant Ranger for Recreation and Wilderness on the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update.

On June 28th, the Gunflint Ranger Station will be hosting an open forum from 4:00 to 6:00 pm to solicit feedback on our upcoming Kimball Vegetation Management Project.  The intent of these meetings is to gather information on areas of importance to local residents and other users of this area.  We will also be sharing information related to reducing hazardous fuels, treating areas to encourage younger age classes of vegetation, and enhancing wildlife habitat within the Kimball Project Area.  Please join us as we welcome the opportunity to hear from you.  Your comments will help us shape our proposed action.

Summer has finally arrived on the North Shore and with it comes additional visitors.  That means there will be more people in the Boundary Waters and the campgrounds and trails will be popular places to be.  I’d like to take a minute to encourage recreationists to take the time to plan ahead and prepare for their trips onto the National Forest.  Planning ahead will reduce the likelihood of any potential issues that might detract from your recreation experience.  I’d also like to ask folks to think about the safety implications of the choices you are making, make sure that you are recreating within your skill and experience level to avoid any mishaps that might ruin your experience.  If you are planning any time on the water, make sure you are wearing a life jacket and you have left an itinerary with a responsible person who knows where you are going and when you expect to return.

In addition to camping and trails based recreation opportunities, our Naturalist Programs begin at area resorts, campgrounds, and the Hedstrom Mill on June 19th.  We are grateful for our partnership with Visit Cook County and the host locations throughout Cook County who continue to support this wonderful program.  If you would like more information on the dates, times, and topics of these programs you can seek that information on the Visit Cook County events webpage or at the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger District Offices.

In terms of timber harvesting activity, things are similar to last week.  Logging trucks are using the Trappers Lake Road, the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Old Greenwood Road (Forest Road 144).  Keep an eye out for rough roadways, some grading work is starting to take place on Forest Service Roads.

Listeners may also be curious about current fire situation around the area.  Even with the rain, we have received in the past couple of weeks, we are still below normal with regard to precipitation this spring.  That means that the woods are still dry enough to carry a fire on a dry, windy day.  Please use caution with campfires and make sure that any fires are dead out before leaving them.  As far as prescribed burning operations go, we have completed the bulk of our spring burns with the exception of a couple of burns on the Tofte District.  One of these burns is planned for June and the other is planned for July as the prescription for these burns calls for them to be completed after green up has occurred.

Until next week, this has been Jon Benson with the National Forest Update, reminding you to be safe, have fun, and enjoy your National Forest.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 8, 2018

National Forest Update – June 7, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, front desk staff, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of June 8th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

We are starting to see some real summer now, not only with temperatures, but with black flies, mosquitos, and ticks.  All of these lovely blood suckers are happy to have so many people returning to the outdoors.  Black flies and mosquitos around here are mostly just annoying.  They can be annoying enough to truly ruin a camping trip, but still, they are just annoying.  Ticks, however, are a different story.  Ticks can carry many diseases among them Babeosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever, and Lyme Disease.  Here in Minnesota, we’ve now seen incidences of all three of these diseases.  Lyme Disease cases are occurring in larger amounts than before, leading some people to tie the increase in disease to an increase in ticks possibly due to climate change.  Regardless of the cause, it is a disease to treat seriously and take steps to prevent tick bites, and to know what to do when you find an attached tick.  Prevention is the best idea – wear long pants, and as silly as you may feel, tuck them into your socks.  This won’t keep the ticks off, but it will make them stay on the outside of your pants where you can spot them.  Use insect repellents on your clothing to keep the ticks away as well.  If you find an embedded tick, use tweezers to remove it without pinching the body.  The idea is to prevent injecting the contents of the tick into you by squeezing the tick.  Inspect yourself often for ticks – if removed early, there isn’t time for the disease-causing organisms to go from the tick into you.  Luckily, by taking measures to prevent tick bites and prompt removal of attached ticks, we can still enjoy our trips into the forest.  Except for those pesty black flies and mosquitos!

You won’t have to worry about much logging traffic though.  Things are similar to last week.  Logging trucks are using the Trappers Lake Road, the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Old Greenwood Road (Forest Road 144).  Do still watch out for rough roadways, though some grading is starting to take place.

The other thing to watch for on roadways are fawns and moose calves.  You should watch for the adults too, of course, but we’ve had a lot of people seeing the newborns out with their moms.  Remember, a moose with a calf is very protective, and you should not try to approach them for photos.  People have been charged by protective mama moose, and you really don’t want a moose mad at you.  Deer protect their fawns by hiding them while mom goes out grazing.  Fawns will lie perfectly still when you stumble across one.  Don’t try to pick it up, or try to help it – it is just fine.  Also, don’t stay near for too long, you’ll only stress the poor thing.  Just leave fawns alone and mom will come back and take care of it. 

People also like to “help” abandoned bunnies and chicks who “fell” out of the nest.  As nice as the thought is, bunnies and chicks usually don’t need help.  Snowshoe hare moms leave their young alone, just like fawns, and abandoned bunnies are not really abandoned at all.  The mom is usually very secretive, and you may never catch her coming back to nurse the young.  For baby birds that seem to have fallen, well, that’s part of learning to fly.  Chicks will fall, or fly, out of the nest and be not quite good enough to fly back up.  Mom will still feed them on the ground, just let them be.

I hope you make some time this week to get out in the woods and search out some of these young animals and their parents.  It looks like we could have some great weather, so get out there!

Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 1, 2018

National Forest Update – May 31, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Brandee Wenzel, administration and support assistant, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For start of June, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

With the start of the summer months, we are getting some good thunderstorms.  Just a reminder to everyone, lightning is nothing to play around with.  Most lightning strikes occur in front of the rain, so if you are out on the water and hear a storm approaching, don’t wait until the rain starts – get off the lake and seek a safe place to ride out the storm, immediately.  If you are on land, avoid sheltering under tall trees, and minimize your contact with the ground.  If you’re in your house, well, have a second cup of coffee and enjoy the show.

The rain we have been getting has helped a bit with fire danger, but it is still pretty dry.  We need a good soaker to really relieve the fire danger.  Green up has also helped a lot as wet live vegetation is pretty resistant to fire, and the rain is also helping forest green up to progress.

Rain is also letting us start to grade some roads.  Many roads are still in pretty rough shape from winter and spring – the 600 Road, in particular, has some large sinkholes in it, so drive with caution until we can make some repairs.  If you run across any particularly noteworthy road problems while you are out driving, please take note of where the problem is, take some photos if you have a phone with you, and report it to either the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger Stations.

There is still not a lot of timber hauling going on out on the roads.  You can expect truck traffic on the Trapper’s Lake Road in Tofte, and on the Greenwood and Firebox Roads in Gunflint. 

You can start to expect more visitor traffic though.  Be patient and respectful of visitors that might be a bit lost, or are driving a bigger rig than they are used to.  If you are one of those who might become a bit lost, be aware that automobile GPS units often have problems with our roads.  Some snowmobile trails appear as roads on a GPS, and some roads don’t appear at all.  Your best bet is to purchase a visitor map from one of the districts which will have all the roads on it.  Navigate from the map, and don’t trust that calm voice coming from your GPS which tells you to turn down a trail into a lake.

You will also have to be patient on our main street of Highway 61.  Culverts are going to be replaced in several places along the highway causing one lane traffic with flaggers or temporary stop lights.  Just plan for delays, don’t try to make up your lost time by speeding after you pass the construction. 

This weekend is graduation for seniors in both Grand Marais and Silver Bay.  Congratulations to all of them!  Unfortunately, there are often auto accidents associated with graduation, so please celebrate with care.  Don’t let you or your friends become a statistic this weekend by drinking and driving or letting someone else get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.  We look forward to all of you heading off into life this fall, whether college, job or tech school. 

Enjoy your weekend, and until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 18, 2018

  Superior National Forest Update – May 17, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Supervisory Administrative Support Assistant, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 18th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

The old saying of “In Minnesota, if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour” has been very true this week.  Rain, 80 degree days, frozen bird baths at night, sun, calm, and wind:  we’ve had all but snow, and cross your fingers, we won’t be having any of that.  Winter, spring, and summer seem to be shifting as smoothly as a sixteen-year-old learning to drive a stick shift, but the progress, just like the young driver, is still always forward.  We had a lesson in how close winter still is when we dug into a gravel pit on the Forest and found the frost only 2 and a half inches below the surface.  Despite the frost in the ground, hummingbirds returned to the Forest in time for Mother’s Day.  It is always incredible that such a tiny animal can navigate across the entire country, fueled by nothing but tiny insects and flower nectar… and a lot of bird feeders.  If you are feeding hummers, make sure to use straight sugar water with no colors added.  The color of the feeder itself is good enough and dyes can be bad for the birds.  Change the liquid frequently, if it is getting cloudy before you change it, you need to change it more often.  Put the sugar water out when it is at outside temperature, not hot off the stove, or cold from the fridge, and the birds will love you for giving them some extra easy to find energy.

On the opposite end of the animal size scale from hummingbirds, moose are starting to calve.  Mom and baby moose have been spotted in several places on the Forest.  Be careful though, cow moose will not appreciate your getting close for a photo of their baby.  Stay well away, and stay on mom’s good side.

Outside of the animal world, we’ve been making progress on doing some spring prescribed burning.  Specifics of burns are posted on our website and on Boreal.com, so if you smell smoke, you can check to see if we are doing a burn.  If you end up near a burn, please respect all signage and don’t interfere with the fire crews.  It has been very dry the past week, so be very careful with fire, and keep an eye out for possible burn restrictions in the coming week. 

The dry conditions have also put us in the odd position of both having weight limits on roads due to soft areas, and also having the roads to hard and dry to grade in other areas.  The two together mean the roads are still in pretty poor condition, though they are a lot better than they were a week ago.  The weight restrictions mean that there is still limited logging traffic. On Tofte, logging traffic can be expected on the Trapper’s Lake Road and DMIR Grade (FR380).  On the Gunflint side, there are operations off of Greenwood Road and Firebox Road, but no hauling until road restrictions are lifted.

Going fishing?  You’ll be happy to hear that our docks are now all in at boat accesses!  Campgrounds will be entering fee status soon, possibly this weekend, but we are waiting for some water systems to come online.  Be prepared though to pay a fee for overnight camping in the fee campgrounds.

It’s a great time to get out in the woods this next week.  You can hunt for warblers with binoculars, or fish with a hook.  It’s just nice to get outside and watch as the trees change from bare to buds to leaves.  Spring in the north:  Don’t miss it!  Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 11, 2018

National Forest Update – May 10, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, on the Gunflint Ranger District of the Superior National Forest, with this week’s National Forest Update.  This is the Friday May 11th, edition, and there is a lot going on out there.

Spring is creeping northwards, slowly but surely.  Down in the Twin Cities, trees are fully leafed-out now, but up here, buds are just starting to swell.  Tamaracks are showing a pretty good dusting of green on them, pussy willows are blooming, and grass is greening up.  Frogs are calling from every small puddle, and birds are singing in the morning.  There are lots of sparrows right now moving through, including some that you don’t see except in the spring.  Hummingbirds traditionally show up on Mother’s Day, we’ll have to see if they are on time this year. 

Mother’s Day also means that it is almost fishing opener.  You can drop a line for walleye starting on May 12, if you can find open water.  Lakes are actually opening pretty fast considering how deeply frozen they were just a few weeks ago.  Many of the smaller lakes are open, but the larger border lakes are still fairly well frozen.  Because of the late break up of ice, we haven’t been able to get all the docks in at our boat landings yet.  They should be in within the next two weeks, but in the meantime, prepare to launch your boat with no dock if you are planning a fishing trip.  There are a few spots in the area where fishing will still not be allowed.  These areas are where fish are pushed to very high concentrations due to the ice.  Check the DNR website for locations of these temporary restrictions.
 
We are a bit later than many years in being able to turn on our water systems at fee campgrounds.  Until they are turned on, we won’t be collecting fees at campgrounds for camping.  If you are camping, be ready for either possibility – have water with you in case there’s none available yet, and bring money with in case the fee season has started.

If your camping brings you into the Boundary Waters, the issued permit season has begun.  Overnight visitors need to have a permit issued at a Forest Service office or at a cooperator’s business.  Because of ice, our wilderness ranger crews haven’t been out in the woods yet, so canoeists may run into portages where winter deadfalls have blocked the trail.  If you do run into situations like that, take note of where and when and let us know so we can plan to take care of it. 

There isn’t very much truck traffic on the roads this week as the road conditions remain poor.  There may be logging activity near Sawbill Landing and off the Greenwood and Firebox Roads, but we only anticipate hauling on the DM&IR Grade, also known as FS380.   

Fire danger can change rapidly in the spring.  Our April Showers in May have brought relief for a while, but the sun will soon dry everything out again.  We’ve had some ‘red flag’ days already, and be on the lookout for more to come.  The conditions did eventually let us conduct our wildlife opening burns, but we’d rather not have to deal with any wildfires.

Enjoy the spring weather, and good luck to everyone who is heading down to the water with a pole in hand!

Until next week, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - April 27, 2018

National Forest Update – April 26, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, a wildlife biologist on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, everything, or at least a reasonable amount, of what you need to know when you are visiting the Superior this week. 

It is nearly May, and winter is, hopefully, maybe, cross your fingers, over.  After some truly spectacular storms, the lake has calmed down, the snow has quit, and it seems spring is actually here to stay.  With spring comes the migrating birds.  Robins went from some sporadic sightings to large numbers in people’s yards over the past week.  Most of the robins are males right now, arriving early to set up territories.  You can observe a lot of fighting and other territorial behavior as they settle disputes over who owns which patch of grass, which can be pretty entertaining for us.  Sparrows have also started to trickle in, and the clear plaintive whistle of the white-throated sparrows can be heard welcoming the warmth to the north woods.  Their song is supposed to sound like ‘Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody’, or if you learned it north of the border, they sing ‘Dear sweet Canada, Canada, Canada’.  Mixed in with the white throats are white-crowned, tree, and other sparrows.  These birds all love seeds, so it is a good time to keep the feeders full and sprinkle some millet on the ground as well.  Yellow-rumped warblers are the leading edge of warbler migration, and they’ve been seen in Duluth.  They’ll be working their way north along with the rest of the warbler tribe as our insect population increases.  Speaking of insects, butterflies are back. Mourning cloak butterflies with dark wings trimmed in cream are fluttering along roadsides.  These hardy insects actually hibernate through winter, so they are some of the first butterflies to appear.

If you do have bird feeders, you need to start taking them in at night because butterflies aren’t the only hibernators awakening.  Bears are starting to roam, and they are pretty hungry right now.  We heard one description of someone who had taken in the feeders but had the bear come up to the deck to lick the grate on their grill.  So, plan on hiding in the garage anything that could even remotely be thought of as tasty to a hungry bear.  Remember that bears are after food, and not particularly interested in you.  So long as you don’t put yourself in a situation where you are a threat to them, they are going to leave you alone.  It is in their nature though to chase dogs, so keeping your dog leashed and under control when outside is a good plan.  While you’re at it, with the birds returning and starting to nest soon, it is also a good time of year to keep Kitty indoors. 

There’s no logging traffic on the roads right now, but that it because the roads are very treacherous.  Our timber crews are really recommending staying off the back roads for a while unless you really need to be out there.  It is a mix of soft roadways, ice, and still deep slush in some places, so until it all melts and dries up, roads are hazardous.  If you have to be driving, leave word on where you are and when you are expected to return.  Take it slow, and expect the road conditions to change around every bend.

Most snowmobile trails in the area are closed or in poor condition according to the DNR website, and off-trail use of snowmobiles is not allowed if snow cover is less than four inches.  The trails are not in good condition for ATV use either.  It is easy for ATVs to create ruts and damage trails in the spring, which will ruin good riding for the rest of the year.  Don’t ride on closed trails or roads, but also use good sense and don’t ride when your machine will dig ruts even if the trail is theoretically open.  Check the Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use map to see if your route is open: some routes open mid-April, but some won’t be open for use until later.  You should also check for any posted temporary closures due to seasonal conditions.  Use of ATVs off of designated routes is not allowed on the Forest.

The remaining snow and the damp conditions reduce fire danger, so over the next few weeks, the Forest will try to conduct some spring prescribed burns.  Most of these are to maintain wildlife openings near the shore.  These openings are used by migrating birds and help keep the diversity of habitat available in the forest.  We can’t tell you the exact times of these burns because they are weather dependent, but you can check our website or Boreal for more information. 

Starting next week, May 1st, issued permits will be required for overnight trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  You can reserve these online at Recreation.gov, and pick them up at Forest Service offices and cooperating businesses after watching our Leave No Trace video.  To accommodate wilderness explorers, our offices also start our summer schedule of being open seven days a week, 8 to 4:30. 
Enjoy the return of birds, butterflies, and life to the Forest while you wait out mud season.  While you wait, this a probably the week to put away your snow blower and winter toys, and unearth the lawn mower and summer toys.  You might even look a little at the boat and canoe, but there’s no rush on that yet.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.
 

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