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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 18

Hi.  I’m Amy Wilfahrt, fisheries biologist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of August 18.

We are coming into the end of summer where some days feel hot enough for a swim, and some require looking in the closet for that jacket that was put away in the spring.  One of the markers of the season is the fireweed plant.  Most of us are familiar with the spikes of purple blossoms along roadsides and other disturbed areas.  The blossoms start at the bottom and work their way up the spike as time goes on, and the story is that when the flowers reach the top and end, summer is over.  I hate to say it, but they are nearing the top.

Rain has still been keeping fire danger to a minimum, though it is actually high in other parts of the state.  Remember that whatever the conditions are, you need to be careful with fires and make sure every fire you light is totally out when you leave.

One prominent fire which will be out this week is the sun during the eclipse.  It would be amazing if you haven’t heard that there is going to be an eclipse on the 21st, but since this is a once in a lifetime event for some people, we just want to be sure you don’t miss it.  From the point of view of the Superior, the moon won’t completely block the sun, but it will block enough to be noticeable.   Be sure to not look directly at the sun, use proper eye protection, or look at a projected image.  It is predicted to start at 11:46, reach a maximum at 1:07, and end at 2:27.  Don’t miss it!

If you are out driving in the Forest this week looking for that perfect eclipse viewing spot, there’s a number of roads which will see logging traffic.  On the Tofte District, watch for trucks on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, The Grade, and the Sawbill Trail.  On the Gunflint District hauling is taking place on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Forest Road 1385.  There will also be trucks on the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and the Bally Creek Road.

You may also get to see the start of some of the fall migrations.  You’ll notice that geese are gathering in larger groups, and if you happen to be near an abandoned chimney at dusk, you may see small insect eating chimney swifts diving into the chimney to roost through the night.  By the end of the month, these little mosquito eaters will have headed south to South America.  Other birds, such as warblers, who were here for the insects and to raise families, are also starting to move through.  It is not uncommon at night to hear the call notes of high flying groups of small birds headed south.

Moose and deer don’t migrate, but this is a great time to spot them along the roadsides with the bucks and bulls antlers in full velvet.  I think they are at their most photogenic this time of year, but be careful if you stop to take a picture.

Don’t miss the eclipse, but also don’t miss the last of the warm sun of summer.  Until next week, this has been Amy Wilfahrt with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: August 11

Hi.  I’m Frances Meger, seasonal naturalist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of August 11.

This weekend is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers are caused when the Earth moves into the debris left behind in the path of a comet. The comet in this case is called Swift Tuttle, and it seems to leave a lot of debris behind it, making for lots of meteors as the bits and pieces of old comet burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. How many?  It varies from year to year, but the Perseids can have as many as 100 meteors per hour. It’s usually best to watch for meteors after midnight, but the moon will be rising around 11:00, so the best viewing might be right before moonrise. Northern Minnesota and the Superior National Forest are known as areas with very little in the way of light pollution and spectacular views of the night sky, so, grab a lawn chair where you can lean back, put on plenty of bug dope, and get set to watch the show.

The frequent rains have kept fire danger low all season this year, a fact which Smokey Bear liked while he celebrated his 73rd birthday this past week. On the west end of the Forest, Smokey’s friends, our fire crews, are doing some prescribed burning, and there are a few burns planned for our east end as well. Keep an eye on our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll keep you informed as to when and where those burns will be taking place as we try to fit them in between rain showers. 
 
There are only a couple of weeks remaining of summer naturalist programs, sponsored by Visit Cook County. Mike Zemaitis and I would like to thank everyone who has come to our programs this year, and invite everyone to join us by the campfire for one of the remaining presentations. You can find the schedule online, at the visitor center in Grand Marais, at Forest Service offices, or at any of the participating resorts.

If you are out driving in the Forest this week, there’s a number of roads which will see logging traffic. On the Tofte District, watch for trucks on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, The Grade, and the Sawbill Trail. On the Gunflint District hauling is taking place on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Forest Road 1385. There will also be trucks on the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and the Bally Creek Road.

Enjoy the meteor showers, or have a s’more at the campfire, or why not do both? Until next week, this has been Frances Meger with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: August 4

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. 

Here's the weekly report from Kyle Stover.

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Superior National Forest Update: July 28

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 28.

There’s a lot of activity in the Forest this time of year, and this past Wednesday some of that activity was what is called a Bioblitz. A Bioblitz is a single day devoted to recording all the living things in a certain area, and has been described as a biology nerd-fest! Bioblitzes happen across the country on different days, and help us to understand the complex web of life which covers our planet. The Bioblitz in which our Forest Service biologists took part happens annually at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, right next door to the Forest. Participants in this year’s effort included many volunteers - even groups of school age kids from the Twin Cities! All these people searched for plants, birds, insects, mammals, and everything else they could find. By the time they were done, the Bioblitz had recorded over 450 different kinds of life, showing just how rich North Shore nature is.

One aspect of biology which seems to be particularly abundant right now are the insects. Black fly numbers are lower than they were earlier in the year, but it seems to be prime time for butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other insects. Many of these are insects which spent the early part of summer as immature nymphs and larvae, and are now flying adults. The adults are searching for mates, and will lay eggs which will either overwinter and hatch in the spring, or hatch now and produce young which will overwinter. For many of our insects, life as an adult is short and most will die with the coming of cold weather. Unfortunately, in their hunt for a mate, a lot of these adults choose to fly over roads which means this is a good time of year to check the washer fluid level in your vehicle - I removed a dozen dragonflies from the grill just from one trip down Hwy 61 in the evening.

Dragonflies aren’t the only thing to watch for while out driving. You should be on the lookout for logging trucks in the following areas. On the Tofte District, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6. Additionally, starting this week, there will be trucks on the Bally Creek Road south of Devil Track Lake and Cook County 7. 

Like the insects, you should take advantage of the summer weather to get outside. Explore the Forest, or do your own Bioblitz in your backyard with your family. You’d be amazed at how many living things you share your yard with. 

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

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Superior National Forest Update: July 21

Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, information receptionist at both the Tofte and Gunflint offices with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 22.

We are hitting what is normally the hottest part of the summer. While the north may be the coolest part of the state, it is still hot enough to think about staying hydrated when you’re outside. Usually we think the best thing to do is to drink plenty of water, but a recent study which looked at how long liquid stays in your body showed some interesting alternative beverages. Milk actually had one of the best hydration indices, possibly because it is absorbed over a longer period of time. Commercial hydration solution used medically also, not surprisingly, had a high hydration index. The surprise, and good news for fans of iced lattes, is that coffee turns out to have just as good a hydration index as water. While studies like this are interesting to think about and make for good conversation, the main thing is that any liquid is better than none, and you need plenty of liquid if you are sweating on a hot day. 

It may be getting hot in the future, but our recent cool wet weather seems to have spurred more campers in and out of the Boundary Waters to want a nice warm campfire. We’ve seen an increase of people cutting live vegetation, possibly in hopes of fueling those fires. Cutting live trees is not allowed, and could result in a pretty good-sized fine, but the real reason not to cut live vegetation is just that it is a bad idea. In the first place, part of our wilderness ethic is to leave no trace of ourselves behind when we depart, and a noticeable stump or cut branch is certainly a big visible trace that you were there. Second, branches harvested off live trees make lousy fires anyway. Green wood does not burn well. You might think the solution would be cutting branches off dead trees, but that still is leaving a trace. Here’s what you should do instead. In the wilderness, gather dead and down wood from somewhere away from your campsite. Don’t remove branches from beaver dams or lodges. Pick wood that is wrist size or smaller as burning large logs are hard to extinguish and may continue to smolder after you leave.

At campgrounds, buy local certified firewood, and bring an axe or other tool to cut some of that firewood into kindling size. Never use waste paper to start a fire. Disposal of trash in fires is illegal, plus burning food saturated paper plates will make your fire pit smell like lunch to passing bears, and they will come and dig it up. Finally, when you are done with the fire, make sure it is totally out and cold to the touch. Smokey Bear has been saying this for years, but it is still true that many of our wildfires are caused accidentally by humans, and “only you can prevent wildfires.”

Speaking of fires, our fire danger is still pretty low due to the rain. Our fire crews are mostly out west helping with wildfires in other parts of the country.  In addition to keeping the fire danger low, the rain has kept our roads soggy. Keep an eye on road conditions when you drive. We’ve had a few of our rigs get stuck recently due to muddy soft roadways. 
There will be some logging trucks out on those roads as well. On the Tofte side, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On the Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6.

Logging trucks on roads are big and easily seen, but it may be harder to see small stuff, like butterflies. The northern blue butterfly is a little blue butterfly and is a species we are watching on the Forest. They like to ‘puddle,’ gathering in groups on roads where there is animal scat or some other concentration of certain nutrients. If you see northern blues, or any other kinds of butterflies on the road in an area where you can slow down safely, give them a break and let them fly off instead of becoming ornaments on your radiator.

Enjoy the butterfly watching, and think about escaping the heat with a trip to woods this week. Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 14

Hi. I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator on the Gunflint with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. Here’s what’s happening in the woods for the week of July 14.

Rain! Rain is what seems to be happening in the woods recently. Duluth is at 4 inches above normal for yearly rainfall, and an inch above last year. Lake Superior is 20 inches above the level shown on navigation charts, and is about nine inches above an average July level. The lake gained four inches during the past month, but now is expected to be stable. All that data means that there’s been a lot of water coming down this summer.

It is supposed to dry off in the next week or so, so it will be time to get out and enjoy our nice full lakes. Make sure to bring your PFD’s when loading your boat, and even better, wear them. Even if you are a strong swimmer, wearing a PFD can make it a lot easier to try to right a swamped canoe, and to gather floating packs of gear. If you’re planning a Boundary Waters trip and have never tipped a canoe over, we recommend that you try it in safe conditions before you go. It may be a lot harder than you think to right the boat and get back into it. When canoeing, it is good to bring some sort of bailing equipment and tie it to the boat. While it is possible to flip a canoe upright in a way which leaves little water in the boat, it takes practice. It is also a lot easier on a calm lake, and face it, if you tip your canoe, it isn’t going to be on a calm lake. It is tempting to tie your packs into the canoe so they would stay with the boat if you tip it, but don’t. Packs tied to the canoe can make it very difficult to right the boat. If you pack using plastic bag liners, packs will usually float and the contents remain dry for some time.  Concentrate on getting your boat upright first, and getting yourself in the boat, then start worrying about your stuff. You could get hypothermic or drown, but the pack with your fishing gear and extra sweatshirt is going to be just fine swimming in the water for a while. But…the best way to right a boat is to not tip it in the first place. Pay attention to the weather, and don’t travel on days with high winds and rough water which are beyond your ability. When planning your trip, include the possibility of being weathered in for a day. It is better to spend an extra day in camp than to end up going for an unintentional swim.

On your way to the lake, there is some logging traffic to consider. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks on Trapper’s Lake Road, Lake County 705, Cook County 33, the Sawbill Trail, and The Grade. On the Gunflint end, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, the Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and the Trestle Pine Road.

As the weather clears, head out to a lake and have fun, but keep boating safety in mind. Until next week, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 7

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.  

This week's update features Steve Robertsen.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 30

Hi. I’m Cathy Peterson, administrative support assistant in Tofte, with 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 July 1, here’s what’s up out there.

July 4th is here already, and with it comes the annual message about fireworks on the Forest. That message is “No, None, Never.” Fireworks are prohibited everywhere on the National Forest, including gravel pits and over lakes. This includes all types of fireworks. Please don’t release any of the popular fire balloons either. These are plastic bags with a candle which work like hot air balloons. While pretty, they are both a source of litter and wildfire ignition, so just say no. You don’t have to be without fireworks though. There are great fireworks shows in Grand Marais, Tofte, and Silver Bay, so grab a lawn chair and head to town for the 4th. 

While we’re on the subject of safety, it is also the time of year to be reminded of water safety. Almost every year, there seems to be drownings or near drownings in our local rivers around the 4th of July. River swimming is always dangerous to some degree, and with the high water from rain, it is particularly dangerous this year. Moving water is powerful, and even a slow-moving river can push a strong swimmer off their feet and into faster water from which there is no escape. Many drownings involve at least two people - the original swimmer and the person who tried to rescue them. Even if you feel confident risking your life, realize that you are also risking the lives of the people who will try to save you. If you do get caught in an undertow going into Lake Superior, or you’re caught in a hydraulic which pulls you under below a waterfall, the correct thing to do is to head for the bottom. Swim along the bottom parallel to the shore for an undertow, or away from the falls for a hydraulic. But, it is best to avoid the problem in the first place and swim only in approved areas.

If you are heading into the Forest this July 4th, there is some logging activity. On Tofte, there will be hauling on the Trapper’s Lake Rd, Lake County 705, Cook County 33, the Sawbill Trail, and The Grade. On Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, the Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and the Trestle Pine Road.

With the rain, there’s not much in fire news. Some of our fire people are headed out west to help with wildfires there, and we wish them success in controlling those fires. 

While our fire crews are helping in the west, our recreation shop has had a lot of help clearing trails from the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa. Take advantage of our renewed hiking opportunities and go for a walk this week. If you notice any blocked trails, make sure to report them to our offices so we can take care of them while we have our extra summer help.
If you are more in the mood to sit by a fire instead of hiking, our naturalist programs are in full swing with two presentations every night from Tuesday to Saturday. You can enjoy a campfire, check out a resort that you may never have visited, and learn a little about our natural history. These programs happen rain or shine with an indoor location during the rain, so it is a good rainy day activity for camping families looking to dry off for a while. The complete schedule can be found on our website.

Have a great 4th of July! There isn’t a better place to celebrate a national holiday than on a national forest. Public land is part of what makes America a wonderful country, so celebrate America’s birthday on the Superior – three million acres of forest owned by all Americans.

Until next week, this has been Cathy Peterson with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 23

Hi. I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, on the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation in the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 23rd, here’s what’s up out there.

This weekend, you can expect a lot of traffic out in the Forest, but most of it will be bikes. This is the weekend of the Lutsen 99er, a mountain bike event which has been growing for the past several years. If you are traveling on forest roads in the Lutsen area, keep an eye out for posted information about the race route and the presence of bikers on the roads. There are also several spots for spectators where cars will be parked along the roadside. You may want to be a spectator yourself; it’s a fun race to watch. While the race itself is on Saturday morning, often participants stay the weekend and you can expect bike traffic in the Forest all weekend long.

Highway 61 is a designated scenic byway, and as such, it is often a destination for people who like to drive. Every year, various clubs come to drive the road, and in the past you’ve been able to see classic cars, great motorcycles, and, one year, the largest gathering of DeLoreans on the planet, all cruising 61. Some of these groups drive slowly, so exercise caution when passing them, and don’t try to pass the entire group at once. Pay attention to oncoming groups as well because there may be people pulling out into your lane to pass.  And… keep your eyes on the road, not on the very cool 1939 Ford coupe going by, but do take the time to appreciate our yearly mobile car show.

We may not have classic cars in the woods, but we do have some logging trucks out on the forest roads. On the Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and Trestle Pine Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is happening around the Sawbill Landing area.

This past week was the start of our summer series of naturalist programs at area resorts and campgrounds. These programs are brought to you through a cooperative agreement with Visit Cook County. The schedule is posted in many places, and is available on our website as well as on Visit Cook County’s website. The programs are free and open to the public, and while you learn about bats or wolves or bogs, you also get a great chance to visit some of the resorts along the shore and grab a s’more by the fire.

Speaking of fire, recent rains have kept the fire danger low. With our long days and warm sun, the forest can dry quickly, and people should check on fire conditions before heading out on trips when you plan a campfire. Crews are doing some work in Sawbill Lake, Wilson Lake, and Baker Lake campgrounds to clear understory brush and trees which would provide fuel in the event of a wildfire. While it may look destructive, fuel reduction actually keeps the forest in a more natural condition, mimicking what an understory fire would have done naturally. By reducing fuel on the ground, the intensity of a wildfire should be reduced. This makes it more likely that if there was a fire in the area, the fire would spare large pines, do less damage to structures, and be more easily brought under control. To minimize impact to campers, these crews are only working during the work week, during daylight hours, or when there are no campers in the area.
 
Enjoy the woods this weekend, and until next week, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 16

Hi. I’m Susan McGowan-Stinski, administrative assistant on the Superior National Forest, 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 June 16, here’s what’s going on in the forest.

With the recent rainy and stormy weather, it seems like a good time to talk about what to do if you get caught out in severe weather. Northern Minnesota is not in the tornado belt, but Mother Nature seems to compensate for that by making us one of the areas with the most lightning strikes per year. Our fire-based forest ecology actually derives from this fact: Without lightning, there’d be no natural source of fire in the forest, and we wouldn’t have the kind of woods that we do. This means, though, that lightning is something that you have to be ready for on any extended camping trip in this area. 

The first rule is one everyone knows. Get off the water during a storm. Actually, get off the water before the storm as lightning strikes ahead of the storm front. That means don’t wait for one more fish, or try to get to the next campsite - it means get off the lake now. Once off the lake, avoid scenery. That is, the beautiful, high, rocky knob with the lone tall pine isn’t the place to be. You want the low areas, free of trees that may fall during winds. Avoid standing on roots that could connect to tall trees, and minimize your contact with the ground by crouching instead of lying down. Use life jackets or other equipment to help insulate you from the ground. If you are at a campsite, look at the potential for trees to fall when putting your tent up. During a storm, shelter in your rain gear outside of the tent so you can watch for falling trees and see what is going on. Be aware, and you can weather the storm.

We’ve got some logging truck activity this week, the same as last week. Keep an eye out for trucks in the Greenwood Lake area on the Gunflint District, and around the Sawbill Landing area in Tofte.

There still may be some prescribed fires happening if the weather permits. If you see signs on roads concerning prescribed burns, drive with caution and be aware that trucks and personnel may be on the roads.

That’s all for this week! Enjoy the week and the forest, and hope for good weather! Until next week, this has been Susan McGowan-Stinski with the National Forest Update.
 

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