Hi. I’m Nancy Larson, Gunflint District Ranger, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.
For the week of August 8th, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
Roads are clear and dry and great for travel right now. In fact, the caution this week is to watch your speed. Nice flat gravel roads invite you to slowly edge upwards in speed, but then can surprise you with a corner that has loose gravel, or a grader, logging truck, or deer hiding behind a hill. Most Forest roads were designed for a maximum speed of 35 under perfect conditions, but many of our roads were not designed at all. They were developed from trails or old railroad corridors. This creates twisty roads that call for slower speeds, or flat straight roads that tempt people to travel faster than is safe. Remember that even if your vehicle has four wheel drive, it does not have eight wheel brakes, and sudden braking on gravel is lot harder than speeding up.
You won’t be making much speed on Highway 61 coming to the Forest from Duluth. There will be a major detour through Finland starting on August 11th, and additional roadwork with flaggers just north of that. Expect half hour delays.
There are several timber operations on the Gunflint that will have logging trucks on the roads. Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, the Caribou Trail, and the Gunflint Trail itself all will have timber being hauled on them. On the Tofte end, some timber operations are winding down, but there is still truck traffic on Four Mile Grade.
Fire crews are still doing fuel reduction work in the Baker Lake Campground. As August has started drier than July and June, we now have moderate fire danger in the woods. A lightning strike kindled a small fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Partridge Lake, and a crew is dealing with it using minimum impact suppression techniques. Of course, you can’t think about wild fire without thinking about Smokey Bear, and it is Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday this year. There will be celebrations to honor Smokey at both Gunflint and Tofte. On Saturday August 9th, celebrate with the bear at Gunflint from 10 to 2, and on Sunday August 10th, you can catch him at Tofte from 11 to 1. There will be cake, ice cream, and of course, bear hugs.
This is a busy time of year in the Boundary Waters. The water is warm and inviting, the bug population is down, and the Perseid meteor shower lights up the night. When canoeing, make sure to start looking for a campsite early and make back up plans in case someone else has already claimed your perfect site. Be ready to paddle off your course to find those seldom visited campsites. Your reward might be a lake to yourself.
Wildlife biologists on the Forest have been helping with bat monitoring to keep track of Minnesota’s bats. Special audio sensors which detect the bat’s sonar are used, recording audio ‘sightings’ on a computer. If you’re interested in finding out more about bats, our regular Tuesday program at Chik-Wauk Nature Center at the end of the Gunflint Trail will be about bats this week. That happens at 3 o’clock on Tuesday.
For up to minute information on topics such as fire restrictions, be sure to check our website or at a Ranger Station.
Hope you enjoy another week in the Forest and on the water. Until next week, this has been Nancy Larson with the National Forest Update.