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West End News: June 12

BWCA Wilderness Artifact (Courtesy of the Superior National Forest)
BWCA Wilderness Artifact (Courtesy of the Superior National Forest)

WEN_20140612.mp34.25 MB

There has been a lot of action around the wayside rests that are located up and down the North Shore along Highway 61.
I can find no official word about the opening of the beautiful new wayside rest and park headquarters of Tettegouche State Park.  Last winter the Duluth News Tribune mentioned a March date for opening, but that obviously didn’t happen.  Based on how it looks from the highway, it seems like it will be open soon.  The number of construction worker vehicles has dwindled to a daily handful and last week on the way to Duluth I saw workers sweeping the parking lot. This is surely a sign that working is winding down.  It looks like it will be a spectacular facility and the restroom facilities will be welcomed back by all travelers to and from the West End.
The news also came last week that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is moving forward on a major redesign of the Caribou Falls wayside rest just west of the county line.  MN-DOT knows that the entrance to the wayside is not clearly defined, causing unsafe access to and from Highway 61. The sharp curve just to the east has always been a spot where accidents occur, so hopefully both problems will be solved with one fell swoop.  MN-DOT and the Department of Natural Resources are working together to improve the parking, trail access, and restroom facilities at the same time.  The planning process is happening now, with construction presumably to follow in a couple of years.
The Onion River wayside rest has been under construction for what seems like nearly a decade, but now seems close to completion.  An impressive new set of stairs provides access to the beautiful, but underused trail that parallels the Onion River.  The new outhouse that was constructed over the winter is surely one of the most beautiful outhouses ever built.  It is not only architecturally interesting, but looks sturdy enough to withstand everything but a direct nuclear attack.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent retirement of Jill Schug from her long career with the Forest Service.  Jill was a well-respected employee who served most, if not all, of her career in the engineering division of the Forest Service.  Her husband, Steve, who retired a few years ago, also served his entire career in the Forest Service. Congratulations to Jill, even though she won’t hear this, because she and Steve packed up and left their West End home a few days ago to visit their daughter Michelle in Las Vegas.
We had an interesting visit this week from Superior National Forest East Zone Archeologist, Ryan Brown and Archeological Technician, Troy Price.  The two men had just spent five days in the BWCA Wilderness, surveying campsites for artifacts.  Their first stop was a site on a remote lake where the Forest Service is proposing to close an existing campsite and to build another one nearby.  It is standard practice for the archeologists to check the site of any new construction on the forest to make sure it doesn’t destroy any historical artifacts.
Although Ryan and Troy found no artifacts at the site of the new campsite, they did find many artifacts at the existing campsites that they surveyed.  Forest Service policy is that they only photograph any ancient artifacts that they find on the surface. However, they do document and take any artifacts that they dig up in what they call “shovel tests.”  Those pieces are carefully cataloged, curated and made available for research.
From this most recent trip, they brought back a beautiful little arrowhead, a piece of a broken stone tool and a large flake that was a byproduct of tool making.  I forgot to ask them for an estimate of the age, but it is likely that the age of the pieces is better measured in thousands rather than hundreds of years.
Ryan asked me remind everyone that if you find an artifact on the ground, please admire it, photograph it, but ultimately leave it where you found it.  This serves as a living reminder of those who enjoyed living in the beautiful West End so long ago.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.