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Superior National Forest Update

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.

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 19

Superior National Forest Update - June 19, 2020

Steve Robertsen is an education and interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 5

National Forest Update
June 4, 2020

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen with the first June version of the National Forest Update.  It’s been lovely outside, so I hope you’ve been able to spend some time in the woods this past two weeks watching spring change to summer.

June, not surprisingly, means that the Juneberries are in bloom, along with choke cherries and more.  I’ve always felt that our Juneberry or serviceberry trees get a raw deal.  People travel for miles to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, and I think our Juneberries are just as pretty.  Later, these trees will have berries that are very edible, but not too many people actually seem to harvest them.  The flavor does vary between trees though, so you may need to sample several to find the best.  While we have to wait for the fruit, pollinators are enjoying the nectar right now.  Watching a flowering tree in our yard earlier this week, it was easy to spot at least three species of bee, several Painted Lady butterflies, a clear wing hummingbird moth, and a real hummingbird.  We’ve all learned the importance of pollinators recently, and all these flowering trees and shrubs provide lots of food for these important insects and birds.  Plus, the fruit later will not only feed us, but also plenty of wildlife.

One of the less popular nectar eating insects is the black fly.  If they would stick to nectar, no one would have a problem, but unfortunately for us, the females need a blood meal before laying eggs and people are the involuntary blood donors.  Black flies have been awful this year all the way down to the Cities.  Unlike mosquitoes whose larvae are found in stagnant water, black fly larvae are in nice clean running water.  They provide food for fish, and so are an important link in the food chain, and it is just too bad that in this case the food chain also includes us.  DEET based repellents are usually not very effective, and while there are lots of other repellents you can try, I usually end up just using a head net and long sleeves.

Another sign of the times, deer are dropping their fawns.  I haven’t seen a fawn yet myself, but I have seen some local deer that suspiciously went from fat to thin overnight.  If you do see a fawn, remember that they are ‘latchkey’ children.  The doe will leave them alone while she goes off to forage.  Too often, well-meaning people pick up “abandoned” fawns which are actually only temporarily left alone.  That same advice applies to other animals.  Hares do the same thing, and baby birds too big to fit in the nest are often found on the ground or in a bush waiting for the parents to return.  All these baby animals need to be left alone.

Ravens nest early, so their young have already graduated from the nest to the air.  You can see flights of raven families with the young calling after the parents – most likely asking for food, but I’m suspicious that they might be whining “Are we there yet?” as well.

On June 1, 2020, the Superior National Forest opened overnight camping in a limited number of developed campgrounds. This is in alignment with Minnesota Governor’s announcement on May 20, 2020 which allowed campgrounds to re-open starting June 1 under the Stay Safe Phase for Reopening Society Plan. Note that water and outhouse facilities are not available at campgrounds which are still closed.  We are also re-opening outhouse facilities at some trailheads including Britton Peak, Oberg Mountain, Pincushion Mountain, and Eagle Mountain.  Other outhouses remain closed, so plan accordingly. For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information on campground re-openings, visit our website. 

Spring road restrictions have been lifted across the Forest, so timber hauling is back.  You may encounter truck traffic on the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Cook County 27, Cook County 8, the Sunfish Lake Road and the Greenwood Road. 

Despite our sprinkling of rain, we are going back into high fire danger.  The woods continue to green up, which is good, but winds are fairly high making it easy for an unattended fire to get out of control.  There were a number of such unattended campfires found this past week…so we have to repeat what seems obvious:  please put your fire out when you leave.

I mentioned young ravens leaving the nest, but ravens aren’t the only graduates out there this spring.  We’d like to congratulate all Northwoods class of 2020 as you spread your wings and take off.  May you have the opportunity to explore many other national forests, parks, and wilderness areas in your lives.  The Forest Service uses the catchphrase “Get Out There”, and we’d like to encourage you all to do just that.  Until next time, this is Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 22

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, Education and Interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service-Superior National Forest.
May 22, 2020


SNF Update

Superior National Forest Update - April 24

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen.
April 24, 2020


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - April 10

Superior National Forest Update with Information and Education Specialist, Steve Robertsen.
April 10, 2020


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - March 13

National Forest Update – March 12, 2020.
Greetings Superior National Forest Community.  I’m Jon Benson with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update including information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of March 13, here’s what’s going on.

As temperatures start to climb and the days are getting longer, it seems like a good time to talk about the changing season and the different types of recreation that are starting to take place on the Forest.

The ski and snowmobile trails are still in great shape thanks to the efforts of our many trail partners.  Now that the daylight is persisting into the early evening hours it is a great chance to get out on the skis after work to enjoy those winter activities before the snow melts and the rivers start running.  Current trail conditions are updated regularly on the Visit Cook County Website.

For folks who are more interested in venturing out onto the lakes, there are still a couple of weeks left to get out on the ice for some ice fishing, but remember that any fish houses must be off the ice no later than midnight on March 16 for all northern inland waters in Minnesota.  As the temperature continues to warm I would like to ask folks to be especially cautious in areas with moving water or current under the ice.  Remember that no ice is ever 100% safe and it is always good to fish in groups or at least make sure that someone knows where you are going.

As winter fades away and the open water season draws near, now is the time to start planning your Boundary Waters trips.  Reservations can be made at for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips as well as some National Forest Campgrounds.  There is some excellent Boundary Waters trip planning info that can be found on the Superior National Forest website as well and folks can find that site at

Another topic that always comes up this time of year is the roads.  As the temperatures climb and the snow on the roads starts to disappear it is good to think about whether you really need to be on some of these roads.  Seasonal road restrictions for Cook County will go into effect at 12:01 am on Friday, March 13.  Not only will the roads be icy and slick this time of year, but the shoulders can often be very soft which can lead to cars and trucks winding up in the ditch.  These situations are certainly no fun for the occupants of the vehicle, but they also result in substantial road damage which cannot be repaired until the snow is gone and the roads have thawed.  I encourage all of you to think about whether it is necessary to travel down some of the lower use roads during this month until after road restrictions are lifted.

Speaking of roads, we’ve got some logging truck activity this week.  Once road restrictions go into effect Friday morning there will be hauling on the Gunflint Trail, the Sunfish Lake Road, and the Greenwood Road on the Gunflint Ranger District.  On Tofte there will be trucks hauling on the Dumbbell River Road, the Wanless Road, and the Trappers Lake Road.  All of these locations are dependent on the road conditions being suitable for hauling activity. 

That’s all for this week!  Let’s hope for good weather so we can all stay warm and safe out in the Forest.  Please have an elite weekend, and until next time, this has been Jon Benson with the Superior National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 28

Superior National Forest Update by Steve Robertsen 
February 28, 2019



Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 14

National Forest Update – February 13, 2020.

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update.  It’s our birthday this week!  In 1909, on February 13th, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Superior National Forest into being.  At that time, a lot of the land was bare.  The mixed pine forest had been cleared during the intensive logging era of the late 1800s, so, as with many of the national forests declared in the east, the Superior was less a forest than it was a brushy stump field.  Thanks to replanting efforts by the Forest Service, hard work later by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the forest’s own natural resiliency, the woods grew back and made the forest we see, enjoy, and use today.  So, happy birthday, Superior!

While we’re in history mode, the Tofte Ranger Station recently was gifted a bit of National Forest history.  A kind individual donated a lifetime’s collection of Smokey Bear memorabilia, from early Smokey stuffed animals to a music box with Smokey in a jeep playing John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’.  We’ll be featuring portions of the collection on display in our office, so check out early Smokey next time you stop in.

Shifting from history, we can look into the future.  Well, ok, we can at least tell you at least a couple of things happening this weekend.  There are two ski events on February 15th.  One is the annual Pincushion Winter Festival including several levels of ski races, skijoring, and the Y-ski Winter Carnival.  The other is a candlelight ski on the Sugarbush Trails starting at the Oberg Mountain trailhead.  Both events are sponsored by partner organizations which maintain and groom our trail systems, and without which we quite possibly would have not have groomed trails.  So, we’d like to thank the North Superior Ski and Run Club for all the work they do at Pincushion, and the Sugarbush Trail Association for their work with the Sugarbush and Moose Fence trails.  Good job, club members!

When you’re headed out to ski, or do anything else outside, this is a good weekend to check the weather.  Our forecasted temperatures are all over the place from below zero to 32 degrees.  It is a good weekend to heed your mother’s advice and dress in layers so you can adjust to whatever nature throws at you.  Plan ahead and bring extra clothes or an empty pack for clothes you shed.  You don’t want to end up wearing below zero gear when it is near the melting point, and you don’t want to be wearing a light jacket and baseball cap when it’s below zero.
You can plan for trucks to be hauling logs on some roads.  On the Gunflint District, logging traffic will be on Cook County 14 and 60, the Sunfish Lake Road, Greenwood Road, the Gunflint Trail, and the Pike Lake Road.  Tofte District will have trucks using the Trappers Lake/Sawbill Landing Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, and Cook County 27.

It is harder for us to tell you which roads deer will be using.  Deer are on the roads a lot right now, partly because travel in the deep snow in the woods is difficult.  One person at our office hit a deer about a month ago, crumpling the hood, breaking the right headlight, and causing hundreds of dollars in damage… then was lucky enough to hit another deer with the newly painted and repaired car last week, breaking the other headlight, smashing the fender, and so on.  This is not an unskilled or poor driver, it was just bad luck.  So, keep your eyes on the roadsides and don’t speed.  With the new speed limit of 60 on portions of Highway 61, it is tempting to go even faster – but don’t. 

On the plus side, if you do drive slower and keep your eyes open looking for wildlife, there’s a lot to be seen besides deer.  Both great grey and snowy owls are around the area right now, and great greys in particular love to roost on street signs.  I saw a beautiful wolf on the road this morning, and eagles scavenging deer carcasses are abundant.  You can’t really beat that for a morning commute.

Enjoy the Forest and stay warm!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - January 31

Superior National Forest Update – January 30, 2020.

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest and our National Forest Update.  We are just about done with the cloudiest January on record, so let’s all hope that February has some of those clear blue skies that Minnesota is famous for.

My personal favorite winter weather is clear bright sun and a temperature of about 10 to 15 degrees.  And no wind.  10 to 15 degrees means that snow isn’t wet at all, and I can use green wax on my skis which hard enough that it doesn’t get my hands all sticky.  It also is cold enough that you don’t get overheated when you are skiing or snowshoeing, but isn’t so cold that you need spacesuit level outerwear to keep from freezing.  I’m firmly in the camp that gets annoyed at weather forecasters on the radio that sound happy and excited by winter weather when it gets into the upper twenties, or even above freezing.  It’s winter.  It’s supposed to be cold.

The dogs in the Beargrease dogsled race last weekend are mostly in that camp as well.  It was a warm race this year, great for race watchers, but a bit harder for the dogs.  For those that turned out to watch the race, it was, as it always is, a lot of fun.  And for those who were racing, thank you!  The Beargrease and the Gunflint Mail Run are always among the highlights of the winter.

The coming weekends offer some fun of a different nature.  This weekend, February 1st, the Cook County Snowmobile Club is having its annual fun run.  Snowmobile trails may be pretty busy, so be sure to watch out for snowmobiles at road crossing, and if you are on a sled, watch for cars as well as your fellow snowmobilers.  Visit the Snowmobile Club’s website at cook county snowmobile club .com for more details.

The following weekend, on February 15th, the North Superior Ski and Run Club is having the annual Pincushion Ski Festival.  The Ski and Run Club will have racing and touring in several categories from skate skiing to wooden ski events, followed by skijoring and the Y-Ski Winter Carnival.  Visit their website pincushion trails .org for more details.  And, while you are online, visit the National Forest website too and download a georeferenced map of the Pincushion Trails to your phone.  It’s always nice to know where you are. 

And, of course, one more time… if you are skiing, make sure you have a Great Minnesota Ski Pass.  If you’re snowmobiling, make sure your machine is properly licensed.  These passes and licenses pay for the trails you use, and are required on trails like Pincushion Ski Trails and the North Shore State Snowmobile Trail.  As much as we may wish otherwise, groomed trails do not spring magically up in the winter woods, and if we want to continue to enjoy them, we have to pay for them.

Roads are in good shape, but watch out as some freezing drizzle is in the forecast.  Things can get slippery in a hurry when that happens, and often the ice isn’t visible.  Be sure as well to keep your car’s windshield washer tank filled up – you can go through a lot of that with freezing drizzle.  Snowbanks on roads are restricting vision at intersections, so be cautious.  We’ve had several moose seen recently.  Moose are not dumb animals, and they realize that it is lot easier to walk on a plowed road than it is through drifts of snow.  Unfortunately, they don’t realize that puts them in danger from cars.  It’s great to see a moose, but not so great if the moose is about ten feet from your bumper and you are going forty miles per hour.

There’s a bit of timber being hauled, so you’ll have to watch for trucks as well as moose.  If you are in the Gunflint District, trucks are using the Hall Road, Cook County 14, Cook County 60, Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, and the Sunfish Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, trucks are using the Trappers Lake/Sawbill Landing Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, and Cook County 27.

So, although some may think it’s crazy, I’m going to hope for colder weather, at least for the next month.  I think all of us can get behind hoping for more sun, and no more freezing drizzle. 

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


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - January 17

Superior National Forest Update
January 17, 2020

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist with the Superior National Forest our National Forest Update.  It’s time to take a break from shoveling and cursing the snow, and get out and play in the snow and enjoy the reason we live up here.  Winter is great if you have the right mindset, and there have been some studies done which show that the way to chase off winter blues is to get outside and do something!

The snow is perfect for all kinds of recreation right now.  We had that wet heavy snow mixed with rain earlier, but that has been mostly covered up with fresh snow.  It did create a very solid snow base, so there are good conditions for almost everything from snowshoeing to snowmobiling.  The exception are some of the smaller ski trail systems along the shore where they lacked the equipment to break up icy snow in some places.

Maintaining a good trail takes a lot of equipment and a lot of time.  Most of our trails are groomed by trail partner organizations who use funds generated by the sales of licenses for snowmobile trails and sales of the Great Minnesota Ski Pass for cross country ski trails.  You may have read in the paper that the fund for cross country ski trails is low this year.  People are not buying ski passes.  This could be due to warmer winters in the southern parts of the state with poor enough skiing conditions that people are unwilling to pay for what may be only a couple of skis a year.  It also could be because people just don’t understand why you should pay for cross country skiing.  Either way, people need to realize that their passes fund the trails, and without that revenue, we wouldn’t have the skiing opportunities we enjoy now.  Minnesota Ski Passes are required for skiing on state grant-in-aid trails, and are now really easy to purchase.  You can buy them online at the Minnesota DNR’s website, and print them off yourself at home.

If you plan on skiing this weekend, be aware that there is an eight team high school meet on Saturday January 18th at Pincushion Mountain.  The parking area and the trails will be crowded with students and their supporters.  Spillover parking will be available on the Gunflint Trail.  So, if you are going to cheer on the Cook County Nordic Team, that’s great!  If you are planning a peaceful ski through a quiet winter woods, you may want to look at alternative trails.

We’ve had some fun at the Forest Service these past two weeks with students from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Fish and Wildlife Club.  They’ve been volunteering to help with our lynx survey program, which means they’ve been logging miles on snowshoes tracking lynx and collecting lynx scat.  The scats are later analyzed for DNA, which allows us to recognize individual animals and even lynx family relationships.  This helps us understand where lynx live, and how they are using our forest resource.  So, thank you to all these young volunteer wildlife biologists!

If you are driving out to snowshoe, you’ll find that the roads are in pretty good shape.  In fact, in many places they are smooth enough to trick you into thinking you can go fifty miles per hour.  And, while you can go that fast, you’ll also find you can’t stop if you are going that fast.  Some of the hills headed toward the lake are particularly treacherous – coming downhill from the Oberg Trailhead you’ll find you may need to keep your speed down below twenty miles an hour if you don’t want to toboggan down the slope onto Highway 61 in your car.  Just to add to the fun, snowbanks have gotten high enough to hide the deer looking to cross the road, and it seems like there are more coyotes and wolves wandering on the roads who have decided walking a plowed road is easier than wading through chest high snow in the woods.  Slower speeds on the road will give you more time to react and avoid animal collisions.

Of course, you also have to be aware of logging trucks in the woods.  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on the Hall Road, Cook County 14, Cook County 60, Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, and the Sunfish Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, trucks are using Hoist Lake Road, Lake County 7, Trappers Lake/Sawbill Landing Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, Cook County 27 and Cook County 8.

So, don’t let the winter blues or the gray skies take over your life.  Go out and take over winter instead, whether it is on skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, or armed with a fishing rod and ice auger.  Trout season outside of the BWCAW opens this Saturday.  Before you know it, the groundhog will be telling us how many weeks of winter are left, so don’t let it slip away without enjoying some good old outdoor winter fun.  This is the best part of the season, so go have fun in the snow! 

Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.