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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 - October 25

National Forest Update – October 23, 2019
Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, the education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update for the week.  If you are planning on going out into the Forest, we try to keep you updated on everything that is going on out there – and this Halloween week, that includes possibly ghosts, zombies, and goblins.
Now, if you were to hit a ghost with your car, you’d probably get a chill up your spine and perhaps a bit of ectoplasm in the radiator.  Hitting a deer is another story.  Fall and spring are really prime time for vehicle/deer accidents.  Deer are moving around a lot and blend in well with the brown fall grasses by the roadsides.  Plus, the shortening days have pushed sunrise and sunset into prime commute time, so there are deer on the roads right when traffic is heaviest.  Take a moment to really be aware when driving right now – we don’t need to create any more ghost deer to haunt our highways.
Due to the heavy rain and high winds, roads are not in the best shape.  Mainline roads in the Forest are fine, but lower maintenance level roads may still have fallen branches on them, and may be too soft to travel.  Traveling on soft roads could get you stuck, but even if you get away, you will leave ruts behind.  This time of year, those ruts will freeze before being filled, and we will contend with frozen ruts all winter long, so please stay off soft roads. 
There are still some roadwork taking place on the Grade, Forest Road 170.  That work is mostly gravel placement east of the Sawbill Trail, but there is also some gravel and culvert work being done west of the Sawbill.  Large side dump gravel trucks are frequently using the Sawbill Trail as part of this operation.  Elsewhere in the Forest, logging operations have slowed a bit with log trucks using the Caribou Trail, Evergreen, and Bigsby Road on the Tofte District, and the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cascade Bluffs Road, Greenwood Road, and the Blueberry Road on the Gunflint District.
All the Forest fee campgrounds have gone into winter mode.  During winter, you do not have to pay a fee to stay at our campgrounds, but there is no water.  In winter mode, there’s no garbage service at campgrounds, so be sure to pack lightly going in and pack it all out when you leave.  By the way, take it all the way home – local gas stations and other businesses with dumpsters do not appreciate receiving everyone’s camping trash.  We are also winterizing the Forest by removing docks from the water.  There are an awful lot of docks out there, so we don’t post a list of which lakes have had their docks removed and which may still have a dock.  All the docks should be removed in the next two weeks, so at this point, you should just assume that there will be no dock for your boat.
Non-migratory bats are going into hibernation this time of year.  As many of us know, hibernating bats have been struck by an invasive fungal disease called white nose syndrome.  Last spring, Soudan Mine, where many of our local bats hibernate, reported a population decrease of 90% from 2015 before the disease struck.  To put that in human terms, if a disease like that struck Cook County’s 5400 people, only 540 of us would be left.  It has moved little brown bats from one of the state’s most common animals to one that is under threat of being wiped out.  This is national Bat Week, and while there is little that we as individuals can do about the disease, we can help the surviving bats.  Reducing your use of pesticides will help bats as well as insect eating birds and of course pollinating insects themselves.  Putting up bat houses provides roosting opportunities during the summer months.  And, if you need to evict a bat which has strayed into your house, do it in a way that won’t hurt the bat.  Bats, like people, are long lived and slow to reproduce, so every individual counts when rebuilding the decimated population.  Take some time this Bat Week to think about these marvelous night flyers and do what you can to help them.
About those ghouls and goblins – be on the lookout for them next Thursday night, and drive safely.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update, and have a scary Halloween!


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - October 18

Superior National Forest Update - with Steve Robertsen, Interpretation and Education Specialist.
October 18, 2019


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - Oct 11

National Forest Update – October 10, 2019
Hi.  I’m Jake Todd, information assistant at the Tofte Ranger District, with our October 11th edition of the National Forest Update.  Right now, we are in fall changing to winter – this past week, there’s been days where you can wear shorts and days with frost and snow.  It’s a time when you have to take advantage of those nice days to get some fall projects done, and take advantage of those not-so-nice days to make bread and pumpkin soup.  We’re hoping that between the putting the boat away and getting the snowblower out, you’ll find some time to go explore the Forest – it’s beautiful out there.

Biking is becoming more popular all the time.  Superior National Forest is responding to this with some excellent single track mountain bike trails, maintained and developed in cooperation with the Superior Cycling Association.  What we have not had cooperation from is the weather.  Our rainy fall has softened the tread of these bike trails to the point that riding them will damage the trail and deep ruts may take extensive trail work to repair.  The Sawtooth Mountain Challenge bike race, planned for this weekend on the Pincushion Mountain trails, has been called off because of wet trail conditions.  The almost completed connector trails between Britton Peak and Lutsen Mountains are paused in their ‘almost completed’ state, and are not open for use also because of wet trail conditions.  Please respect these trails by not using them if you will cause rutting and erosion.  Use during these times will just delay the opening of the trail further.  If you’re looking for a good ride, there are plenty of gravel roads open to exploration by mountain bike, and we’ve seen several bikepackers out on the roadways this fall. 

One bikepacker we talked with had run out of water because they didn’t realize that the water had been shut off in several of our campgrounds.  Our website will give you up to the minute information on which campgrounds have had the water system put to bed for the winter, and which still have water available, so check before you leave on any outdoor adventure where you are counting on drinking water.  It’s probably a good idea to start bringing a filter pump with you as well, just in case you need it.  Currently, the water is off at McDougal, Divide, Little Isabella, and Baker Campground.

If you’re biking, or driving, you’ll notice that our roads are a bit crowded right now.  Not “I-35 going to Minneapolis on a Sunday” crowded, but for us, they’re busy.  It is still the peak of fall color, plus grouse season, and that means that there are people out in the woods.  The deer are also getting active as rut approaches, and there seem to be more of them crossing the roads every day. 

So, whether you are biking, driving, or walking, use some extra caution on the roads.
You’ll find truck traffic on some of the roads.  On the Tofte District, there’s hauling on the Dumbbell River Road, Trappers Lake Road, the east side of the Timber-Frear Loop, the 4 Mile Grade, Sawbill Trail, and Caribou Trail.  On the Gunflint District, you’ll find trucks using the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cascade Bluffs Road, Greenwood Road, and the Blueberry Road.

Despite all those words of warning, it is well worth getting out into the Forest.  Fall really is nature putting on a show with leaves and active wildlife.  Have a great week, and until next time, this has been Jake Todd with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - October 4

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, Interpretation and Education Specialist for the USDA Superior National Forest.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - September 27

Superior National Forest Update for September 27, 2019
with Steve Robertsen, Interpretation & Education Specialist
with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - September 20

Superior National Forest Update
September 20, 2019

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update.  It looks like maybe it won’t be raining this weekend, so it’ll be a good time to get outside.  When you do head out, here’s the update on all that’s out there.

We are hitting the peak of the fall color season, and that means that there will be some slow moving vehicles, parked vehicles, pedestrians, and photographers out on our Forest roads.  Patience and courtesy will see you through.  Allow cars to pass, and keep the roadway clear if you are driving slowly or stopping.  Please, shut your car doors when you stop so others can pass, and walk or stop to take photos on the side of the road, not the middle.  If you are on the passing end of things, wait for safe passing areas, as the road sides are a bit soft from all the rain. So just relax, and make sure to take the time to enjoy the fall.  The leaves are really spectacular right now, and well worth going out to see.

Driving around here means paying attention to wildlife as well.  Spring and fall around the equinoxes seem to be high points for deer/car collisions.  Animals are moving around a lot during those times of year, and their daily time of high activity coincides with the morning and evening commute for many people.  We’ve had a lot of fog as well, which decreases visibility.  Please slow down on foggy days, make sure your lights are on, and watch out for deer.

Hunters are watching for deer as well, but for a different reason.  The bow hunt is in full swing, and with grouse and small game seasons open as well, everyone out in the woods should be sporting some orange.  Hunters need to be aware that you are not allowed to discharge a firearm, or shoot an arrow, within 150 yards of roads, buildings, or developed recreation sites.  You also may not shoot across trails or roads, so hunters should always be very familiar with their hunting area so they can avoid doing that.  These are really basic common sense rules which safe hunters should follow even without regulations – so, stay safe, wear orange, and good luck!

This fall you make see smoke in the air.  The Forest Service is trying to accomplish pile burning around the Forest and mother-nature isn’t always cooperating.  These are hazardous fuels reduction projects.  If you have questions, call one of the Forest Service offices.

There is some logging activity and trail work being done out there.  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cascade Bluffs Road, Greenwood Road, Blueberry Road, and the Hall Road in Lutsen.  On the Tofte District, look for truck traffic on  the Dumbell River Road, Trappers Lake Road, Caribou Trail, and the road on the east side of the Timber-Frear area.   At the end of the Onion River road out of Tofte there is a construction crew camped out that is building 17 miles of fat tire bike trails between Britton Peak and Lutsen Mountains, so if you go up that road know that there is a crew camped out up there for a little while longer until the trail work is complete.  In the near future, the mountain bikers will have more great trails to explore.

We have two more weekends that our Forest Service front offices will be open to the public before we go back to Monday through Friday hours of operation.  Also, we are advertising our summer seasonal positions on for next summer.  So if you know of anyone looking for summer work experience, send them to  We will be hiring front desk staff, timber, recreation and wildlife positions across the Forest.  Positions will be open for applying to until September 30 so spread the word.  (FYI:  Search for duty locations of Tofte, Grand Marais, Ely, Aurora, or Cook) 

Lastly, there are a lot of fall chores you probably want to get after… window washing, cleaning the car and garage out, winterizing all sorts of things, and seeing if the snow blower runs – but this may be the weekend to set them aside for a while and go out to the woods and enjoy a gorgeous ride or take a hike on a trail.  You might want to throw in some fishing too.   Enjoy the forest, enjoy the day, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - September 13

National Forest Update – September 12, 2019

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update – information for people visiting the Forest, or just wondering what’s going on out there.

What’s going on is fall.  It varies a lot over the Forest.  While driving the 600 Road on Wednesday, I passed through areas where it was very close to peak colors, and areas where it still looked like July.  Climbing to a scenic viewpoint, I’d say that the Forest overall is around 25% of fall color, but you can see how there are bands of color here and there throughout the woods.  It’s a good time to go out and look because of the contrasts between areas, but then, I’m partial to fall and think it’s a good time to go out the entire season. 

I was headed out the road because I was going to visit the site of the town of Forest Center near Isabella Lake.  On September 11th and 12th in 2011, the Pagami Creek Fire tore through that area on its way toward a spectacular run resulting in over 90,000 acres burned.  Every year on the anniversary of that event, I’ve been taking photos of the regeneration at Forest Center.  It is always amazing to see how quickly the forest grows after a fire.  That area was a jack pine forest, a species of tree that is built to live with fire.  Jack pine cones are sealed shut and only open with heat.  They can survive intense heat – in lab settings, seeds still germinate after being roasted at 900 degrees.  Seeds can also mature after a fire has killed the parent tree, and can remain viable for 5 to 10 years after.  As a result, the area at Forest Center which was burned to the ground 8 years ago now looks like a Christmas tree forest.  It is covered with 6 to 8 foot tall jack pines and looks great.

With all our recent rain, fire isn’t much of problem right now.  In fact, fire crews would like a little drier weather so they can burn some piles created during thinning and fuel reduction operations.  If they do get a chance, be aware that there may be some smoke in the air from the pile burning.

Forest roads are in good shape.  Many of them have been recently graded, and the culvert work which had blocked the 600 Road is now complete.  I encountered some log trucks on my drive, and you may too.  Hauling on the Gunflint District is happening on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Greenwood Road, and the Hall Road in Lutsen.  In Tofte, trucks are on the Dumbbell River Road, the Trappers Lake Road, and the Caribou Trail. 

Of course the main thing you will encounter on the roads in the fall are people looking at fall.  We have signs out now marking some of the best fall color routes, so we encourage you to get out and enjoy the leaves.  As always, drive, park, and walk on roads putting safety first.  This is also the opening weekend for the fall bow deer hunt as well as the grouse, squirrel, and hare season.  Plus, there is bear hunting going on.  With all that going on, it means that hunters and non-hunters alike need to be wearing their orange.  We even have an orange vest for our dog.  Respect hunters and stay away from bear bait stations and tree stands.  We do have several sets of hunter walking trails in the Forest, and this time of year it is best to leave them to people who are hunting and find other trails if you are just interested in hiking.

Whether hunting, hiking, or just driving, I hope you take the time to get out in the Forest this week.  I’m reminded every time I go out in the fall that whether it is raining or not, fall is my favorite season, and it is always worth it to get out there. 

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


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - September 6

Superior National Forest Update
September 6, 2019
Steve Robertsen


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - August 23

National Forest Update – August 22, 2019

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist with the Superior National Forest.  It is already August 23rd, and time for the National Forest Update with information for people traveling, hiking, camping, or otherwise visiting the Superior National Forest.
Summer is winding to a close and thoughts of mini donuts and Pronto Pups at the Minnesota State Fair are replacing those of s’mores and campfires.  There is actually a lot of good outdoor time though before the snow flies.  This is one of the best times of year to get out in the woods as the biting insect numbers are decreasing and the trees are full of southward migrating birds.  There are even a few berries left to pick out there.  You’ll also see a lot of mushrooms right now.  Our sporadic rain has made conditions great for mushrooms and there are lots of them popping up.  The mushroom you see is just the tip of the iceberg.  It is the fruiting body of a much larger organism consisting of thin fungal strands weaving their way through the soil or fallen tree.  If you are interesting in harvesting wild mushrooms to eat, don’t do it unless you are, or are with, an expert.  Our woods is home to several kinds of mushrooms that will make you very sick.  Don’t end the summer with the trip to the ER.

If you get out to pick anything, a few bears may be picking out there with you.  In the past few forest updates, we’ve talked about bears a lot, so this time we are just going have a gentle reminder:  bears like your food and garbage; please keep them locked up when you are camping.  It’s not hard to do, and if we all do it, we won’t have any bear problems.

Some of our crew out in the woods had an experience from which we can all learn.  Let’s just say – you should remember to check your spare tire before you head out into the less visited parts of the Forest.  Don’t just check to see if it is there, check that you have a jack and lug nut wrench and that you know how to use them.  On a pickup truck and some SUVs, make sure you can actually lower the spare down from its position under the vehicle.  The mechanism that lowers the spare is generally very prone to rusting up.  While you are checking things, it’s a good time of year too to check the tread on the rest of your tires.  It doesn’t pay to head into fall and winter with bad tires, plus bad tires are that much easier to puncture.  Some newer cars don’t even come with a spare anymore; they just have spray can of ‘stop leak’.  This may work for a nail or screw in your tire, but the hole left by the three inch sharp rock you ran over isn’t going to go away with a spray can.  It’s not a bad idea to get a spare to throw in the back if you are headed off on lesser used roads, especially if you travel gravel roads often.  You might wait awhile until help comes along.
Before you head out, you should also know that Forest Road 166, known as The 600 Road, will be closed to through traffic at Two Island River, just east of the intersection with the Two Island River Road.  The closure will start today, Friday August 23rd, and it will last for approximately one week during culvert replacement.

Other than that, roads on the Tofte District are in good shape.  We’re between logging sales right now, so there isn’t any anticipated log hauling on Tofte this week.  Gunflint, however, will have trucks on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cook County 6, and Forest Road 1319.

Have some fun out there before Labor Day and the start of school!  Go fishing or boating, get in that last camping trip you have talked about all summer or take a hike and have a picnic.  This is it!  Older students are heading back to college next week and regular school starts soon, so get out there and do something fun with the family that you have been meaning to do all summer.  Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - August 9

National Forest Update – August 8, 2019

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist with the Superior National Forest.  This is the National Forest Update for the week of August 9, 2019.  It’s late summer:  fireweed and asters are blooming, blueberries are ripe, locusts are buzzing, and a few white crowned sparrows have begun singing as they work their way south.  It’s a wonderful time to get outside and go for a walk in the woods.

Our recent batch of cloudbursts has damped down the forest so that fire danger is low right now.  That’s giving our fire people a chance to do some fuel reduction work along the Gunflint Trail.  You may have noticed that there are piles along the Gunflint from the Brule River to the East Bearskin Road.  We are using contractors to clear out small diameter balsam fir in this area.  Small firs are what are called ladder fuels – trees that basically can carry a fire up to the tops of the big pines and start a crown fire.  We’re clearing them out along roadsides so that in the event of a fire, the road would remain usable for evacuation and fire fighting for a longer amount of time.  You can expect to see this activity along roads for the next three to five years.

Cloudbursts have also given us a chance to do some grading, so roads are mostly in good shape.  We aren’t aware of any washouts from the rain, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there are.  If you encounter any, please let us know so that we can get those areas repaired.  Culvert work is continuing on the Grade, but is currently not requiring long closures.  Expect only short delays if you are traveling in that area.  The wet weather has made working in the woods difficult, but logging operations are continuing in some areas.  Watch for logging traffic in Tofte on the Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Perent Lake Road, Lake County 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Cook County 27, and Cook County 8.  In the Gunflint District, hauling is going on on the Lima Grade, the South Brule Road, the Cascade River Road, the Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cook County 6, and on the Superior Hiking Trail southeast of Cook County 6.

We’ve been talking for a while now about Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday – and it has finally arrived!  On August 9th you can party with the bear, get a picture, and sign a birthday card.  Smokey’s look has changed through the years, but his message has remained the same… well, ok, it did change a little.  He used to say ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’ and now because we understand that some fire is necessary for good forest ecology, he says ‘Only you can prevent wild fires’.  Accidental human caused ignitions are not what we want on the forest, and Smokey has been right all these years… only you can prevent them by making sure your campfire is dead out, following regulations on burning brush, and teaching your children not to play with fire.  It’s sad to say, but in 2016, data showed that still 9 out of 10 wildfires were caused by humans, around 60,000 each year.  Only you can change those figures.

Smokey’s mischievous cousins are still misbehaving at some of our campgrounds.  Be sure to look for current bear alerts at the campground registration kiosks, or talk to the campground host about bear activity.  But, whether there is activity or not, keep a clean camp, store food in your vehicle, and dispose of garbage immediately in the proper container.  Bar dumpster lids after closing.  It is much easier to keep a bear from becoming a problem than to deal with a bear once it has become a problem. 
So, join us for Smokey’s birthday, or do what he probably would like to do and go for a hike in the beautiful summer weather, snacking on blueberries as you go. 

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