Listen Now
Pledge Now


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.

What's On:

Superior National Forest Update - June 7

Superior National Forest Update – June 6, 2019
Hi, this is Renee Frahm.  Visitor information specialist on the Superior National Forest, and, very appropriately, this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  We are turning the corner into summer, leaves are growing, wildflowers are blooming, birds are singing, and people are out hiking, camping, fishing, and paddling.

For getting out into the Forest, I’m happy to say that the road system is finally drying out and road restrictions are being lifted a little at a time.  As a result, travel in the Forest should be a little easier than it has been, but also as a result, log hauling has begun in a few spots.  On the Gunflint District, there will be hauling on the Greenwood Road and Blueberry Road with harvest operations beginning off of Cascade River Road.  On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Trappers Lake Road and the Sawbill Landing area.  Despite the drying roads, we have still been unable to get into repair the washout on the Trout Lake access road, so that road is still closed to travel.

ATV trails are drying out as well.  This weekend is the annual ‘Ride Free’ weekend where the DNR waives the need for a recreational ATV registration, and is a great time for out of state riders to try the trails.  Be aware though that there are trails and sections of trails which are still closed.  Check the DNR website for trail closures, and follow posted closure notices.  When using an ATV in the national forest, be sure to have a copy of the latest Motor Vehicle Use Map.  It is the source of information on which roads are open for ATV use, with the map superseding all but temporary closure signage on the ground.  The easiest way to use the map is to download it onto your phone, and use a wayfinding app such as Avenza to track your way through the Forest.  Downloads are available on our website.

This weekend is “Take a kid fishing weekend”.   Together with the Minnesota DNR, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Forest Service there is a free event at the Mink lake Beach this Saturday, June 8th beginning at 9:00 a.m. and goes until noon.  If you are interested in teaching your 5-12 year old how to fish, call the Gunflint Ranger District and sign up.  The number is 387-1750.  They will provide lunch and water and do have some poles and life jackets available.  There are limited supplies, so if you do have your own fishing pole, bring it along. 

Last week, fire crews were able to successfully complete several prescribed fires.  Prescribed fire helps to reduce the chances of wildfire in an area by using up fuel, and also controls undergrowth – which means that the 800 acres burned in our prescribed fires this spring should be great for blueberries in the coming years.  As the forest dries, the crews are shifting to doing fuels reduction with saws in the East Bearskin and Brule River area.  You may hear sawing in that area, but we are working with contractors to minimize noise impacts.  Unfortunately, with the drying forest, the potential for wildfire increases.  This is somewhat offset by the leafing out of deciduous trees and the growth of plants on the forest floor, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the fire danger rating.  Both our district offices have big signs with Smokey Bear pointing to the fire danger rating.  You should always be careful with fire, but when the fire danger is above moderate, you should be extra careful.  It is Smokey’s 75th birthday this year, and I don’t think the bear wants to celebrate by having a wildfire.

Since it is his 75th, we are celebrating in other ways all year.  Stop by the Tofte or Gunflint ranger station and you can take a selfie with Smokey, pick up some coloring sheets for the kids, or even buy some Smokey items!  Remember, only you can prevent wild fires!

Until next time, enjoy the forest, catch a few fish, and watch a few birds.  This has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 31, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 31, 2019
Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  It is the start of June, and summer is upon us at last, so I think we should all be visitors to the Forest this week!

As you head out into the Forest, there are still a few lingering effects of spring.  While weight restrictions are being lifted from many roads, they are still in force on others.  The Lake and Cook County websites have up to date lists on which of the county roads are open to large trucks.  As the weight restrictions end, hauling for timber sales is beginning.  Watch for possible hauling in the Trapper’s Lake Road area and in the areas of the Greenwood, Firebox, and Blueberry Roads, as conditions allow.

“As conditions allow” is a phrase that applies to the prescribed burns happening on the Forest as well.  We’d love to be able to give people lots of advance notice and precise dates on prescribed fires, but it is more important to burn on days when the weather is just right – and nature just isn’t that predictable.  You can find out about planned prescribed fire by clicking on the “Prescribed Fire Information” link on our home page, then on the “Current Year’s Plans” link.  Notices on burns will be tweeted out and posted on our Facebook page as they happen.  Active fires, both prescribed burns and wildfires, can be followed on the national incident information site called InciWeb.  We have links to that as well, or just search for

InciWeb:  “I-N-C-I Web”.  If your travels in the Forest take you near a burn underway, please follow posted information and be extra careful about vehicles and people on the road.  Smoke may restrict sight, so drive carefully.  It is good to bypass these areas entirely if possible.

Birds are doing everything right now.  Some are migrating through, some are setting up nests, and some are feeding chicks.  Peregrine falcons nesting in the cliffs along the shore are in that last stage – feeding chicks.  These nests are pretty closely monitored both by people and by the peregrines themselves who will loudly call and even swoop down at people who get a bit too close.  Peregrines were gone from the North Shore due to DDT until the peregrine falcon reintroduction program in the 1980s brought them back.  It has been a very successful program, and you can now often see these amazing birds as you travel on Hwy 61.  Diving at speeds which have been clocked at over 224 miles per hour, they are the fastest animal around.  We watched a peregrine take a gull over the lake once, and it is pretty incredible to see them in action.  I’m not sure the gull agreed.

Wilderness rangers have begun summer patrols through the Boundary Waters.  They will be working to clear and maintain portages, take care of campsites, and help people traveling in the wilderness.  They also get to pick up litter, which, they are happy to report, has been decreasing over the years.  You can help on this one by following the simple rule of ‘Pack it in, pack it out’ during your wilderness travels – or for that matter, your travels anywhere.  Remember, don’t burn trash in campfires, and don’t dispose of trash in latrine pits.  Just pack it all out.  On a less happy note, the wilderness rangers also report the return of the black flies.  It’s getting to be time to find the head net again.

It should be a lovely early summer week this week, so ignore the black flies and take advantage of it by heading out into the woods. 

Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update - May 24, 2019

National Forest Update – May 23, 2019

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist on the Superior National Forest.  It seems like spring has taken a long time coming to the Forest this year, and it may be risky to say so…but I think maybe we can finally take the snow brushes and ice scrapers out of our cars and put away the winter coats.

We have been gearing up towards summer at least.  All our fee campgrounds are now in fee status, which means that the water systems have been turned on and that there is garbage and recycling available.  Remember that dumpsters at campgrounds are only for campers and day users…and not for household garbage.  Also remember that they are not supposed to be feeding stations for bears, so when you are camping, make sure to put all your garbage in the dumpster and then secure the bars across the lid to keep the animals out.  It is particularly important to follow good bear etiquette in the spring because if a bear learns that a dumpster is food supply early on, it may become a pest the entire summer.

The same holds true for your bird feeders at home.  Feeding birds, especially during migration, is both fun and good for the birds.  Feeding bird seed to bears is a different story, so bring the feeders in at night – even if it is raining.  Speaking of birds, we are in our spring peak of bird diversity.  Most of our resident birds have arrived, and we still have some of those that will be moving farther north.  Hummingbirds are back, and it is always amazing to think of those little guys winging their way all the way from the Gulf Coast to our back yards in northern Minnesota.

Birds are lucky because at least they don’t have to travel on the back roads this spring.  Roads are still pretty soft in many areas.  There is a washout on the road to the Trout Lake public water access that has blocked the way to the access.  We are waiting for the road to firm up enough for heavy equipment before we can get in to fix that washout.  Spring weight restrictions are still in place on Forest Service Roads, but will be coming off soon as roads dry out and frost leaves the ground.  That means that right now, there’s no log hauling, but it could start in the next week.  When it does start, look for trucks on the Lima Grade, Greenwood Road, and Blueberry Road on the Gunflint District and on the Trapper’s Lake Road on the Tofte District.

This holiday weekend though, look out for bikes.  It is the weekend of  Le Grand du Nord, a set of gravel road bike races taking place in the Forest out of Grand Marais.  Part of the race is reading the route from cue cards, so we can’t tell you exactly where you’ll find bikers, so be aware they could be anywhere in the area on Saturday.  Of course, there could be bikers around any day, so we should be driving expecting to see bikers all the time.

Our fire shop has been conducting prescription burns as weather permits.  They report that all of their wildlife opening burns are done for the season. The clearings maintained by these burns will benefit animals which eat vegetation close to the ground, like moose and snowshoe hare.  Helping hares will also help lynx who prey on the hare, though the hares would probably rather skip that step.  The burns also benefit smaller critters, like Nabokov’s blue butterfly, a rare species on the Forest.  Prescription burns are also designed with the aim of reducing the amount of fuel in the forest and so reducing the impact of wildfires, and to prepare harvested sites for reforestation.  Since conducting prescribed burns is weather dependent, I can’t tell you precise dates, so if you are interested in when and where these are taking place, check our website for alerts about prescribed fire.

In spite of the recent rainy and snowy days, the lack of mosquitoes, the abundance of birds and wildflowers, and things like the songs of spring peepers in your ponds make this a favorite time to get outside.  It is time to find the paddles and life jackets, and, we hope, put the snowblower and snow shovel back in the shed.  Take the time to enjoy this long drawn out spring.  Here’s to hoping summer will get here sooner than later!  I hope you have some extra time with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend and that you can get out doors and do something fun!  There will be lots of people around, so be safe when you are out and about driving the back roads.

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


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 10, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 9, 2019.
Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist on the Superior National Forest.  After a pretty depressing May snowfall, it looks like things are finally starting to turn away from winter and toward summer.

Trails and roads are still in somewhat lousy, but typical, spring condition, much as they have been for the last several weeks.  Expect soft shoulders along most of the roads, as well as soft spots in the road and possible washouts on the less frequently traveled roads.  There is still a big drift of snow across the Four Mile Grade, so while there is access from both ends, you can’t get through on that road.  Wet soil can also loosen trees, so there are occasional deadfalls across the road, even without high winds.  More frequently on the road though are deer.  Deer love the green grass along the roadsides, and seem to be very abundant this spring.  Friends counted 50 deer by the road when driving from Grand Marais to Silver Bay one night last week.  In the Forest, you may also find moose on the road.  Moose are smart animals, and given the choice between walking on a nice clear road or through brush and old snow in the woods they’ll usually choose the road.  We’ve heard a lot of reports of moose this spring, so keep your eyes peeled for moose, deer, or any other animals on the roadway.

Spring migration of birds is in full force right now.  International Migratory Bird Day is this Saturday, May 11th.  You can celebrate by feeding these hungry migrants.  Be sure to clean your feeders frequently this time of year.  Wet bird seed can go bad and transmit diseases to birds, so keep it dry and empty the wet seed out of your feeders frequently.  Hummingbirds are very close to us now as well.  They usually appear up here around Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday.  I don’t see a lot of flowers blooming, so they are really going to need your help by filling and maintaining your hummingbird feeders.  Be sure to clean these as well and keep them stocked with fresh sugar water.  And, to avoid feeding the bears, take all your feeders in at night and store them in a safe place.

Many of our lakes are open, and we’ve put the docks in at almost all of the Forest Service boat landings.  Some of the lakes are still iced over, but the rest are out in the water.  By the time you hear this broadcast, maybe the other lakes will be open too.  Saturday is fishing opener, so we are hoping for liquid water at all our favorite fishing spots.

Campground water systems though are pretty sensitive to freezing.  We still don’t have the water on at our fee campgrounds, so for now, they are still free campgrounds.  Be aware though that also means they have not been plowed out, and some are still not accessible by car.  You would also be wise to pack along your own toilet paper, just in case.  Garbage is not being picked up either, so you’ll have to follow the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ rule and bring your garbage out of the campground to an appropriate disposal site.

One sign of spring is that hundreds of seedling trees have been delivered to our tree coolers in Tofte, Grand Marais, and Isabella.  Over the next several weeks, contract crews will be planting these trees and creating the forest of the future.  It is always fun on tree delivery day to realize that the brown bag of white pine seedlings you are unloading might become a grove of giant white pines to picnic under, or the site of a bald eagle nest, or in a hundred years or so, it may become the rafters of someone’s home.

May 18th is the date of the running of the Superior Spring Trail Race, which uses the Superior Hiking Trail as their course.  Runners will be leaving from Caribou Highlands Lodge at 7 am that day, and you can expect to encounter runners on the Hiking Trail in that area throughout the day.  For more information and maps, visit the Superior Spring Trail Race’s website.

It looks like we are in for some nice weather, so whether you are running in the woods, listening to spring peepers, or doing some early season camping, it’s going to be a good week to get out and enjoy the Forest.  Maybe you’ll even take your Mom fishing on Saturday or on a picnic on Sunday.  Good luck fishing and I hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day. 

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



Superior National Forest Update - May 3, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 2, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, with the first National Forest Update of May!  We have to take our signs of spring where we find them, because with the recent snowfall, it’s not very spring-y out there.

We’ll deal with that depressing winter stuff first.  As you can imagine, the recent snow, rain, and infamous ‘wintry mix’ has not been kind to our road system.  For the past several editions of this radio spot, we’ve been highlighting soft roads, frost boils, bad shoulders, and icy patches.  All that still applies.  It is not great driving out there.  The driving during our Monday mini-blizzard was some of the worst of the entire season, and while it is better than that now, you still should be extra cautious when driving in the Forest, particularly if you are on roads where you don’t expect other vehicles which could help in an emergency.  Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.  Weight limits are still in place, so the one thing you don’t have to deal with are large trucks.

Trails are also in poor condition.  ATV use on state grant-in-aid trails is not allowed during this mud season with good reason.  An ATV can severely damage a trail when the ground is this soft and ruin the riding for everyone else for the rest of the summer.  Please respect restrictions, and also follow your own common sense – just because a trail is officially ‘open’ doesn’t mean it is actually ridable.  Hikers can also damage trails – the Leave No Trace recommendation is that if you come to a wet part of the trail, hike through it.  Skirting the puddles will simply widen the trail, leading to more erosion problems later.

As the snow has left the roadsides, a winter’s worth of litter has appeared.  We’d like to take the time to thank volunteer groups and just individual people who have taken the time to pick up the trash they see.  Overall, the vast majority of people up here in northern Minnesota don’t litter, and if you travel the US, you’ll notice that the Superior is a very clean place.  Thanks for keeping it that way!

We do have a couple of signs of summer coming.  On May 1st, we entered what we call the quota season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  That means that overnight campers in the wilderness will need to have a permit issued to them though one of our offices or at a cooperating business.  There have been a few changes this year, so it is worthwhile to visit our webpage and the reservation system for more information.  One change has been to the Leave No Trace video, which is required watching for permit holders.  It has been broken into three shorter segments, the first two of which you watch at home before picking up the permit.  This means you can get useful information on planning and preparing for a trip ahead of the day you enter the wilderness…and that you will spend less time in the office when you are actually picking up the permit.  Our new videos came out at the same time as a certain superhero movie, and for a while at least, we were in close competition for box office numbers.  Maybe if we’d only introduced the character ‘Kevlar-tron’ in our videos…

Starting with May 1st and running through the quota season, our offices are now open seven days a week from 8:00 to 4:30, and are staffed by our own superheroic front desk people.  Not only can they help you with Boundary Waters permits, but they can help with everything else you may want to do on the Forest from hiking to gravel permits, all while simultaneously selling Smokey’s 75th birthday items and operating the video player.  Now that’s a superpower for you!
In the fire shop, there are a few prescription burns planned, mostly to maintain wildlife openings.  Current weather conditions are not good for burning, but you can expect those burns to happen if we get a few good days.  Check our webpage for announcements of burns, and follow posted traffic signs if you end up driving near a burn in progress.

Until next week, we will hope for better weather and the return of spring to the Superior.  This has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update - April 19, 2019

National Forest Update – April 18, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist, with the National Forest Update, letting you know what’s up in the woods in late April.

Mud season continues, but while there is still ample snow on the ground, spring has really turned a corner.  Why do we say this?  It is because migrating birds are suddenly returning in abundance.  Yellow-rumped warblers, grackles, tree sparrows, hermit thrushes, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, red-winged blackbirds – they’ve all returned in the past two weeks.  Many of them showed up just after our recent winter storm, riding the coattails of the storm in the form of southerly winds on the back side of the low pressure system.  These early spring birds are those that rely partially on insects for food, but also can survive without insects.  Later arrivals may be more reliant on insects and need a steadier bug supply than is available in April in Minnesota.  Migration is hard on a bird, and you can help them refuel after their trip from the tropics by putting out bird feeders.  Remember though, that birds aren’t the only ones showing up this time of year.  Bears are waking from their winter hibernation, and are also looking for food.  It may be time to feed the birds, but it is also time to start taking in feeders at night, and making sure your bird seed is stored in a bear proof place such as a garage.  The first bears to venture out are the males.  Females with cubs are the last to leave their dens, protecting the cubs from the wide world for as long as possible.

When people hear the word ‘hibernate’, they usually tend to think ‘bears’ or ‘chipmunks’ or ‘woodchucks’.  Not as many think ‘butterflies’, but if you go outside right now, you’ll see a lot of butterflies that spent the winter hibernating in the forest.  The anglewing butterflies, a group that includes the dark colored ‘mourning cloak’ and the orange and black ‘comma’ and ‘question mark’ butterflies, overwinter as adults tucked under bark or in crevices.  They have to survive subzero temperatures, winter storms, and hungry woodpeckers in order to emerge as our first flying butterflies of spring.  Anglewings get their name from the ragged look to their wing edges, which may help camouflage the hibernating insects.  This time of year, they might also have truly ragged edges as well due to the harsh winter.  You’ll find these butterflies grouped at mud puddles in a behavior called, not surprisingly, ‘puddling’.  They are finding both water and nutrients at the puddle, as well as basking in the sun.

Many of those puddles are in the road, which isn’t good for the butterflies.  If you are driving and see them, and it is safe to do so, slow down and let them fly off.  Hitting a butterfly isn’t going to send you to the body shop like hitting a deer, but from the butterfly’s perspective, it is pretty much a disaster.

Going slow is a good idea this time of year anyway.  Not only are there plenty of deer along the roads, but in the Forest, our roads are soggy and soft.  Main roadways are in good shape and mostly free from snow and ice, but side roads still have surprising ice or snow patches in shady areas, and almost all the roads have soft shoulders.  If you do need to pull off the road, proceed with caution.  A shoulder that looks nice and flat and firm may be mud that will give way under the load of your vehicle.  Roads are soft enough that there is no log hauling being done right now and there are weight restrictions in place in both Lake and Cook counties.

While it is wet out there now, spring fire season is coming up soon.  The period between snow melt and spring green up can be a dangerous one for fires.  Dry grasses and leafless brush are excellent fuels, and it doesn’t take much for a fire to get going.  Right now is a good time to do some Fire Wise pruning and clean-up around your house to help protect it in case of a wildfire.  Burning permits are required, so if your clean-up involves burning, pick up a permit and keep an eye on conditions and the fire when you burn.  Make sure all fires are dead out and soaked with water when you are done.  Don’t rely on a fire to ‘burn itself out’, always put it out and leave it cold.
Between spring rain and snow showers, there are some gorgeous sunny days this time of year, so watch the roads but do get out to welcome back the birds and butterflies and join them in enjoying some of the warmth of spring. 

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



Superior National Forest Update - April 5, 2019

National Forest Update – April 4, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, Forest Service interpretation and education specialist with this week’s National Forest Update – a collection of things you may want to know before you head out.

One thing you probably already know is that it is our favorite season of the year:  mud season.  Not enough snow to ski, too much to go hiking, too much bare ground for snowmobiles, too wet for four wheelers.  And just to make it more aggravating, there’s warm weather and bright sun that really make you want to be outside – it’s just hard to figure out what to do once you are out there.  On the plus side, this means that this is the season when a lot of garages get cleaned out, cars get vacuumed, and yards get picked up because at least you can be outside doing those things!

If you do venture out into the Forest, be careful on the roads.  The spring melt has softened roadways, and shoulders in particular can be dangerously soggy.  Our engineer was describing one not uncommon situation where a culvert can be exposed and then worn through, creating a large pit in the road.  We try to repair roads as fast as we can, but in some situations repair is impossible until things become drier.  Be on the lookout for flags or cones that make bad spots in the road, and report any new ones that you find along the way. 

Roads also change considerably from morning to afternoon.  What seems to be a good solid road in the sub-freezing morning may thaw by afternoon into the consistency of chocolate pudding.  When driving in the morning, evaluate the roads along the way to make sure they will be drivable when you plan to leave.  When parking your vehicle on a roadside in the morning, beware of shoulders that may collapse under your truck when they thaw in the afternoon.  Lastly, there is often ice on roads in the morning and in shaded spots throughout the day.  In many ways, spring driving can be more treacherous than winter driving because the hazards are harder to spot.

The rewards of getting out this time of year make the effort worth it.  Chickadees are singing their ‘dee-dee’ song, calling for mates and setting up territories.  I heard my first red-wing blackbird of the year this week, and to me, that ‘konk-er-ee’ song is the real sound of spring’s arrival.  The male red-wings appear weeks before the females and are claiming territories in cattail marshes, setting up housekeeping in hopes of having one or more females move in.  The males do a lot of displaying, doing a sort of fluttering song flight where they try to fly while in a hunched over position that best shows off their bright red wing patches.  Away from the marshes, birds just migrating through still can’t help themselves from singing, even if they aren’t really trying to set up a territory there.

Other animals are moving around too.  If you’ve driven anywhere at all over the last few weeks, you’ll know that deer are everywhere.  They haunt the roadsides this time of year as the snow melts there quickly and grass and other plants start to green up.  Wolves, coyotes, and other scavengers are on the roads too as a winter’s worth of roadkill thaws out and is exposed for dinner. 

On August 9th this year, Smokey Bear will be 75 years old!  All this year, we will be celebrating our favorite fire prevention bear and telling you some bear tales.  A good bear tale right now is a reminder that it is time to start bringing bird feeders in at night, shutting your garage doors, and otherwise getting ready for bears to be waking up.  Smokey will be waking as well, getting ready for the spring fire season, and we will be keeping you up to date on that as the spring progresses.

Meanwhile, if you can avoid the mud, get out and enjoy springtime in the woods!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update - March 22, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – March 20, 2019.

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist with the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update, information for you if you’re headed out the road and into the woods. 

Snow is melting, and it is now officially spring!  The spring equinox was this past Wednesday, so according the stars, it is now springtime despite the feet of snow still on the ground.  It is spring according to the animals as well.  There have been lots of eagles moving northward through Hawk Ridge in Duluth, and we’ve been seeing more gulls up the shore as well.  Chipmunks have reappeared above the snow, and you may see red squirrels in love chasing each other through the trees.  It’s actually the only time red squirrels tolerate each other at all – they are generally loners, and only get together to mate in March.  Red squirrels are pretty much absent caretakers – the male will return to his territory, and the female will be left to do all the child rearing.  By midsummer, young squirrels will be kicked out by mom as well, and have to carve out their own individual territories.

It is a great time of year for ice fishing for trout.  Most lakes still have plenty of ice on them, and the slush has melted and refrozen making travel easier.  Your ice house should be off the lake now, but it is nice and warm out for sitting on a bucket waiting for fish to come.  Our snowy winter means that despite the warm temperatures, it is still pretty good for snowmobiling and skiing too.  Visit our website for links to trail conditions, things can change rapidly in the spring.  Also, when you are out, watch for bare patches on south facing slopes.  People are injured skiing every year when they come to an abrupt halt at the bottom of a hill when the snow turns to dirt.

Driving out in the woods is starting to get trickier.  Spring weight restrictions are now in force in both Lake and Cook Counties, which means that the roads are getting soft.  It means there won’t be big logging trucks out and about during the day, though in some places, they could be active at night when the roads freeze again.  The soft roads will affect your vehicle too, even if it isn’t a big truck.  Be on the lookout for wash outs and frost boils where melt water erodes the road from the bottom creating almost a quicksand area.  Be equally on the lookout for icy patches on north slopes and shady spots that can send your car spinning.  And lastly, always be on the lookout for deer and other wildlife.  If you are lucky, you’ll even have a moose licking salt off your car.  They are very active this time of year, and often favor roads as travel routes.  All this makes for a season when it is easy to find yourself stuck somewhere out in the Forest.  Plan for it, and bring emergency supplies.  While it may be warm, it still gets cold at night, so make sure you always bring winter gear along, even if you may not need it.

Although the snow is melting, you still need a permit to plow unplowed Forest Service roads.  Please stop by the office and tell us of your plowing plans before your truck hits the road. 

Spring can be a great combination of winter activities with warm weather, so be sure to take advantage of these few spring days before all the snow is gone for good. 

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



Superior National Forest Update - March 8, 2019

National Forest Update – March 7, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update, information for you if you’re headed out the road and into the woods.
With eight foot piles of snow by the curb, it may seem strange to start planning for canoe trips, but if you’ve got a date and lake in mind, now’s the time to reserve an entry permit for the Boundary Waters this summer.  The online reservation system is up and running for permit reservations.  We are asked sometimes why there is a permit system and limited numbers of permits available.  The answer is that we have around a quarter of a million visitors to the Wilderness every year, and the permit system helps to spread those visitors through time and space.  That is key to giving people the best Wilderness experience possible, as well as limiting the stress on the resource itself.  Imagine if all 200,000 people decided to go in on the same lake over the same weekend…it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.  The online reservation system allows you to see in real time the number of permits available at entry points.  We recommend you plan ahead by having several back up dates and entry points for your trip, just in case your first choice has no available permits.  Be open to exploring new places in the BW, and consider boldly going where you haven’t been before.

While thoughts of summer and canoeing are great, the reality is that it is still winter here.  Rather than sit around the house grumbling about it, get outside and take advantage of what has turned out to be one of the best snow seasons we’ve seen in a while.  Ski trails are in excellent shape, and we now have digital georeferenced pdf maps available for Pincushion, Bally Creek, Sugarbush, and Flathorn Gegoka Ski Areas.  These downloadable maps with a geolocating app will put you right on the map on your phone, so you’ll never be lost… until your battery wears out.  A word of caution – always bring a paper map as well; a GPS of any sort should never be your primary source of navigation.  The Minnesota DNR has similar geoPDFs of the trails in all the area state parks, so you can ski for miles!  The DNR site also includes snowmobile trails, so if skiing isn’t your way to get outside, jump on a sled and take off.

Unplowed roads in the Forest can be used by snowmobiles during the winter.  Plowed roads, on the other hand, are not open to snowmobiles, except for certain designated dual use roads.  If you are considering plowing a road, you need to stop by a Forest Service office for a permit.  Restrictions on motorized vehicle use on the Forest are shown on our Motor Vehicle Use Maps, which are also available as georeferenced pdfs on our website, or as hard copies at our offices.

While you are out in the woods, keep an eye on our resident birds such as ravens, owls, and eagles.  These non-migratory species start setting up housekeeping early.  Owls may be on eggs already, and people are observing eagle flights where they lock talons and spiral downwards.  That may look like fighting, but it is actually love and the re-establishment of pair bonds.  The deep snow has forced many animals to use roads for travel, which has created some great opportunities for critter watching.  In the past few weeks, we’ve had reports of people seeing bobcat, coyotes, wolves, marten, lynx, snowshoe hare, and of course, hundreds of deer.  Seeing the animals is great, unless you are going 55 miles per hour and the animal is five feet in front of your car.  Be careful driving, and remember that if you see a deer in the road, it probably has four friends just off the side waiting to run out in front of you. 

As usual, there are also some logging vehicles to watch for as well.  This time of year, be very cautious if you pull off the road.  Ditches are full of snow, and may be plowed level with the roadway.  What appears to be a nice level shoulder may be a pit filled with snow.  You may need to back up to find a safe spot to pull off and let the truck go by.

Trucks will be using the Wanless Road, Lake County 7, Lake County 8, and Cook County 1.  They will also be on the Greenwood Road and Pike Lake Road.  Be especially careful on the Firebox Road and Blueberry Road where the trucks share the road with snowmobiles on the Grand Portage –Gunflint Snowmobile Trail. 

So, while you may be wishing for sun and warm temperatures and green grass, take advantage of our snowy winter while you can.  Honest, spring will come, and sulking in the house won’t speed its arrival. 

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


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 8, 2019

National Forest Update – February 7, 2019.
Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest, bringing you the first National Forest Update of 2019! 

It may seem strange that this is the first Update of the year, but this has been a somewhat strange year so far for us government agencies.  We’d like to start this Update with a big thank you to all of our partners who kept trails groomed and open during the recent government shutdown.  We’d also like to thank the public.  There have been stories of vandalism and other problems at other Forests and Parks, but not here.  People did a great job of leaving no trace, and they made our jobs a whole lot easier when we returned to work.  Also, thank you for your patience in realizing that being furloughed for a month can’t help but result in delays on some actions.  We’re making up for lost time as fast as we can.

February is really the heart of winter.  This is the best time to get out and play in the snow.  Snowshoeing, skiing, fat-tire biking, sledding, mushing, snowmobiling, skijoring, ice fishing, or just driving around looking at snow on trees – this is the time to do it.  We’ve been getting lots of snow, so trails for snow sports are in great shape.  In fact, the only problem may be that you’ll have to wait for the trail to be groomed because of more snow.  Links to sites with condition reports can be found from the recreation pages of our website so you can get up to the minute news on conditions.  New to our website this year will be georeferenced pdf trail maps.  These are digital maps that can be downloaded to your phone or mobile device and are designed to be used with wayfinding apps such as Avenza.  Once downloaded, you don’t need a cell or internet connection, and your phone will put a dot on the map showing exactly where you are on the trail.  Right now, only the Flathorn Gegoka Ski Trails have a georeferenced pdf available, but we are working on adding them for the rest of our ski trail systems.  You can also get georeferenced pdf versions of our Motor Vehicle Use Maps on our website, and a georeferenced version of the Visitor Map showing roads in the entire Forest is available for purchase through the Avenza map store.  Of course, printable simplified maps of Gunflint and Tofte ski and snowmobile trails are available on our website, with links to locations with more detailed maps.

All the snow may make driving difficult though.  After a snow event, roads in the Forest are cleared by several different groups.  County and state roads are cleared by the county and state, but plowing on some interior small county roads may lag considerably behind plowing on major county roads outside of the Forest.  Many Forest roads are not plowed in winter.  Those that are plowed are plowed by contractors, and often by businesses involved in timber sales taking place along those roads.  Response time is widely variable, depending on the level of activity on those timber sales.  If you are out driving, be sure to be prepared with winter survival gear for you, and a shovel and traction material for your vehicle.  When you are out on the roads, be watchful for log trucks hauling on the Wanless Road, Lake County 7, and the Greenwood Road.  Be especially careful on Firebox Road, which is a dual-use road with snowmobiles. 

Do get out though.  We live in a place with a great winter, and everyone should take the time to enjoy it. 

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