Forest Service provides update on Gunflint Trail, BWCA summer projects
Kevin Kramer
Outdoor News

Forest Service provides update on Gunflint Trail, BWCA summer projects

Visitors to Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) this spring or summer should be prepared to see U.S. Forest Service crews working on construction projects at various campground facilities, trails and a few well-known portages. 

The projects are part of a national overhaul to provide maintenance and infrastructure improvements to forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas across the United States. 

The four selected projects were approved under the umbrella of The Great American Outdoors Act, which was passed in August 2020. The bill aims to provide $1.9 billion a year for five years to the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. 

Superior National Forest Public Affairs Specialist Joanna Gilkeson told WTIP May 9 that the projects are moving forward as the snow and ice melt off area lakes and trails. 

Gilkeson said one of the projects is the replacement of the stairway on the Rose-Duncan stairway portage.

“Our staff will be removing the existing wooden staircase and actually installing a stone staircase, which is more in line with wilderness character,” she said. “ It’ll be more sustainable, long-lasting.”

The portage between Duncan and Rose is a well-known and often-traveled portage for visitors to the BWCA. The 80-rod portage consists of a wooden stairway originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Continual upkeep and maintenance throughout the years led to the decision to replace the wooden stairway with stone this summer. 

Gilkeson said that the crews are currently unable to start construction due to lingering snow and ice conditions. However, the crews hope to begin construction shortly. While the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t anticipate any full closures while construction is underway, Gilkeson suggested that people call ahead to the local district office just to check on conditions.

In addition to the Rose-Duncan stairway portage, Gilkeson highlighted other projects that will begin construction this spring or summer. The Forest Road 166 Cross River bridge repair and design are moving forward, as well as trail maintenance on 13 trails over 20 miles within the Superior National Forest. Twenty recreation facilities across Superior National Forest will receive facility upgrades. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Gilkeson about the Superior National Forest projects. The audio of their conversation is below.