The Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota covers a huge proportion of Itasca County. You will find hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and very little private land. The forest itself consists of 1.6 million acres, and hosts the largest population of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states. During your stay, you may see osprey, eagles, pileated woodpeckers, hawks, red foxes and of course lovely white tail deer.
The Superior National Forest is headquartered in Duluth, approximately 150 miles north of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. However, the forest service office at Ely is the most centrally located station within the forest; Ely is about 240 miles from the Twin Cities and 110 miles from Duluth.
The area is part of the greater Boundary Waters Minnesota Canoe Area Wilderness region along the border of Minnesota and the Canadian province of Ontario.
The Superior National Forest includes more than 3,900,000 acres of woods and waters. Most of the forest is multiple-use, and includes both logging and recreational activities such as camping, boating, and fishing.
Slightly over a quarter of the forest however is set aside as a wilderness reserve where canoers can travel along interconnected lakes and rivers and over historic portages once used by Native Americans and European explorers and traders. The forest contains both true boreal forest (taiga), and a mixed conifer-hardwood forest known as the North Woods, a transition province between the northern boreal forest and deciduous forests to the south. Conifers include several varieties of pine, fir, and spruce trees, principal deciduous species are mountain ash, maple, aspen, oak, and paper birch are also common.
The waters contain fish species such as walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
Wildlife species include: white-tailed deer, moose, Canadian Lynx, American black bear, and the gray or timber wolf.
The Superior forest includes: 163 nesting species of birds, the largest number of any national forest. Species include the Bald Eagle and other raptors, the common loon, and northern waterfowl.
Some of our favorite reading is the writing of Helen Hoover who chronicles her and her husband's sixteen years in a small cabin in the Northern Minnesota wilderness. With fine pen and ink illustrations by Ade Hoover, her books are a modern day "Walden" as Helen and Ade cope with the ways of the wilderness with a life that affords none of the comforts of modern living. Our favorite Helen Hoover book is Place in the Woods
Voyageurs National Park another treasure among Minnesota national parks and forests, is a place to explore by houseboat, motorboat, canoe or kayak. Park your car and take to the water to fully experience the lakes, islands and shoreline of this park.
How to get there:
By car: Voyageurs National Park is approximately 5 hours north of Minneapolis-St. Paul on I-35 and Hwy 53, 3 hours north of Duluth on Hwy 53, and 4 hours south from Winnipeg, Manitoba. You cannot drive directly into the park.
By boat: You may also enter the park by water. There are public launch ramps at the park visitor centers on Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, and at the Ash River Visitor Center. Many resorts also offer boat access into the park.
No bus lines or passenger trains serve the Voyageurs National Park area.
Download an overview: map of Voyageurs National Park.
Pipestone National Monument was established by Congress in 1937 to protect the historic pipestone quarries. Only hand tools are used to quarry the stone at Pipestone which is found about 12-17 feet below the ground, between layers of quartzite rock.
The site is considered sacred by many tribes of American Indians who continue to quarry pipestone which they carve into sacred pipes.
The Upper Midwest Indian Cultural Center is located inside the visitor center. During the summer months local American Indians demonstrate pipe making using personal experience and sharing traditions that they were taught by their elders.