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The Te n B e s t P l a c e s
of the North Shore:

A Visitor’s Guide to North Shor e


Scientific and Natural Areas
Contributors: Peggy Booth, Jan Green, Andrew Slade,
Molly Thompson, and Steve Wilson

P R O D U C E D B Y S U G A R L OA F : T H E N O R T H S H O R E S T E WA R D S H I P A S S O C I AT I O N ,
W I T H S U P P O R T F R O M T H E S C I E N T I F I C A N D N AT U R A L A R E A P R O G R A M O F T H E
M I N N E S O TA D E PA R T M E N T O F N AT U R A L R E S O U R C E S .

T H I S P R O J E C T WA S F U N D E D I N PA R T B Y T H E C OA S TA L Z O N E M A N A G E M E N T A C T ,
B Y N OA A ’ S O F F I C E O F O C E A N A N D C OA S TA L R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T , I N
C O O P E R AT I O N W I T H M I N N E S O TA ’ S L A K E S U P E R I O R C OA S TA L P R O G R A M .
In 19 68 , the Sta te of Mi nnes ot a began to establish a system of public nature
preserves that protect the rarest and most significant of Minnesota’s natural features, including
plant and animal species, native plant communities and important geological sites. These places
are called Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs), the most protective land designation in the state.
They are proposed, designated and managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources with advice from the public through a citizens advisory committee. The SNA
program’s goal is to ensure that no single rare feature is lost from any region of the state. The
SNA program currently includes over 140 natural areas statewide

The ten SNAs listed in this guide are open to public use, with some exceptions. You are
encouraged to enjoy these sites, to share them with others and to protect their special values.
However, these are sensitive areas that could be damaged if misused or overused. Therefore,
activities such as hunting, snowmobiling, bike-riding, horseback-riding, visiting with a dog,
camping and collecting rocks are generally prohibited. Exceptions to these rules are listed in the
Additional Information sections

The SNAs in this guide are listed from south to north. Some may require a significant hike or a drive
on rough roads. Site development varies widely and public conveniences are the exception. Some
of the best features are found off the hiking trails and some of these sites have no trails at all. If
you’re comfortable using a GPS unit or map and compass, you can get into these off-trail locations.

SNAs are an important resource. Enjoy your visit and plan to see them all! For more information
about other SNAs in Minnesota visit the Minnesota DNR SNA web site at
ww w. d n r . s ta t e. m n . u s / ec ol o gi c a l_ s e r v ic es /s n a / in d ex . ht m l .

When a permit is required to visit a site, apply for written permission through the Minnesota DNR
SNA program (651) 259-5088.

■ Heml oc k Ravi ne SNA


Directions to parki ng area: From Carlton, take Hwy 210
east through Jay Cooke SP 1.6 miles east of Visitor Center.
Turn north on Co Rd 151 (Jay Cooke Road), then travel
0.6 miles to a parking area on east (right) side of the road.

The Willard Munger State Trail runs along the southeast


border of this site, and the eastern side of the site is
accessible from this trail.

Faci li tie s: None

Re c omme nded ac ti v it ie s: Flower and bird walks in the


Northern Hardwood Forest
Sig nature Spec i es: Eastern hemlock

Desc ript io n: Hemlock Ravine SNA contains northern hardwoods, such as basswood and maple, and the very rare
eastern hemlock. This is the extreme western range of the eastern hemlock. More than 25 percent of the state’s
eastern hemlock trees occur on this 50-acre site, in the deep ravine that bisects the site. However, you might not
see any hemlocks on a casual visit. The steep ravine has highly erodible slopes that are subject to disturbance by
visitors. Therefore the ravine itself is designated a sanctuary and may only be visited with a DNR permit.
Visit in the spring, wander around the level areas off of the Munger Trail or Co.Rd. 151. View blooming trillium,
hepatica, bloodroot, and Dutchman’s breeches.

Best ti me to vi si t: Spring (wildflowers)

■ Mi nn eso t a Poi nt Pin e F ores t SNA


Dire ct i ons t o parki ng are a: Located in Duluth. From I-35
exit 256 take Lake Ave across aerial lift bridge four miles
to Sky Harbor Airport. Park at the airport entrance and
follow the trail next to the runway 3/4 mile to the site.

Fac i li tie s: None

Recommended activities: Hiking, flower and bird walks.

Si gn ature Sp ec ie s: Old growth red and white pine; rare


ferns; beach grass, warblers; shorebirds

Desc ript io n: Wind off Lake Superior whispers though this 18 acre old-growth pine forest at the southeastern tip
of Minnesota Point – the only pine forest on Lake Superior sand dunes in Minnesota. Red and white pines
dominate this site with some paper birch. Poison ivy is abundant as well. A special feature on Minnesota Point is
the rare ferns of the genus Botrychium . This pine forest is found on one of the longest freshwater baymouth
sandbars in the world. The sandbar began forming about 3,200 years ago from the South Shore (Wisconsin
Point). Wave action transported and deposited sand until it reached the North Shore (Minnesota) only a few
thousand years ago. In spring and fall, migrating birds of many kinds, including shorebirds and warblers, use the
point as a resting spot.

Best ti me t o v i si t: All year

Addit i onal i nfo rmat io n: A primitive trail runs through this site. Please stay on the trail to avoid the poison ivy and
preserve the plant species and the fragile dune ecosystem.

■ Mo ose M ou n ta in S NA
Dire ct i ons t o parki ng are a: Located just north of Duluth.
From MN Hwy 61, turn left (north) immediately past the
Lester River bridge onto 60th Street. After Superior
Street, 60 th Street becomes Lester River Road (Co Rd
12). Travel north 3.2 miles on Lester River Road. The
parking lot is on the east side of road.

Faci li tie s: None

Re comme nde d activ itie s: Rough hiking, flower & bird walks

Si gn at ure Sp ec ie s: Sugar maple, basswood, yellow birch,


Carolina spring beauty, white baneberry,

Desc ript io n: Moose Mountain, 177 acres, is an excellent example of old-growth Northern Hardwood forest and
hardwood forest succession following wildfire. Sugar maple, basswood, red oak, and yellow birch dominate. The
best example of old-growth hardwoods is on the south side of the powerline, just over the top of the hill. The area
upslope of the old growth and to the north shows direct evidence of the 1918 Cloquet Fire.
Best ti me to vi si t: Spring (wildflowers blooming) and fall (dramatic fall colors)

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: To easily access the old-growth hardwoods area, walk from the parking lot south to the
powerline. Follow the powerline up over the top of the hill.

Berry picking (non-commercial), picnicking, and deer hunting are allowed. Dogs under control and snowmobiling
are also permitted under the powerline. All other SNA rules are in effect at all times.

■ Io na ’s B eac h SNA
Dire ct i ons t o parki ng are a: Travel 3.1 miles northeast of
Gooseberry Falls SP on MN Hwy 61 to Milepost 42 and
the Twin Points Water Access site on the right. Park in the
lot to the left as you enter. Follow the Gitchi Gami bike
trail past the SNA sign for 100 yards, then turn right on
wide dirt trail to SNA plaque and beach.

Fac i li tie s: Outhouse

Re c omme nded ac ti vit ie s: Exploring the beach

Uni que f eat ures: Rhyolite shingle beach.

Descript io n: Iona’s Beach SNA, 10 acres, lies on a narrow strip of Lake Superior’s North Shore between
Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse. It is named after Iona Lind, former owner of Twin Points Resort, which
previously occupied the site. On the north end of the beach is a cliff of pink, volcanic rhyolite. The beach is formed
almost exclusively of rock eroded from this cliff. It stretches over 300 yards south to a cliff and headland of dark
grey basalt. Prevailing storm winds and waves have gnawed slabs of pink rhyolite from the northern cliff, smoothed
them into flattened pebbles or “shingles,” and tossed them down shore, high up on the beach, and ultimately to
the south end against the basalt formation. As the waves recede, the shingles come to rest with a tinkling sound
unique to this beach. Back of the beach, now 15 to 20 feet high, lies a moist swale of alders, paper birch, balsam
poplar, currants, and dogwood. Waves hurl pebbles ever higher into that vegetation, nibbling the earth away from
a fringe of roots now exposed as the beach gradually moves inland.

Best ti me to vi si t: All year

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Unsupervised swimming and shore fishing are permitted. All other SNA rules are in effect
at all times.

■ Su g ar l oa f P o in t S NA
Dire ct i ons t o parki ng are a: Located 6.5 miles NE of Little
Marais on Hwy 61, Milepost 73. Parking lot is located
lakeside.
Fac i li tie s: Restroom, interpretive center

Re comme nde d ac ti vi t ie s : Flower and bird walks, hiking,


geologic exploration

Uni que f eat ures: World-class geology

De scri pti on : Sugarloaf Point contains world-class


examples of basalt lava flows from the Precambrian age.
Lava erupted here about 1.1 billion years ago. On the point at the east end, there are excellent exposures of lava
flow features, including pipe amygdules and ropy, thin-bedded pahoehoe.

The SNA also includes an unusual tombolo, where a former island is now connected to the mainland by two
beach strands. The beach is composed of well-rounded boulders, cobbles, and pebbles of a wide variety of rock
types, some of which originated in Canada and were brought down in the Ice Ages. In the tombolo scientists are
restoring a wetland that was filled in years ago when the site was used as a staging area for a logging operation.

Best ti me to vi si t: All year

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Sugarloaf Point SNA is adjacent to Sugarloaf Cove, maintained by Sugarloaf: The North
Shore Stewardship Association, a non-profit, organization. A one-mile interpretive trail starts in the parking area
and passes through the SNA.

Access to the Point is limited to groups of 10 or less, with permission of the nonprofit or the DNR. Contact
sugarloaf@boreal.org or 218-663-7679.

■ L ut s en SN A
Dire ct i ons t o parki ng ar ea: Located north of Hwy 61.
From Hwy 61, take County Rd 5, Ski Hill Road, either 0.8
mile to a cross country ski trailhead signed “Poplar River”
or 1.2 mile to a snowmobile trail across from the stables.
Follow either trail NE into the SNA.

Fac i li tie s: None

Recomme nded ac ti v it ie s: Flower and bird walks, cross


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country skiing

Uni que f eat ures: Old-growth Northern Hardwood


and upland White Cedar forest, Carolina spring beauty, moschatel, and black-throated blue warblers.

Desc ript io n: The scenic Lutsen SNA, at 720 acres, is one of the largest known acreages of essentially undisturbed
upland old-growth hardwood forest in the North Shore area. The site offers sweeping panoramic views of ridges,
slopes, cliffs, and valleys. The Northern Hardwood forest, dominated by sugar maples, blends into hardwood-
conifer forest. Many individual trees are from 145 to 300 years old. Large fallen logs provide habitat for wildlife
and enhance new forest growth. Smaller areas of aspen-birch forest also occur here. Wildflowers blooming here in
the spring include Dutchman’s breeches, white baneberry, Carolina spring beauty, and moschatel.

Best ti me to vi si t: Fall (colors), Winter (skiing or snowmobiling) and Spring (wildflowers). The access trails are not
mowed and are wet and grassy.

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Picnicking is permitted only on the snowmobile trail. Visitors must wear soft-soled shoes.

■ Bu t t erwort C li ffs S NA
Di rec ti ons to parki ng area: Located 8 miles W of Grand Marais on Hwy 61 in Cascade River SP. There is a small
parking lot on the north side of Hwy 61, 1.5 miles east of the state park entrance.

Faci li ti es: None

Recomm ended acti v i ti es: Nature observation and appreciation


Uni que f eat ures: Rare arctic-alpine plants and an
example of naturally regenerating aspen-birch forest
recovering from a 1993 blowdown.

Description: Butterwort Cliffs SNA consists of a 53-acre strip


of wet rock shore natural community on Lake Superior
bounded by aspen-birch. This SNA is closed May 1-August
15 to protect a herring gull colony. A variety of colorful
lichens, ranging from orange to green, cover much of the
bedrock shoreline. The cool moist microclimate near the lake
provides habitat for a unique assemblage of rare arctic-alpine
plants, including butterwort and Hudson Bay eyebright.
Butterwort, for which this SNA is named, grows in fragile mats, its sticky, yellow-green leaves trapping insects as a
nutritional supplement. The eastern-most lot was received as a gift from The Nature Conservancy and dedicated as the
Tom Savage Memorial Unit in honor of Tom’s long-time advocacy for protection of critical lands along the North Shore.

Best ti me to vi si t: Fall

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Because of the sensitive features at this site, a visit permit, available at Cascade River SP,
must be obtained.

■ Myhr C reek R idg e SNA


Dire ct i ons to parki ng lo c ati on: From Hovland travel 0.2
miles north on CR16 (Arrowhead Trail). Turn left (west)
on CR69 (North Road) for 1.7 miles. The SNA is on the
south side. Park along the shoulder of the road. There is
no SNA sign marking this entrance.

Fac i li tie s: None

Re c omme nded ac ti v it ie s: Nature observation

Unique features: Fire-dependent plant communities; jack pine

De scri pti on: Myhr Creek Ridge SNA, at 160 acres,


straddles a 4-square mile bedrock hill overlooking Lake Superior. The unique habitats are found at least one-
quarter mile in from CR 69, so be prepared with map and compass for a considerable bushwack. Patches of
exposed bedrock dot the ridge, and where soils are present, they are typically extremely shallow. Shallow soils
over bedrock dry quickly, making the vegetation they support more fire prone. Fires also consume forest litter that
contributes to soil formation. The most recent fires are thought to have swept the ridge in 1908 and 1918,
leading to the site’s present mosaic of fire-dependent plant communities found at only one other site in the North
Shore Highlands. Look for the signature trees of fire-dependent plant communities, scattered jack pine in excess of
100 years old, whose form and character speak to the harsh site conditions.

Best ti me to vi si t: All year

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Dogs, public hunting during legal open seasons, berry-picking (non-commercial), and
picnicking are permitted. All other SNA rules are in effect at all times.

■ S prin g B eau t y Nort h ern Ha rdwo o ds SNA


Di rec ti ons to parki ng area: Travel 2.4 miles north of Hovland on the Arrowhead Trail (Co Rd 16). Turn left (west)
and travel 1 mile on Tower Road to the junction of Tom Lake Road; stay left and go 0.3 miles. Park at the gate,
which marks the eastern boundary of the natural area.

Fac i li tie s: None

Re c omme nded acti v it ie s: Flower and bird walks

Uni que f eat ures: Old-growth, northern hardwoods;


Chilean sweet cicely; Carolina spring beauty

De scri pt ion: The Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods


SNA, at 400 acres, contains a rare, old growth Northern
Hardwoods forest and several protected plant species
associated only with these communities. The large size and location of this forest along the northern edge of its
normal range make it particularly significant. A continuous canopy of old-growth sugar maple arches over lower-
growing maple species. White cedar, white spruce, white pine, and yellow birch occur occasionally. Look for the
rare Chilean sweet cicely, blunt-fruited sweet cicely, and Carolina spring beauty. For a memorable trip, visit in
September for the stunning fall color and the possibility of sighting moose or bear on the road.

Best ti me to vi si t: Spring and Fall

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Dogs, public hunting permitted during legal open seasons, berry picking (non-
commercial) and picnicking are permitted. All other SNA rules are in effect at all times.

■ Hovl an d Wo o ds S NA
Dire c ti ons to parki ng area: From Hovland, travel 0.2
miles north on Co Rd 16 (Arrowhead Trail). Turn left
(west) on Co Rd 69 (North Road) and travel 2.6 miles
to Co Rd 70 (Camp 20 Road). Turn right (north) on
Camp 20 Road and travel 4.5 miles to Superior Hiking
Trail parking lot on right side. Follow the hiking trail
going east and north across private land for 1.3 miles,
where it enters state land at the SE corner of the SNA.

Fac i li ti es: None

Rec omme nded ac ti v it i es: Nature observation, and


birding in diverse habitats.

Uni que fe atures: Old-growth northern hardwoods; Carolina spring beauty; large-leaved sandwort

Descript io n: Hovland Woods SNA, a large forested natural area, contains mature and old-growth primary forest
communities now rare in the region. Beaver flowages, alder swamp and a tributary to the Flute Reed River are
also found on the 280-acre property. Large old white spruce and white pine provide habitat for rare lichens and
nesting eagles. Other species found on the site and in the general area include animal species such as the
Eastern gray wolf and pine marten. Rare plants include the Carolina spring beauty and large-leaved sandwort. A
portion of the site was a gift from The Nature Conservancy.

Best ti me to vi si t: Spring

Addi ti onal i nfo rmat io n: Dogs, public hunting during legal open seasons, berry-picking (non-commercial), and
picnicking are permitted. All other SNA rules are in effect at all times.
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■ The No rt hern Hardw oo ds Fo rest
Why do 5 of the 10 SNAs in this booklet feature examples of the Northern
Hardwood Forest? What’s so unusual about a maple tree?

The state of Minnesota includes three major vegetation zones. The


southwestern part of the state is prairie, and the northeastern part of the
state is a conifer forest. A broad band running from the northwest corner of
the state, through the Twin Cities area and down to the southeastern corner
of the state is largely deciduous forest.

The Northern Hardwood Forest stands at the transition between the boreal
forest of conifer trees and the deciduous forest of maple and oak. This
transition zone runs from northern Minnesota through the Great Lakes all
the way to northern New England. The main trees found in the Northern
Hardwood Forest are sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech, white pine
and eastern hemlock. However, in northern Minnesota and along the North
Shore, the beech and hemlock disappear.

The sugar maple and yellow birch forests of the North Shore are found at a
much higher latitude than would be expected, only because of the Big Lake.
You might notice that the maple forests are found inland one or two miles,
along ridgelines, but not right on the lakeshore. Lake Superior creates a
microclimate near its shores that is favorable to the Northern Hardwoods.
This microclimate ensures that the deep colds of winter don’t get too cold
for the hardwood trees, which are killed by temperatures below minus 40
degrees. The Northern Hardwood forests, however, are not found right by
Lake Superior, because it is not warm enough in the summer for these
southern species to grow.

Other lucky factors helping these outcrops of more southern forests include
glacial erosion and deposition. These SNAs protect and make available to
the public a beautiful and rare forest type 100 miles too far north.

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