Northern Wilds Magazine
Places Points North

Silver Bay’s Hidden Outdoors

North Shore visitors may think of Silver Bay as a “drive through” community, but a recent conference shed light on the many outdoor activities available there. Three of Minnesota’s most popular state parks—Gooseberry, Split Rock and Tettegouche—are within a stone’s throw of Silver Bay. Phil Leversedge of Tettegouche gave a presentation about park amenities.

For starters, the campground at Tettegouche is open year round and provides heated showers. Winter campers include snowmobilers who stay in RVs and have access to an extensive groomed trail system. Some downhill skiers also stay in RVs and go skiing at Lutsen Mountains. The park also offers four backcountry cabins that are open year round and a vehicle-accessible modern cabin at Illgen Falls on the Baptism River.

The park is a destination for experienced cross-country skiers. Leversedge said nearby Gooseberry State Park has groomed trails better suited to casual skiers. The ski trails at Tettegouche are groomed (an excellent system of locally maintained trails is available, too) and offer outstanding scenery. Skiers are encouraged to explore the scenic route through the Palisade Valley, which offers alpine-like views.

Leversedge said state parks are benefiting from the new sales-tax-derived Legacy funding. He is hiring a park naturalist who will provide more public programs and activities. Tettegouche is also constructing a heated, year-round trail center. In 2011, the park will build a new visitor center in a location with Lake Superior views.

Gayle Coyer of the Superior Hiking Trail Association said her organization has almost completed its task of creating a trail that runs from the Wisconsin border at Jay Cook State Park to the Canadian border, with the final gap being a stretch between Duluth and Two Harbors. The trail is considered one of the best hiking routes in the nation. Because it is intersected by numerous roads and runs parallel to Highway 61, it is easy to access and walk shorter segments of the trail. The association publishes a brochure that suggests 11 different day hikes.

“One of the most popular day hikes is to Bean and Bear lakes just outside of Silver Bay,” Coyer said, adding that the mountainous terrain in the Silver Bay-Finland area provides for outstanding hiking.

You do not need a permit to hike or camp along the trail. There are 84 backcountry campsites along its length. Unlike the Boundary Waters, where campsites are first-come, first-served, you can share the sites along the trail.

The final presentation was from Peter Harris of the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. About a quarter million Minnesota school children have experienced an extended field trip to Wolf Ridge, which is now the second largest environmental learning center in the country.

With over 2,000 acres of property that includes two lakes and high ridges overlooking Lake Superior, Wolf Ridge has a campus with five classroom buildings and, more importantly, 24 outdoor education sites. Two-thirds of the students’ time is spent outdoors. The curriculum is focused on experiential education in natural history, cultural history and environmental issues.

In addition to working with school children, Wolf Ridge trains naturalists and teachers, and hosts Elderhostels and summer adventure camps. It can provide public programs with live animals—Harris brought a great horned owl to the conference. They also run kayaking trips on Lake Superior and have a program where your family can go on a Boundary Waters canoe trip with a professional naturalist for a guide.

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