Places To Visit
Agate Bay Railroad Tracks
If you have ever found yourself walking along the Agate Bay shoreline in Two Harbors you may have stumbled upon something incredibly perplexing: a set of tracks running straight into the water. A strange sight for sure. You will probably wonder what was the history behind these mystery lake tracks?
Unfortunately no, there is not a secret underwater train that you can ride. These tracks once served the booming fishing town of agate bay. The tracks were used to transport boats to and from the water and led into a boathouse that sat in the middle of the Scandinavian fishing village.underwater railroad tracks
What happened to the fishing town that once used these tracks? The invasion of the sea lamprey in 1935, unfortunately, led to the downfall of commercial fishing on the Great Lakes by 1955. The sea lamprey are originally from the Atlantic Ocean but in the early 20th century made their way to Great Lakes through the locks and canals where they eventually disrupted the thriving commercial fishing industry.
The sea lampreys latch onto whitefish and trout with the circular teeth lined mouths. They then feed off of the fishes blood and bodily fluids. A lamprey will feed on about 40 pounds of fish throughout its life span. Much like a massive leech lamprey can crow into 20inch eel-like creatures.
Since they invaded biologists have removed 90% of the lamprey from the Great Lakes area by controlling the canals they once traveled through freely.
Valued at about 4.5 billion dollars the Great Lake fisheries are alive once again. However, the Agate Bay fishing town did not make the comeback that other areas did. Regardless, the town played a big part in the rise of the fishing industry on the great lakes.
Though little is left to remind visitors of the vibrant fishing village that existed many years ago, it’s an important piece of history that many people take pride in keeping alive.
Travel 25 miles north of Duluth on Hwy 61 to Two Harbors, take a right onto Park Rd and continue for 1.1 miles. Park in the parking lot and begin following the paved walking trail to the north (the opposite direction of the lighthouse). The railroad tracks and a marker will be on the left side of the trail.
Buchanan Settlement Marker
For many years early American settlers believed that the North Shore of Minnesota had an immense stock of copper, silver, and gold. When the North Shore was ultimately ceded to the U.S. government in 1854 plans to create three new settlements began. Buchanan is the only one of the three that to make it past the planning stage.
In 1856 construction began on this new settlement. A boarding house, hotel, and several saloons were quickly erected as eager settlers began to arrive. Settlers arrived by water and land alike forcing the town to settlement to build a dock as well. However, the settlers soon realized that precious metals were not in as great of abundance that many thought. This along with the financial crisis of 1858 forced everyone in the town to move on. This created the first ghost town on the North Shore.
The town may no longer exist but the Buchanan Settlement Marker indicates the location of the Minnesota’s own “gold rush”. Stop by the North Shore’s first ever ghost town. You can find it on Scenic Highway 61, about 1.5 miles south of Knife River.
Burlington, a miniature town just outside of modern-day Two Harbors, consisted of a sawmill and a few small shacks. It was built by David A. Currier and Charles Hibbard in the mid-1800s. After a forest fire had devastated the area the two men created the mill to salvage lumber. The steam-powered sawmill and a dock were developed to support their efforts. However, there were never more than 25 residents in the town. Shortly after the timber salvage ended the sawmill was moved to Duluth. The location has now been taken over by the much larger Two Harbors. The location is now
primarily used for picnicking, boating, and various other types’ recreation. It is now a perfect place to spend the afternoon relaxing, walking along the beach, and even swimming if you are so brave.
While it’s mostly known for its great beach, the bay also has access to the gorgeous Sonju Trail that makes its way through Two Harbors and along the shore of Lake Superior. The beach’s several picnic tables make a perfect place to have lunch and enjoy the view. They may always be cold but it provides the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Chippewa City Church
There is very little known about the city of Chippewa and its inhabitants despite being just east of modern-day Grand Marais. The only remaining information that gives us a window into what the city used to be like is old letters pictures from European settlers who viewed the area during that time. The only remaining visible relic is the St. Francis Xavier Church, a reminder of what life was once like.
The church is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and was built under the direction of Father Specht in 1895 on land donated by Antoine and Antoinette Fillison. The money for the church was raised through what was essentially a bake sale. Members of the community would weave baskets then fill them with bake goods before selling them to hungry lumberjacks. For about twenty years, form 1895-1916, it was the only Catholic church in the area. Unfortunately, the population of Chippewa city started to decline and so too did the attendance at church. The final mass was held there on Christmas 1936. The church still stands strong to this day – the only physical reminder of a forgotten city. If you would like to visit, call the museum at (218) 387-2883 and ask about opportunities.
Getting to Chippewa City Church: One-half mile north of Grand Marais on MN-61, look for the Chippewa City church’s brown historical marker and you’ll see an old white church on your right.
The dire wolf or fearsome dog is an extinct canine native to North America. Its long and extremely sharp fangs mean to literally slice through flesh like butter and great size make it one impressive animal – one that you would not want to mess with! Scientists have determined that dire wolves went extinct about 10,000 years ago. However, a truck driver hit a large-bodied wolf on MN-61 and couldn’t help but call the DNR to look at the massive specimen.
When the DNR arrived they were caught completely off-guard by the incredible size of the animal. So much so they called the State Park personnel and Naturalists at Gooseberry. Because the wolf’s size and location (where dire wolves used to roam), they requested that it be mounted in the interpretative center for all to see. In fact, the wolf was so big that even the taxidermist could not find a mock body to fit what they had discovered. The only body he could find to fit the animal was a massive Alaskan wolf.
Today, you can find the wolf displayed at Gooseberry Falls State Park in their interpretative center. Even when encased in glass the massive canine gives visitors a scare. A true modern dire wolf.
Duluth And Iron Range Company Depot
A two-story brick building, the Duluth and Iron Range Depot, was built in Two Harbors in 1907. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the office of the past Duluth and Iron Range Railroad Company. The company was critical to both passenger and freighter travel until 1961.
Today the building is home to a museum, the new Judge William Scott Library, and the Lake County Historical Society. The museum features several exhibits that showcase the development of Lake County’s three big industries: iron mining, timber, and commercial fishing. Even mapping out how the rail lines were first used to transport works and lumber north of Lake Vermillion.
On display are two steam locomotives of distinctive history to Two Harbors: The “3 Spot” which was built by Baldwin in Philadelphia for a Mexican railroad that never took delivery and a Mallet locomotive built by Swiss engineer, Anatole Mallet. The museum faces the harbor where more than 10 million tons of iron ore is still shipped annually. A feat that would not possible without the trailblazing of those original locomotives.
Getting There: Located 7 blocks south of Highway 61 in Two Harbors. To get there from Highway 61 in Two Harbors, turn to the south (toward Lake Superior) on Waterfront Drive, then turn left on South Avenue and you will see the two-story brick building.
Edna D Tugboat
The Edna G Tugboat was built in 1896 and was the last operation steam-operated tugboat on the Great Lakes. Measuring in at 100 feet long with a 23-foot beam the Edna G has a massive 1000 horsepower engine. This amazing tugboat had a bollard pull of upwards of thirty tons (bollard pull is the nautical equivalent of horsepower)! During the period of its operation, the Edna G would take 5 tons of coal a day to stay running. To put that into perspective it took 12 full shovels of coal every ten minutes to stay running!
Named after Edna Greatsinger, the daughter of Jacob Greatsinger, the president of the D & IR Railroad in the early 1900’s, the tug served the Two Harbors shipping industry for decades — also serving a short time on the East coast for WWI when it was moved there by the government.
The boat retired after being named a National Historic Site in 1974. In 1981 it was donated to the city of Two Harbors. A very important part of the city’s heritage – it appears on the city’s seal.
Today the Edna G is anchored in the iron ore loading port. Tours were available for a time but have been suspended for a few years while it is being restored. The city hopes to eventually receive funding to move the boat to land and resume tours. Unfortunately, if it is not moved to land the damage from sitting in water year after year will eventually make it sink.
Getting there: In Two Harbors from Highway 61, proceed south (toward Lake Superior) on 6th St. to Waterfront Dr and you will see the boat in the harbor.
Father Baraga’s Cross
Just outside of the town of Schroeder, Minnesota you may notice a green highway sign that reads “Father Baraga’s Cross”. It’s a sign that leads the way to a place that few people stop to explore, but a place that tells the story of a Catholic priest, the Native Ojibwe people, and one of Lake Superior’s infamous storms that have taken down large ships.
Turn down Baraga Cross Road and you will be greeted with a beautiful slice of shoreline and a lake front park. A short distance from the park you will find a granite cross reading “Father Baraga 1846”.
Father Baraga was a Catholic priest who had come to the region from Europe upon hearing that there was a need for clergy in the Great Lakes Region. He moved to La Pointe, Michigan, where he took up an interest in Ojibwe culture. There, he was loved by many Ojibwe, Metis, and French Canadians. He stood with many Native groups while they were being perpetrated by the fur trade industry and the US government.
In order to reach the many tribes spread throughout the region, Father Baraga would travel by foot, canoe, or, in the winter, snowshoes. Often he would travel 100 miles for a Baptism.
In 1846, Father Baraga got word of a possible epidemic in Grand Portage. He and a Native guide attempted to take a 40-mile shortcut across Lake Superior by boat from the Apostle Islands, in order to reach the area faster. If traveling by foot this journey could have taken up to a month. A violent storm blew in partway through their journey across the lake. Father Baraga prayed for a safe landing, and they miraculously made it to shore, hitting land near the mouth of the Cross River.
As a sign of thanks for what Father Baraga viewed as his prayers received, he erected a wooden cross at the site. Since that time the cross has been replaced by the granite cross found on the site today. The Cross River mouth and ledge rock shoreline create a beautiful backdrop for visitors who wish to visit the historic site. There is also a small, protected cobblestone beach and picnic area located adjacent to the property.
Getting there: Look for the aforementioned green sign along Highway 61 just east of Schroeder near mile marker 78. Turn toward the lake and drive until you hit the parking area along the shoreline.
In Two Harbors Flood Bay provides scenic views of its beautiful harbor and rocky beach. This small bay was named after a settler who ran a steam sawmill in 1856 – the bay was once an important log landing site.
While there are even great views from the parking lot the best is saved for those who choose to explore the beach. The is known for its smaller agates and piles of driftwood. The small agates are strewn all across the North Shore ranging from pea-sized to sometimes even larger than a fist! Try your luck and don’t be afraid to get down close to the rocks to get a better look.
Beyond the abundance of agates, flood bay is the perfect place for paddlers to access the water and families to stop and have a picnic.
Getting There: Take Highway 61 about 1 mile north of Two Harbors and on the right watch for a blue sign that reads “Flood Bay Wayside”.
Need a place to stop on your long drive up the North Shore? The French River is the perfect place to stop and get some respite from long hours in the car. Not only does it have easy lake access and beautiful views but, it is also home to an adult fish trap used by the French River Cold Water Hatchery (FRCWH).
The trap is used to capture spawning fish (Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, Kamloops and Rainbow Trout) who are then brought indoor to the spawning facility upstream where they spawn and then are released. Though the eggs were historically spawned and hatched at the hatchery, the high costs of keeping the facility running year-round and concern about the disease has the eggs going to the Spire Valley Hatchery in Remer, MN to hatch. After they hatch, depending upon their species, they are released into Lake Superior or the FRCWH.
In 1855 the French river area was known as Clifton and was the first settlement on the North Shore. The settlers were originally drawn to the area with the promise of copper deposits, however, when they arrived there were no profitable amounts of copper. Luckily in the 1880s, the area was revived as a hotspot for the logging industry.
Getting to the Mouth of the French River
From Duluth, take MN-61 northeast out of Duluth for 12 miles. Turn right onto Ryan Road. Drive for .3 miles and turn left onto North Shore Drive. Drive .1 miles and park in the parking lot on the right.
From Two Harbors take MN-61 southwest for 14.3 miles. Turn left onto Ryan Road. Drive for .3 miles and turn left onto North Shore Drive. Drive .1 miles and park in the parking lot on the right.
Getting to the French River Hatchery
The French River Hatchery is located upstream from the river mouth at 5357 N Shore Dr, Duluth. Seasonal tours are offered. Call (218) 302-3288 to make a (required) reservation.
George Washington Pines
These days it’s pretty hard to navigate through a towering pine forest on a trail. However, there is still one such place right outside of Grand Marais where you can enjoy this – George Washington Pines. This area features a perfect 2 and ¼ mile trail.
A short spur trail leads from the parking lot to the beautiful trail through the interlocking pines and birches. As you hike be sure to watch out for any local wildlife. The trail will eventually take you to the Elbow river which is the perfect place to stop and rest with your feet in the water.
The loop is relatively flat making it the perfect beginner hike. The last mile of the trail even features a grove of large fragrant cedar trees. If you are going for the wildlife bring binoculars so you can find the critters that make their home high up in the trees. It is also important to pack some water protective gear because the trail tends to be fairly wet!
Getting There: From Highway 61 in Grand Marais, go north on the Gunflint Trail about eight miles to the parking area on your left that is marked with a George Washington Pines sign.
Grand Marais Art Colony
Photo by Grand Marais Art Colony ©
What once started as a single 8-week course has since blossomed into Grand Marais longest-standing art colony. The art colony has been living their motto of “nurturing the creativity of the North Shore” since 1947. By cultivating a relationship between artistic creativity and the beauty of the North Shore the art colony strives to give artists at all levels the ability to create something from inspiration the nature around them has inspired.
The art colony hosts many exhibits, classes, and events year-round. The facilities available at the art colony include clay, print-making, visual arts, and glass. The classes boast several different instructors that will share their expertise as you work together, while also allowing you to make something that you can bring home and be proud of.
Classes are offered year-round to any person of interest. A list of upcoming events can be found on the Grand Marais Art Colony website.
Grand Marais Breakwall
What may look like a bunch of rocks protruding from the harbor is actually one of Grand Marais most popular attractions! What is the reason for the break wall and lighthouse you might ask? Well, it began in 1881 when a schooner named Stranger wrecked just outside of Grand Marais killing the entire crewman onboard. The people decided something had to be done to make it safer for boats trying to visit the area.
Shortly after the crash, in 1882, construction of the first break wall and lighthouse began. The break wall was to be built about 300 feet in length with tons of different kinds of rocks in order to shelter all boats. When it was completed in 1883 it was used by eleven vessels to shelter them from storms and swells. Visit Grand Marais and take a stroll on the new break wall with a gorgeous view of the harbor and of the Sawtooth Mountains in the background.
Getting There: When in Grand Marais, turn toward Lake Superior on Broadway Avenue. Park in the Coast Guard parking lot at the end of the road and walk south along the shore to the break wall.
Grand Marais Lighthouse
One of the most iconic landmarks in the town of Grand Marais is the Grand Marais Lighthouse. The lighthouse sits at the end of the Grand Marais breakwall at the entrance to the harbor, and has been a popular destination for many visitors in the area.
The Grand Marais Lighthouse was constructed due to two piers being installed near the entrance to the harbor in 1884. These new piers required a light and fog signal to guide mariners through the opening, so congress allotted about $9,500 for a set to be installed. Charles E.L.B. David, the Eleventh District Engineer Captain, created the construction plan that used surplus parts in order to reduce building costs. The lighthouse was erected in 1885 on the east end of the harbor entrance. Joseph E. Mayhew became the first lighthouse keeper in 1886. A keeper’s dwelling was later built in 1896.
In 1901, a second, smaller light structure was added to the west end of the harbor using a cast iron post with a small area for oil storage. This was later re-built in 1904 due to ice interfering with the hoisting gear. Both lights have required major repairs, especially the light on the east pier, after sustaining damage from waves and storms throughout the years. Various lighting systems were also used over the years until they were both automated in 1937, at which time a lighthouse keeper was no longer needed.
The Cook County Historical Society manages the lighthouse today. The keeper’s dwelling at 8 Broadway still stands today near the lighthouse and is currently being operated as a museum. The museum is open to the public during the summer months.
Located in Chicago bay the Hovland Dock is the last remaining vintage commercial dock in all of Lake Superior. The concrete pier was created in the early 1900s when Hovland was an economic hub. It was used to load and unload passengers and cargo that was coming from Canada and Duluth.
The dock now stretches about 100 feet into the deep water with a few sections broken off and fallen into the water. An old bell, used to signal the arrival or departure of boats, lives at the base of the dock. There are cabins nearby that were used to house the longshoreman, the men who unloaded and loaded the ships that came to and from the dock. Though the area has since become sort of a ghost town it still leaves remnants of what it used to be like.
Getting There: Fortunately, the dock is easily accessible for photographers and visitors who wish to visit. From Grand Marais, drive on Highway 61 for approximately 18.5 miles. Take the right onto Chicago Bay road until you see the dock on the right side of the road. There is a small parking area where you can pull-off, park your car, and walk near the dock.
John Beargrease Indian Cemetary
In Beaver Bay, there is a small Chippewa cemetery where 22 people including the legendary John Beargrease lie.
Many may not know who John Beargrease was or what he did for the surrounding community. Growing up in Beaver Bay, MN, as a hunter, fisher, and trapper were difficult, to say the least. Nevertheless, John Beargrease survived and soon became known for his mail service. Since the trains used to only go to Agate Bay John and his brothers began to shuttle mail back and forth on their trapping and hunting trips.
Allowing families and friends to stay in contact despite their remote location, John continued his service for more than 20 years. During the snowy months, John would use his sled and dogs to curie the mail back and forth but in the summer he would take to the water for an easier commute. He made his fastest trip between Agate Bay and Grand Marais in just 28 hours despite being laden with 700 pounds of mail. Because of the reliable mail delivery service, the economy on the North Shore was able to grow and stabilize.
John made his final ever mail trip on April 26, 1899, but continued his trading service for many years following his retirement from mail duty. In 1910, John made a brave trip to rescue a new mail carrier who had been stranded in high waves off of Tamarack Point. This act did not go unnoticed by the community but he, unfortunately, caught pneumonia shortly after and passed away as a result. His grave can still be seen today at the Indian cemetery.
Getting There: Heading northwest on Highway 61 in Beaver Bay, turn left (or away from the lake) onto Old Town Road (next to Holiday) and follow the road until reaching the stop sign. On the left side of the road (just before the stop sign) look for two log railings and some steps (they may appear overgrown from the road). Follow the stairs/trail to the top of the small hill where you will see a historical marker that lists the names of the people buried there.
Cascade River Falls State Park is home to Lookout Mountain, one of Minnesota’s many unique features. Located between Lutsen and Grand Marais, the park is usually just a pit stop where hikers stretch their legs and visit the cascades that are an easy stroll from the parking lot. But, if you’re one of the few hikers who continue, you will be amazed at what you find. The trail to Lookout Mountain winds around the mountain giving you a birds eye view of the Sawtooth Mountains.
The hike begins out of the parking lot along Highway 61. If your back is to Lake Superior, the trail to take is on the left, or west, side of the Cascade River. Follow the trail upstream, away from Lake Superior. Continue past the cascades, staying on the same side of the river. Follow the trail for another half mile before breaking off the main trail and heading up the mountain (look for signs to Lookout Mountain).
The hike is moderate in difficulty and you’ll end up seeing incredible vistas. Be sure to stop, breathe in the fresh boreal air and enjoy the view when you make it to the top of Lookout Mountain.
Getting There: The roadside parking lot in Cascade River State Park (where the hike begins) is approximately 10.3 miles northeast of Lutsen and 9.5 miles southwest of Grand Marais on MN-61.
On November 28, 1905, a violent storm hit the North Shore of Lake Superior while schooner barge Madeira was being pulled by the steamer William Edenborn. The wind began to blow faster than 70 mph creating swells significantly larger than the barge was meant to handle. The steamer soon had to cut the Madeira loose when the captain realized he could no longer fight the swells.
After it had been cut loose the Madeira ran into a cliff named Gold Cliff (pictured to the left). However, one of the crew was able to jump to safety and brought eight other crew members up with him. Two days later, the tugboat Edna G was able to rescue the remaining stranded crewmen and bring them to safety. Only one crew member passed as a result of the storm. The storm was later named Mataafa and it damaged, a reported, 20 other vessels. To aid with safe passage through this area during bad storms split rock lighthouse was built.
The first divers explored the wreck in 1955 but found no treasure. Shortly after a salvage company came and recovered the anchor as well as the steering wheel which they sold to the Split Rock Trading Post. The anchor now features prominently outside the Split Rock visitors center. Despite being scavenged regularly the wreck still very much remains at the bottom of the lake and is visited by divers from all over the world. A diving parking lot was even built to allow for easier access to shore diving (located north of the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park main entrance on MN-61). Even if diving is not for you it is still worthwhile to visit the parking lot and look for the wreck from the surrounding cliffs. Sometimes on a sunny day, the wreck can be seen from the surrounding cliffs.
Magnetic Rock: A 60-Foot Towering Piece of North Shore Geology
Approximately 1.5 miles from the Gunflint Trail lies an imposing rock spire. The rock is a 60-foot rock, soaring 30 feet into the air from its 10 by a 20-foot base. Not only is this rock present an impressive figure as it juts upwards but also, as the name suggests, is magnetic.
It gets its magnetic properties from magnetite, a magnetic mineral. Magnetite is also found in the Gunflint Iron Formation which runs all the way from Northern Minnesota to Ontario. Make sure to bring a compass when you visit the rock and watch it spin as you near the spire. The needle would otherwise point north but will spin continuously rendering useless near the structure. Many of the surrounding rocks are also magnetic so keep your compass out and test all the rocks!
This magnetic marvel can be found along the Magnetic Rock Trail that begins on the Gunflint Trail about 50 miles north of Grand Marais. The hike is an easy 1.5-mile out-and-back hike (though the Gunflint Lake trails continue past the rock). Passing over Larch Creek and meandering through Jack Pine and Paper Birch the trail is gorgeous. Moose, bear, beaver and many other animals call the area home. Signs of the 1999 blowdown, the prescribed burn from 2002 and the 2007 Ham Lake wildfire are readily evident along the trail.
If you’re a geology lover, you’ll want to hike the Magnetic Rock Trail for another reason. Rocks from 2.7 billion, 1.8 billion, and 1.1 billion years ago are distinctly found near the trail, including rocks from the massive Sudbury meteor strike which was the second-largest in history. To find the Magnetic Rock Trail, take the Gunflint Trail/County Road 12 north (away from Lake Superior) from Grand Marais. Drive approximately 47.8 miles northwest of Grand Marais. The trailhead is located in a parking lot on the right (east) side of the road. Look for the Magnetic Rock Trail sign. The hiking trail is in the BWCA so a day pass is required which can be purchased, self-imposed, at the trailhead.
Maquade Small Craft Harbor
If you’re looking for a spot to watch the ships go by but want to avoid the massive crowds at Canal Park we know the perfect place. McQuade is the perfect place to enjoy the afternoon while watching small craft coming in and out of the harbor. Although this won’t have the largest vessels it has a lot of traffic.
This public facility was created by several government departments including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis County, and the City of Duluth. Combining all of their resources a protected harbor with an area for kayaks, small motored boats, and spectators was created. There are also three platforms for fishing from the shore!
McQuade Harbor is the perfect place to put your boat in for a day on the lake or even to just have a picnic with the family. There is plenty of parking as well as pedestrian accessible!
Getting There: Follow Scenic Highway 61 out of Duluth for approximately nine miles, then look for the McQuade Small Craft Harbor sign on your right.
North House Folk School
A little more than forty years ago a man named Mark Hansen moved to the North Shore to build birch bark canoes. Once he arrived he fell in love with the area and created one of the most interesting and vibrant non-profits – North House Folk School.
A folk school is traditionally a place where people come to learn or expand their knowledge in a certain concept or trade.
This is what North House does bringing instructors from all over the world to teach visitors and locals alike traditional northern crafts. Mark and several other locals brought the idea to the attention of the local community and immediately received praise for the idea. It has come a long way since its opening in the 1970s. Now it has become widely popular and taught thousands of people a variety of different crafts.
The campus is located in the heart of downtown Grand Marais. Many instructors and students have come from all over the world to teach, talk, and most importantly create. The choice of classes is endless: basketry, blacksmithing, knitting, sailing, woodcarving, yurt-building, sausage-making, crafting jewelry with local stones and the list goes. In a typical calendar year North House will offer more than 350 different classes taught by more than 100 different regional craftsmen. They also host several events that are often centered around their classes.
North House Folk School is located at 500 Highway 61 in Grand Marais.
North Shore Winery and Sawtooth Mountain Cider House
A “must stop” on a trip north is the North Shore Winery and Sawtooth Cider House. The Winery and Cider House lies just off MN-61 up the ski hill road about a mile before Lutsen Mountains.
The Winery has been in progress since 2015 before it was opened in 2016 by Chuck and Kim Corliss who have loved everything wine for many years. They say they have learned plenty about wine in daily life but Chuck has also been trained as a sommelier. In 2017 Chuck and Kim were joined by fellow North Shore lovers Jeremy and Mary Hanson as business partners.
The winery makes a variety of wines, both red and white, out of grapes from both California and Minnesota. The Ciders are made with apples and raspberries that are grown on the winery property as well as maple syrup from the local tapping operation, Caribou Cream. On your visit ask to take a tour to see all of the steps in the process. You will see the fermentation tanks, bottling process, and the barrel room.
The tasting room is the perfect place to relax on a hot summer day or after a long day on the slopes. In addition to the warm and comfortable atmosphere that has been created inside the owners have also created an equally inviting area outside with a fire to stand around while sipping on wine.
Getting There: The winery is located at 202 Ski Hill Road, Lutsen. To get there from Lutsen drive west on Highway 61 for 1.5 miles. Turn right (away from Lake Superior) onto Ski Hill Road. The winery will be on the right side about a half a mile down the road.
North Shore Old-Growth Forests
To give some context an old-growth forest is defined as a forest that has not undergone any unnatural disturbances in 100 years or more – most often logging. These forests have all aged trees from young to old to dead with a multilayered canopy. They can recover from natural damages such as forest fires considerably faster than ones that have been logged. Old-growth forests are also known as primary, virgin, primeval or late seral forests.
Three old-growth forests that are easy to access on the North Shore can be found at George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park, Tettegouche State Park, and Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA.
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park has had very little development over the years. Inside its borders are 166-acres of northern hardwoods and 196-acres of upland white cedar that make up an old-growth forest. There are also 400-year-old yellow birch, 300-year-old white cedar, and sugar maples 200 years old.
To access the park from Finland, take the Cramer Road/County Road 7 east of town for 8.5 miles. The park entrance will be located on the right side of the road.
To get to the park from Schroeder, take the Cramer Road (County Road 1) north/west of Schroeder for 6.1 miles. Continue following Cramer Road (County Road 1) as it turns into County Road 8 for 3.9 more miles. At the intersection, turn left onto Cramer Road and follow for 4.1 miles. The entrance to George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park is on the left side of the road. Although the route from Schroeder is only 15 miles long, you will want to allow about 45 minutes for travel on the beautiful, winding gravel roads.
Tettegouche State Park, located near Silver Bay, has a large area of old-growth forest. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it is made up of northern hardwoods (294 acres), upland white cedar (142 acres), black ash (74 acres) and oak (94 acres) forests. The yellow birch is estimated to be an impressive 290 years old, sugar maple 225 years old, and the white cedar trees are up to 220 years old.
This park can be easily accessed along Highway 61 four miles east of Silver Bay.
Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA is located outside of Hovland. Within the forest are old-growth sugar maples and lower-growing species of maples that cover about 115 acres. Other trees like white cedar, white pine, yellow birch, and white spruce can be seen scattered around the forests. Since many of these tree species were logged and the area was used as a sugar bush years ago, maple primarily makes up the forest canopy. Rare plants can be found growing in the area, as well. They include blunt-fruited sweet cicely, Carolina spring beauty, and Chilean sweet cicely.
To access Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA from Hovland, drive 2.4 miles north on County Road 16, then take a left onto Hovland Tower Road. Drive 1 mile and stay left at the Tom Lake Road junction. Drive 0.3 miles and park at the gate. Hike west to the site.
Located within Tettegouche State Park, Palisade Head is a 200-foot rock cliff that drops into Lake Superior. It is believed to have been formed almost 1.1 billion years ago from a lava flow that pushed the rock outward into Lake Superior. Shovel Point and most of Tettegouche State Park, was also formed from this extremely hard volcanic rock.
The rock formation sits right on the edge of Lake Superior and offers one of the most spectacular and accessible views of the North Shore. The views can be enjoyed from the top of the cliff or along the trail which leaves the parking lot. On clear days visitors can see the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains, miles of Lake Superior shoreline and over the lake to Wisconsin.
There are not many amenities at Palisade Head except a narrow road for accessibility, a small parking lot, and a couple of rock climbing walls near the edge of the cliff. Nevertheless, not much is needed in order to enjoy this place.
Getting There: Palisade Head is three miles northeast of Silver Bay or about 28 miles southwest of Chateau LeVeaux. The turnoff is located near mile marker 57 along Highway 61 and is marked by signs.
This quaint beach attracts visitors in Duluth during all seasons. Park Point is located right on Lake Superior and has 7 miles that are all open to the public. You’ll find yourself gawking at the views this strip of land provides including of the Duluth Hillside.
Many say that the beaches prime time is in the fall but locals would often argue that the cool waters provide the perfect stop on a warm day. During hot days in the summer the water that rarely gets higher than 60 degrees is the opportune place to dip your toes in.
Even if dipping into the cold lake isn’t your thing there is more than enough stuff to do while strolling along the beach. Whether you skip rocks, listen to the waves, or just take in the beauty of the area you are sure to enjoy the beach. If you are willing to get up early try to make it to a breathtaking sunrise.
Getting There: When heading north on I-35 in Duluth, go south on Lake Avenue, cross the Aerial Lift Bridge, and drive to either 12th street or 45th street to the parking areas.
Pierre the Voyageur
Who is Pierre the Voyageur? Look no further than the 20 foot-tall mesh and fiberglass statue that looms over MN-61 as you enter Two Harbors from the south. This odd statue was placed on the Smithsonian’s list of historical landmarks. Many have mistaken him for Paul Bunyan be his narrow eyes, slight grin, and lack of pants is what sets him apart.
Pierre was first posted outside the logically named Voyageur Motel in Two Harbors. It is said his eyes would glow red while an employee in a booth would make him speak to guests as they entered. While his lack of pants is due only to his status as a voyageur. According to an exhibit at the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Center in Ontario, back in the day these voyageurs usually wore a long-sleeved woolen skirt and a pair of deerskin leggings that ended just above the knees.
Pierre now stands in front of a motel outside of Two Harbors with a new red paddle he was given. Spotlights show him off when it gets dark as his red eyes startle many passerby’s.
Getting There: From Two Harbors, take Highway 61, turn left (toward Lake Superior) onto Stanley Road. The address is 933 Stanley Road, Two Harbors, MN.
Ray Berglund State Wayside
The Ray Berglund State Wayside is located on highway 61 between Tofte and Lutsen and was established in 1951 as a memorial to a businessman and conservationist. It includes a half-mile trail along the Onion River, picnic areas (with excellent views!), and a recently rebuilt sanitation facility.
The restrooms/sanitation facilities were recently rebuilt. In the distance, the stairs mark the beginning of the half-mile hiking trail that is accessible from the parking lot.
There are many great views from the trail, especially from the picnic site that is located about 100 feet from the parking lot.
Rocky Taconite is the unique monument that welcomes people to Silver Bay. It’s one of those fun, quirky monuments that makes you want to pull over on the side of the road and snap a photo in front of – one that you see and won’t soon forget.
Rocky is made up of a black spherical head and body (resembling taconite pellets) and holds a pick which is believed to have come from old Sweden. The Swedish pick represents the many Scandinavians who settled in the area.
Built in 1956, Silver Bay was a planned housing community that was built to house workers of the taconite processing plant that was built on the shore of Lake Superior. The location was chosen for its port and a large amount of water that was available. The Rocky Taconite monument was built to represent Silver Bay and the surrounding area, whose culture has been built around the taconite industry. The monument was dedicated in 1964.
Getting There: Turn toward Silver Bay (away from Lake Superior) onto County Road 5 off of Highway 61 four miles northeast of Beaver Bay. Drive one block and the monument can be found on the right side of the road.
Ryden’s Border Store
If you’re planning to cross the US/Canadian border you’ll want to stop by Ryden’s Border Store and check out the goods they have to offer.
The store has been family owned since 1947 and is only half a mile from the border and five miles from Grand Portage. When you visit you’ll feel like you’re a world away from everything else.
The store offers the essentials as well as more than enough souvenirs for every member of your family. They specialize in a Parcel service, money exchange, and sell world-famous jerky (which you can order online if you’re not up for making the trip). Their parcel service is $3 for packages under 40lbs. If Ryden’s Border Store doesn’t have it you don’t need it.
The iconic looking Sawtooth Mountain Range stretches all the way from Tofte to the East side of Grand Marais. The range has many peaks some of reach over 900 feet above Lake Superior. While the peaks may not be the tallest most have seen they have one of the most unique silhouettes. Looking at these mountains from far away they resemble the teeth of a saw in their uniform shape, size, and angle. Hence the name!
The peaks were created by volcanic activity that was then eroded by massive glaciers that carved the peaks into their current shape. Peaks include Carlton Peak, Leveaux Mountain, Oberg Mountain, Moose Mountain, Eagle Mountain, Murphy Mountain and Sawtooth Bluff.
Although this hike is only 2 kilometers in length it takes a long time to complete due only to the incredible views that are visible from almost every part of the trail.
Shovel Point, jutting straight out into Lake Superior, is the main attraction to many North Shore visitors. The trail is located in Tettegouche State Park and is one of the many trails the park is notable for.
This view and trail goes over the top of rock that is one-billion-years-old. The hike is perfect for a family because it is short, sweet, and beautiful. There are plenty of steps as well as signs to make the trail relatively easy.
If you visit this area in the winter look out for ice caves along the trail. Once you reach the end of the trail you will be greeted with vast views of Lake Superior and Palisade Head. We recommend packing a lunch to enjoy with the whole family as you gaze at one of the North Shore’s signature views.
Getting There: To get to the trail go to Tettegouche State Park (on Highway 61, 4.5 miles northeast of Silver Bay). Park in the visitor center parking lot. Start walking east (or to the left if you’re facing Lake Superior) on the trail between the visitor center and Lake Superior.
Silver Bay Marina
On the south side of Silver Bay, off Highway 61, is a beautiful marina. It is used as the launch pad for a number of North Shore adventure businesses (think scenic cruises and charter fishing on Lake Superior).
The marina is owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and is managed by the City of Silver Bay. The facility is located on the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior approximately 55 miles northeast of Duluth, Minnesota. Here are a number of things we recommend doing at or around the marina.
- Take a Scenic Cruise: The Wenonah leaves daily during the summer and gives riders an unforgettable day on the lake and close-up views of Lake Superior’s unique and fascinating shoreline.
- Go (Charter) Fishing: No boat? No problem. Line up a guide for the day with one of the charter companies that launch from the marina. You can catch a variety of fish including Lake Trout, Steelhead, King Salmon, Coho Salmon, and Pink Salmon depending on the time of year. Charter companies include:
Laker Taker Charters: (218) 220-8106
Sweet Retreat of LeRoy’s Repair: (218) 834-0743
Fish Finders: (651) 328-1402
- Launch Your Own Boat: Clean water and quick access to Lake Superior is why boaters prefer Silver Bay Marina. Accommodations include water and electrical hookups, sewer pump-outs, gasoline & diesel sales, spacious private restrooms with showers, and laundry facilities.
- Get Your Grub On: After spending all day fishing, hiking, or swimming you are bound to be starving, but guess what? You’re in luck! The area offers excellent options from BBQ at Northwoods Family Grille in Silver Bay, to rustic northern country eats at Camp 61 in Beaver Bay.
Getting there: To get to the marina from Silver Bay, turn right (southwest) onto Highway 61. Drive about two miles. The entrance to the marina is on the left side (the same side as Lake Superior) of the road.
Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel
If you have ever driven towards the North Shore on Highway 61 you will likely recognize this special tunnel; however, you may not know the fascinating history behind it.
The tunnel which stretches about 1300 feet was built in the early 1990s and changed the highway 61 driving experience drastically. Prior to the 1920s drivers had to detour far away from the Lake Superior shoreline adding more than a few miles to their commute. Although after the 1920s a very narrow two-lane road brought commuters along the edge of the cliff overlooking Lake Superior. This was maybe not as nice and scenic as it sounds though because drivers were at constant risk of being hit by falling debris and rock from the bluffs above.
Finally, in the early 1990s, this tunnel was constructed to avoid this dangerous stretch of road, and it took over 3 years of blasting to move 500,000 cubic yards of rock before it was finally completed in 1994.
However, if you wish to still the old road and the views it provides you can park in the lot on the east side of the tunnel and walk along the road. It is a now part of the Gitchi-Gami trail and runs parallel to the current road on the lakeside.
Pilings at the Mouth of the Split Rock River
Have you ever driven northeast on Highway 61 between Two Harbors and Silver Bay and wondered about the history of the pilings that stick out of the water at the mouth of the Split Rock River? If so, you’re not alone (and you’re also in luck)!
The pilings date back from the late 19th and early 20th century when the Split Rock Lumber Company, a subsidiary of the Merrill and Ring Lumber Company, logged the area. The company logged Norway and white pine and hauled the timber down a 10-mile railroad to the mouth of the Split Rock River. The pilings are remnants of the old wharf and dam that the company used from 1899 to 1906.
Note: The hiking trail to the north of Highway 61 follows a section of where the rail line used to operate.
Getting There: On Highway 61 around mile marker 43 (about 18 miles north of Two Harbors), look for the Split Rock River pullout/parking lot. The pilings can be found at the mouth of the river.
Although very rare, there are spots to surf on Lake Superior! One of these spots is named Stoney Point. Located about ten miles north of Duluth, this little spot on the beach is best known for its enormous freshwater waves. The lay of the land and great power of the lake make this spot a favorite for local surfers. Some of them even say it competes with the best surfing locales in the world. Even during the winter months, you can find surfers in full wetsuits trying to get in just one last ride. Stand back as sometimes the waves can spray all the way to the road.
Stoney Point is also a great spot to stop, even if you are not interested in surfing. In good weather, you can explore the black basalt lava flow that is marked by gouges and ridges left behind by glaciers more than 12,000 years ago. This is a great spot to view Lake Superior – you don’t even need to get out of your car (though we certainly recommend it). Pull off the road and prepare to be amazed by the fascinating shoreline and whirling waves of Lake Superior!
Getting There: Head north of Duluth on Highway 61 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Alseth Road and follow it for about a mile all the way to Stoney Point Drive. Follow the road for outstanding views of Lake Superior.
The Susie Islands are a group of 13 islands off the North Shore of Lake Superior near Grand Portage. The three major islands: Susie, Francis, and Lucille were all named after a member of the Falconer family who once lived in Susie and mined its copper ore in the early 1900’s. Though copper ore is no longer mined from the islands, they still have much to give: an environment for growing rare flora and a breathtaking view from the roadside overlook along Highway 61.
The islands are all home to unique and unusual flora due to their location. Because the islands are offshore, they experience colder, harsher weather conditions than inland Minnesota and Canada. And, since the islands are isolated from the mainland, they rarely experience forest fires. These conditions create the ideal environment for some of Minnesota’s rarest plants. Susie Island, the largest of the thirteen islands at 145 acres, is home to the uncommon Alpine Bistort and Slender Hairgrass. Other unique plants found on the islands range from the Norwegian Whitlow Grass (endangered in Minnesota) to Pearlwort, Arctic Lupine, Sphagnum Moss, and more!
The Nature Conservancy purchased the southern portion of Susie Island in 1971 and the remainder of it in the 1980’s from various private parties. In 2016 the organization began the process of transferring ownership of the island to the Grand Portage Band of the Chippewa Tribe, who owns the remaining twelve islands. The tribe will continue to oversee the health of all of the islands, ensuring that only recreational activity and no development take place.
Getting There: Experience the islands for yourself – you won’t regret it! To view the islands (and nearby Mount Josephine) from the Susie Island Overlook, follow Highway 61 north from Grand Marais until you enter Grand Portage State Park. Look for signs that are labeled “Susie Islands”.
If you hope to visit the islands by boat, you must first obtain permission from the Grand Portage Reservation.
Taconite Harbor is a safe harbor located near Schroeder, MN. The harbor originally opened in 1957 and was built using two natural islands that were located near the shore. The breakwaters built from these islands were built large enough for massive ore boats to enter and leave the harbor. While in the harbor, the boats were filled with low-grade taconite pellets that came by rail from Hoyt Lakes 75 miles away. The harbor closed in 2001 after the steel industry declined.
Now the harbor is used as a public water access site and a safe harbor. On the far side of the harbor stands a coal powered electrical generating facility that ceased operation in 2016.
Two Harbors Breakwall
One of Two Harbors many famous attractions, the Two Harbors breakwall, is really a spectacular piece of art. Native Americans first called this place Wass-we-winning, or “place to spear fish by torchlight”, and the first European settlers actually set up shop right here in 1856.
You will find the breakwall at the end of a parking lot in Two Harbors. It is made of giant boulders stretching out almost one-third of a mile through Agate Bay. Agate Bay Harbor is home to the industries that were most influential in making Two Harbors known: lumber and pulpwood, commercial fishing, and iron ore. As you walk out to the wall, you will notice dock number 1, which was the largest iron ore loading dock at the time it was built.
The breakwall itself is extraordinary. Its huge boulders and cement walls stop the waves from crashing into the shore and give the harbor calm waters for boats to pass through. A hundred years ago the breakwall was not connected to the shore. Instead, a lighthouse keeper had to paddle out to the end of the breakwall to fuel the oil lamp in the lighthouse. Imagine having that job!
Getting There: In Two Harbors, turn toward Lake Superior off of Highway 61 onto Waterfront Drive/6th Street. Follow the brown signs directing you to the Breakwall at Agate Bay.
Two Harbors Iron Ore Docks
Have you seen the strange man-made structures that tower over Agate Bay in Two Harbors and wondered what they were? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
The structures are docks located inside the bay offering protection via the two breakwaters located between the bay and Lake Superior. The breakwaters total about 2,500 feet and help stop prevailing waves from the south.
The docks, made out of steel, are over 1300 feet long and seven stories tall. The immense size of the docks allows ships to pull alongside some 112 chutes where the iron ore is then deposited into the hulls of the boats. The docks are operated by the Canadian National Railway (CN), which is Canada’s largest freight railway. Every year about 12 million tons of taconite are shipped out headed south to the lower Great Lakes where it is then unloaded, heated up to temperatures greater than 1000 degrees in blast furnaces, and eventually converted into steel.
The first dock was built in 1883 and by 1938 there were six fully operating docks. The docks were a major source of iron ore during World War II. In 1944 the docks set a loading record of 859,959 tons in 72 hours. By the mid-1950’s the docks were shipping out about 50 million tons annually, but this all came to an end in the 1960’s as the once rich source of iron ore was mined out.
Area miners then began mining taconite as their primary source of metal. The development of taconite lead to the reopening of three docks in Two Harbors, and two of them are still in operation today.
Visitors can view the docks anywhere along the shores of Agate Bay and get an up-close look at some of the massive ships that enter the harbor.
Getting There: From Duluth, travel 27 miles north on MN-61 into Two Harbors, and then take a right onto Park Rd until you reach Agate Bay.
Upper Manitou Forest Preserve
If you’re looking to find some of the largest and oldest trees on the North Shore, the Upper Manitou Forest Preserve is the place to go. It includes one of the best remaining examples of what the North Shore forest was once like. The 2,450-acre preserve is full of sugar maple, yellow birch, white spruce, and white cedar that are estimated to be more than 300 years old. Some of the trees growing in the area are more than 5 feet in circumference, which is significant for a maple tree, especially along the North Shore where maples tend to grow slowly due to the climate.
The Nature Conservancy owns this site and selected it because they felt that people should be able to experience the one-of-a-kind North Shore forest in its self-sustaining condition. As one tree dies, another grows, creating a circle of life effect. Without it, the migratory songbirds and other species roaming the area would not have such a healthy forest to call home.
The Conservancy is doing something unique with the Upper Manitou Forest Preserve that is fairly new to Northeast Minnesota. They are working with key landowners in the area to acquire environmentally sensitive lands to preserve, maintain, and restore. Currently, the Conservancy is compiling a forest inventory for the entire preserve that will include a map of all forest types, as well as different data on the many ecosystems that are found in the preserve.
Getting There: The preserve is located in Lake County, northeast of Finland, Minnesota. From Finland, visitors should drive on Lake County Route 7 past the Crosby-Manitou State Park entrance (the entrance is 8.5 miles from Finland) then take a left two miles past the state park entrance (or about 10.5 miles from Finland) onto Earl West Road. Drive 3.5 miles to the area marked with a TNC preserve sign.
Note: Earl West Road passes through private property – please be respectful. It is also impassable to vehicles most winters and during the spring thaw and periods of heavy rain. So, don’t hesitate to pack your snowshoes or hiking boots if you are visiting during the winter. We assure you that the incredible experience of being in such rare old-growth forest will be worth the extra work!
Water Tower at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Just 13 miles north of Two Harbors stands one of the most unique and well-crafted pieces of work on the North Shore. Without knowing its history, the water tower that is found at Gooseberry State Park appears out of place and somewhat mysterious. Built from red and blue granite, it looks so unique, some even say it’s from a fairy tale.
The water tower itself stands around 25 feet tall with a 17-foot diameter. Housing a 10,000 gallon tank that is no longer in use, it served as a water source many years ago because there was no well nearby. The Civilian Conservation Corps managed to fill the tank from the CCC camp up the river, making its presence a crucial factor in the surrounding community members’ lives. They knew they needed something that would blend well with the natural beauty surrounding it, so they hired U.W. Hella and two Italian masons to construct the beautiful stonework surrounding the tank.
Today, the water tower still stands tall and proud, drawing in anyone who happens to pass by. There is a short dirt path from one of the roads in the park that makes it easy for people to get to and enjoy. So, during your next trip to Gooseberry State Park, be sure to stop by to enjoy its grandeur.
Whispering Giant Statue
Peter Wolf Toth is a well-known American Sculptor known in Minnesota for his impressive statue built in Two Harbors. He built and erected this sculpture in 1977, but was drawn back to it when he heard it needed repair. Spending weeks camped out next to the statue, Peter was unpaid and basically unnoticed, but was determined to give the previous inhabitants back what he had once been so proud of.
The statue is part of a larger collection known as The Trail of Whispering Giants. The 71 statues that make up the collection are cataloged by the Smithsonian and can be found all over the US and in various Canadian Provinces. Although it is an ongoing project, Peter has been recognized all over the country for his incredible artistry. He always donates the sculptures to the community he makes it in, and never charges a fee for his time.
The statue itself in Two Harbors stands around 30 feet tall and is made of pine. It is located along Highway 61 near the Visitor Center in Two Harbors and has many picnic tables and open spaces nearby. There is also an original Civilian Conservation Corps cabin next to the statue that is filled with maps and brochures for visitors to enjoy.
The Superior Hiking Trail offers visitors the opportunity to travel by foot to many unique places along the North Shore that would likely be inaccessible otherwise. The trail takes hikers past gorgeous lakes and waterfalls, up to incredible Lake Superior overlooks and through the beautiful Boreal Forest. Though the trail as a whole is something we recommend to all hikers who are able to explore, there is a list of trail sections that we prefer over the others.
One of these sections leads hikers to Wolf Rock. Wolf Rock is a Superior Hiking trail overlook near Two Harbors that allows visitors to see panoramic views of Lake Superior, the surrounding shoreline, and the forest from over 900 feet. The trail to the overlook rises rapidly from the parking lot and gains over 200 feet in elevation over the course of a half-mile. Once hikers make it to the top they will be rewarded with incredible overlooks and breathtaking views.
Getting There: From Two Harbors, drive on Highway 61 for approximately 10 miles. Turn left onto Lake County 106. Drive 2.3 miles and park in the Superior Hiking Trail parking lot on the right side of the road. Take the hiking trail that is furthest to the south (if your back is to the road, it will be the trail furthest to the right).
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