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Superior National Forest Update

USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.

What's On:
Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 31

"Superior National Forest Update" with Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 10

Superior National Forest Update with Education and Interpretation Specialist, Steve Robertsen.
July 10, 2020


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 19

Superior National Forest Update - June 19, 2020

Steve Robertsen is an education and interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 5

National Forest Update
June 4, 2020

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen with the first June version of the National Forest Update.  It’s been lovely outside, so I hope you’ve been able to spend some time in the woods this past two weeks watching spring change to summer.

June, not surprisingly, means that the Juneberries are in bloom, along with choke cherries and more.  I’ve always felt that our Juneberry or serviceberry trees get a raw deal.  People travel for miles to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, and I think our Juneberries are just as pretty.  Later, these trees will have berries that are very edible, but not too many people actually seem to harvest them.  The flavor does vary between trees though, so you may need to sample several to find the best.  While we have to wait for the fruit, pollinators are enjoying the nectar right now.  Watching a flowering tree in our yard earlier this week, it was easy to spot at least three species of bee, several Painted Lady butterflies, a clear wing hummingbird moth, and a real hummingbird.  We’ve all learned the importance of pollinators recently, and all these flowering trees and shrubs provide lots of food for these important insects and birds.  Plus, the fruit later will not only feed us, but also plenty of wildlife.

One of the less popular nectar eating insects is the black fly.  If they would stick to nectar, no one would have a problem, but unfortunately for us, the females need a blood meal before laying eggs and people are the involuntary blood donors.  Black flies have been awful this year all the way down to the Cities.  Unlike mosquitoes whose larvae are found in stagnant water, black fly larvae are in nice clean running water.  They provide food for fish, and so are an important link in the food chain, and it is just too bad that in this case the food chain also includes us.  DEET based repellents are usually not very effective, and while there are lots of other repellents you can try, I usually end up just using a head net and long sleeves.

Another sign of the times, deer are dropping their fawns.  I haven’t seen a fawn yet myself, but I have seen some local deer that suspiciously went from fat to thin overnight.  If you do see a fawn, remember that they are ‘latchkey’ children.  The doe will leave them alone while she goes off to forage.  Too often, well-meaning people pick up “abandoned” fawns which are actually only temporarily left alone.  That same advice applies to other animals.  Hares do the same thing, and baby birds too big to fit in the nest are often found on the ground or in a bush waiting for the parents to return.  All these baby animals need to be left alone.

Ravens nest early, so their young have already graduated from the nest to the air.  You can see flights of raven families with the young calling after the parents – most likely asking for food, but I’m suspicious that they might be whining “Are we there yet?” as well.

On June 1, 2020, the Superior National Forest opened overnight camping in a limited number of developed campgrounds. This is in alignment with Minnesota Governor’s announcement on May 20, 2020 which allowed campgrounds to re-open starting June 1 under the Stay Safe Phase for Reopening Society Plan. Note that water and outhouse facilities are not available at campgrounds which are still closed.  We are also re-opening outhouse facilities at some trailheads including Britton Peak, Oberg Mountain, Pincushion Mountain, and Eagle Mountain.  Other outhouses remain closed, so plan accordingly. For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information on campground re-openings, visit our website. 

Spring road restrictions have been lifted across the Forest, so timber hauling is back.  You may encounter truck traffic on the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Cook County 27, Cook County 8, the Sunfish Lake Road and the Greenwood Road. 

Despite our sprinkling of rain, we are going back into high fire danger.  The woods continue to green up, which is good, but winds are fairly high making it easy for an unattended fire to get out of control.  There were a number of such unattended campfires found this past week…so we have to repeat what seems obvious:  please put your fire out when you leave.

I mentioned young ravens leaving the nest, but ravens aren’t the only graduates out there this spring.  We’d like to congratulate all Northwoods class of 2020 as you spread your wings and take off.  May you have the opportunity to explore many other national forests, parks, and wilderness areas in your lives.  The Forest Service uses the catchphrase “Get Out There”, and we’d like to encourage you all to do just that.  Until next time, this is Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 22

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, Education and Interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service-Superior National Forest.
May 22, 2020


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Superior National Forest Update - April 24

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen.
April 24, 2020


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - April 10

Superior National Forest Update with Information and Education Specialist, Steve Robertsen.
April 10, 2020


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - March 13

National Forest Update – March 12, 2020.
Greetings Superior National Forest Community.  I’m Jon Benson with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update including information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of March 13, here’s what’s going on.

As temperatures start to climb and the days are getting longer, it seems like a good time to talk about the changing season and the different types of recreation that are starting to take place on the Forest.

The ski and snowmobile trails are still in great shape thanks to the efforts of our many trail partners.  Now that the daylight is persisting into the early evening hours it is a great chance to get out on the skis after work to enjoy those winter activities before the snow melts and the rivers start running.  Current trail conditions are updated regularly on the Visit Cook County Website.

For folks who are more interested in venturing out onto the lakes, there are still a couple of weeks left to get out on the ice for some ice fishing, but remember that any fish houses must be off the ice no later than midnight on March 16 for all northern inland waters in Minnesota.  As the temperature continues to warm I would like to ask folks to be especially cautious in areas with moving water or current under the ice.  Remember that no ice is ever 100% safe and it is always good to fish in groups or at least make sure that someone knows where you are going.

As winter fades away and the open water season draws near, now is the time to start planning your Boundary Waters trips.  Reservations can be made at for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips as well as some National Forest Campgrounds.  There is some excellent Boundary Waters trip planning info that can be found on the Superior National Forest website as well and folks can find that site at

Another topic that always comes up this time of year is the roads.  As the temperatures climb and the snow on the roads starts to disappear it is good to think about whether you really need to be on some of these roads.  Seasonal road restrictions for Cook County will go into effect at 12:01 am on Friday, March 13.  Not only will the roads be icy and slick this time of year, but the shoulders can often be very soft which can lead to cars and trucks winding up in the ditch.  These situations are certainly no fun for the occupants of the vehicle, but they also result in substantial road damage which cannot be repaired until the snow is gone and the roads have thawed.  I encourage all of you to think about whether it is necessary to travel down some of the lower use roads during this month until after road restrictions are lifted.

Speaking of roads, we’ve got some logging truck activity this week.  Once road restrictions go into effect Friday morning there will be hauling on the Gunflint Trail, the Sunfish Lake Road, and the Greenwood Road on the Gunflint Ranger District.  On Tofte there will be trucks hauling on the Dumbbell River Road, the Wanless Road, and the Trappers Lake Road.  All of these locations are dependent on the road conditions being suitable for hauling activity. 

That’s all for this week!  Let’s hope for good weather so we can all stay warm and safe out in the Forest.  Please have an elite weekend, and until next time, this has been Jon Benson with the Superior National Forest Update.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 28

Superior National Forest Update by Steve Robertsen 
February 28, 2019



Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 14

National Forest Update – February 13, 2020.

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update.  It’s our birthday this week!  In 1909, on February 13th, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Superior National Forest into being.  At that time, a lot of the land was bare.  The mixed pine forest had been cleared during the intensive logging era of the late 1800s, so, as with many of the national forests declared in the east, the Superior was less a forest than it was a brushy stump field.  Thanks to replanting efforts by the Forest Service, hard work later by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the forest’s own natural resiliency, the woods grew back and made the forest we see, enjoy, and use today.  So, happy birthday, Superior!

While we’re in history mode, the Tofte Ranger Station recently was gifted a bit of National Forest history.  A kind individual donated a lifetime’s collection of Smokey Bear memorabilia, from early Smokey stuffed animals to a music box with Smokey in a jeep playing John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’.  We’ll be featuring portions of the collection on display in our office, so check out early Smokey next time you stop in.

Shifting from history, we can look into the future.  Well, ok, we can at least tell you at least a couple of things happening this weekend.  There are two ski events on February 15th.  One is the annual Pincushion Winter Festival including several levels of ski races, skijoring, and the Y-ski Winter Carnival.  The other is a candlelight ski on the Sugarbush Trails starting at the Oberg Mountain trailhead.  Both events are sponsored by partner organizations which maintain and groom our trail systems, and without which we quite possibly would have not have groomed trails.  So, we’d like to thank the North Superior Ski and Run Club for all the work they do at Pincushion, and the Sugarbush Trail Association for their work with the Sugarbush and Moose Fence trails.  Good job, club members!

When you’re headed out to ski, or do anything else outside, this is a good weekend to check the weather.  Our forecasted temperatures are all over the place from below zero to 32 degrees.  It is a good weekend to heed your mother’s advice and dress in layers so you can adjust to whatever nature throws at you.  Plan ahead and bring extra clothes or an empty pack for clothes you shed.  You don’t want to end up wearing below zero gear when it is near the melting point, and you don’t want to be wearing a light jacket and baseball cap when it’s below zero.
You can plan for trucks to be hauling logs on some roads.  On the Gunflint District, logging traffic will be on Cook County 14 and 60, the Sunfish Lake Road, Greenwood Road, the Gunflint Trail, and the Pike Lake Road.  Tofte District will have trucks using the Trappers Lake/Sawbill Landing Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, and Cook County 27.

It is harder for us to tell you which roads deer will be using.  Deer are on the roads a lot right now, partly because travel in the deep snow in the woods is difficult.  One person at our office hit a deer about a month ago, crumpling the hood, breaking the right headlight, and causing hundreds of dollars in damage… then was lucky enough to hit another deer with the newly painted and repaired car last week, breaking the other headlight, smashing the fender, and so on.  This is not an unskilled or poor driver, it was just bad luck.  So, keep your eyes on the roadsides and don’t speed.  With the new speed limit of 60 on portions of Highway 61, it is tempting to go even faster – but don’t. 

On the plus side, if you do drive slower and keep your eyes open looking for wildlife, there’s a lot to be seen besides deer.  Both great grey and snowy owls are around the area right now, and great greys in particular love to roost on street signs.  I saw a beautiful wolf on the road this morning, and eagles scavenging deer carcasses are abundant.  You can’t really beat that for a morning commute.

Enjoy the Forest and stay warm!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.