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Superior National Forest Update: October 21

This is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of October 21st, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

While some fall colors still cling to the branches right along Highway 61, most of the leaves in the interior have fallen to the ground.  Despite this, there are still some slow moving vehicles out looking for leaves.  It is also grouse season, so you’ll find slow and parked vehicles belonging to hunters out there as well.  That means that you still have to take it easy rounding corners or cresting hills as you never know what might be blocking the road ahead.

There are some beautiful warm fall days still ahead of us, but this time of year can also have rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.  When you head out, make sure to prepare for all kinds of weather.  A t-shirt that was comfortable in the sunny morning will not be enough when the temperature drops and sleet starts to fall in the afternoon.  In addition to personal preparedness, part of being prepared means leaving word with someone at home about where you are planning to go, and when you plan to be back.  A walk out from a broken down car may be just an inconvenience in summer, but can lead to hypothermia in the fall.

All our campgrounds are now in their winter status.  Fees are no longer being collected, and water and garbage service is no longer available.  You are still welcome to use the campgrounds, but be aware that campground regulations, including the “nine people per campsite” and “no more than 14 days at a site” regulations, still apply.  As the season progresses, you should also know that we don’t plow out campgrounds or outhouses in the winter, and, most importantly, we don’t restock toilet paper either. 
Docks have mostly been removed from boat launches, and all should be gone by the end of the week.  If you are still planning on some fall fishing, be ready to get a little wetter than you might have earlier in the season, but you can still use the boat launch, and there are still fish out there just waiting to be caught.

Speaking of campgrounds, our fee campgrounds are operated by concessionaires.  We are taking bids for the operating concession on three campgrounds in the Tofte District.  If this sounds like a good opportunity to you, check out our website, or call the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger District for more information.  Bids close on Friday, December 2nd.

On the wildlife front, fall bird migration is still going on, with the swarms of white throated and white crowned sparrows giving way to juncos and snow buntings.  Hawks and saw-whet owls are also still moving through.  The hawks are great to watch overhead as thousands of them end up following the shore of the big lake.  Saw-whets, one of the smallest owls, also follow the lake shore, but since they are doing it at night in the forest, you never see them.  You can listen for them though.  They don’t hoot like an owl should, they make a repetitious slow beeping noise.  Count yourself lucky if you do manage to spot one, the hand sized owl is probably one of the cutest birds around.

If you are out driving, there are some logging operations which will have trucks on the road.  Harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road on the Gunflint District.  There are also operations off the Honeymoon Trail near White Pine Lake and off the Rice Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is taking place on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on the Dumbell River Road.

No matter which road you choose to take, and whether you are hawk watching, grouse hunting, leaf peeping, fishing, or all of the above, enjoy your Forest and the late fall season.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.