The Gunflint Trail Blog
Boating season is upon us on the Gunflint Trail, although boat traffic on Gunflint Trail lakes won’t pick up in earnest until the season fishing opener on Saturday, May 12. (Despite some rumblings in the Minnesota legislature earlier this spring about possibly bumping up the opener by a week, the fishing opener will remain on May 12 this year.) Before you take that first spin in the boat this spring, here are a few things to remember:
Beware of aquatic invasive species
Minnesota continues to work to educate the public about how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels and spiny water fleas.
The MN DNR asks boaters to remember to stop aquatic hitchhikers by inspecting their boat whenever they take the boat out of the water and removing any vegetation or invasive species clinging to the boat,;draining the water from the boat before leaving the water access; and throwing unused bait in the trash. Before a boater moves their boat to another lake, the DNR asks boaters to either rinse their boat and equipment with at least 120 degree water, pressure wash the boat, or let the boat dry for at least five days.
Boaters are now required to display an aquatic invasive species decal on their watercraft. A penalty for not having the decal will begin to be enforced on August 1, 2014. The decals can be picked up for free at DNR offices or wherever you register your watercraft.
Register your watercraft
The state of Minnesota requires all watercraft to be registered. If you are not a Minnesota resident, you may register your watercraft in your home state. Minnesota honors all state registrations.
Life jacket use
And remember, while the ice may have gone off the lakes a month ago, we’ve been experiencing normal spring temperatures and water temperatures remain very chilly. While it’s always important to have a personal floatation device nearby whenever you’re out on the water — and children under the age of 10 must always wear a life jacket — it’s an especially good idea to actually wear your life jacket during these cool spring days.
Wondering what this Gunflint Green Up thing is all about? Here are answers to some of your questions about the event.
When did it begin?
The Gunflint Green Up event began in the spring of 2008, when volunteers and officials from the U.S. Forest Service gathered to replant the area on the upper Gunflint Trail burned by the Ham Lake Wildfire of 2007 with pine seedlings. The event has been held on the first weekend of May ever since. Over the years, the event has evolved to not only planting tree seedlings, but also cutting away undergrowth away from trees planted in previous years (known as “releasing”) to let the sunshine in and allow the trees to grow tall.
Who’s organizing this year’s event?
Gunflint Lodge is the primary sponsor of this year’s Green Up event and registration is done either online or by calling them at 1-800-328-3325.
Do I have to stay at Gunflint Lodge to participate?
What does my registration include?
Saturday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinners, planting equipment from the USFS, trees and group leaders. Registration is $48.00 per person.; taxes are additional.
What is I just want to volunteer?
If you just want to volunteer, but don’t want any of the meals that come with registration, arrive at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center at 10 a.m. on Saturday May 5 to be assigned a task.
What should I bring?
Sturdy footwear, appropriate clothing for working outside in early May (aka, layers and possibly raingear), and a pair of nippers, if you have them.
What will we be doing?
This year’s Green Up will focus on clearing the Gneiss Lake Trail, which is adjacent the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center grounds. Volunteers will plant trees and release previously planted trees along the overgrown Gneiss Lake Trail. Volunteers will also work to open up the Gneiss Lake Trail up to the Blueberry Hill overlook.
The Gunflint Trail loons have returned. With such an early ice out this year, it’s been easy to wonder if seasons on the Gunflint Trail are inside out, but the return of the loons are sure sign that spring is upon us. Loons have been spied fishing in many bays of Gunflint Trail lakes and the wailing call of the loon now frequently punctuates the night as the loons communicate during the midnight hours.
If you yourself happen to be up at the midnight hours, it’s worth looking to the northern horizon to see if you can spy the warm green glow of the Northern Lights. The Aurora were visible on Friday night and according to the website Space Weather: “For the third day in a row, a high-speed solar wind stream is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% to 15% chance of more geomagnetic activity during the next 24 hours as the solar wind continues to blow.”
Although we’ve been getting a bit of rain and/or snow each week since ice out, fire danger is always a concern on the Gunflint Trail before the spring green up. The MN DNR issued this notice about fire danger last week which contained this important reminder: “While campfires are allowed, please use caution so they do not escape. Clear an area around the campfire, attend it at all times and make sure it is cold to the touch before leaving it. Also, use caution when operating equipment or recreational vehicles to prevent sparks from igniting dry vegetation.”
For the time being though, Gunflint Trail residents are more concerned about the current winter weather advisory. Although April snow is always a little shocking, the snow (or rain) will happily raise lake levels and increase moisture levels in the woods.
Permit season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness begins on May 1. Do you have your spring canoe trip planned?
Minnesota’s fishing opener remains May 12. We’ll let you know as soon as we can if it gets bumped up a week, as is currently being debated in the Minnesota Houses.
The moose have been moving about recently. This lady was spotted camouflaged in the undergrowth near Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.
What better way to soak up the spring sunshine than with a picnic in the great outdoors with family and friends at a favorite Gunflint Trail location? If your picnic basket is all packed, but you’re not sure where to go, consider these suggestions:
If you’re looking to roast some marshmallows and weenies, you can’t do better than popping into one of sites at of the several Federal campgrounds along the Trail. You’ll find a picnic table, fire grate and a nearby latrine at whichever site you choose, not to mention a nearby lake or river:
East Bearskin (25 miles up the Trail)
Flour Lake (26 miles up the Trail)
Iron Lake (38 miles up the Trail)
Trail’s End (56 miles up the Trail)
If you don’t need a fire grate, but would prefer a picnic table to spread your vittles out on, there are plenty of picnic benches scattered along the Trail. If you’re looking for a view and a spot to get a bite to eat you can pull off at:
- Swamper Lake (23 miles up the Trail, picnic area on the left-hand side if you’re driving up the Trail)
- Little Iron Lake (38 miles up the Trail, past the Old Gunflint Trail road, on the right hand side if driving up the Trail. Follow trail over bridge to picnic table.)
- Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center (55 miles up the Trail, at 28 Moose Pond Drive. Several picnic tables at various locations on grounds.)
If you pack a bag lunch, you can take your picnic just about anywhere. Check out the Gunflint Trail hiking trail brochure for some ideas, or consider some of these breathtaking places to pause, soak in the view, and have a snack (or more).
- Blueberry Hill/Northern Light Lake overlook (13 miles up the Trail)
- Honeymoon Bluff (26 miles up the Trail, on the Clearwater Road )
- Lima Mountain Trail (21 miles up the Trail, accessed off the Lima Grade)
- Gunflint and Magnetic Lakes overlook (45 miles up the Trail)
Where’s your favorite spot to picnic on the Gunflint Trail?