Lisa Brainard: Enjoy learning while having fun on the North Shore

PHOTO COURTESY SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST A Forest Service naturalist leads participants on a nature hike in Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota.
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs Destination

If you’re headed to northern Minnesota and its North Shore this summer, here’s some information you’ll want to know. Or, if you’re still deciding on a summer trip, the listing of activities that follows could certainly become a nice part of your trip.

The Superior National Forest and partnering organizations are offering free naturalist programs at a number of locations five days a week for people of all ages. All summer long, the naturalists will lead activities and programs at sites including resorts, trailheads, and more. Of note, you don’t have to be a guest at a specific location to attend a program there. Just attend, have fun and also check out some resorts at the same time.

“Walking through the woods, picking up rocks on the beach, sitting by a campfire – you’ll find that your appreciation of your visit to Superior National Forest will be enriched by coming to one of our many summer naturalist programs,” noted a Superior National Forest official.

The programs started June 18 and will run through Aug. 24. More information is available in a brochure at

I also gathered info from a blog by Greg Seitz on the Quetico Superior Wilderness News, an online publication of the Quetico Superior Foundation at You can sign up to subscribe to it by email.

Here’s a look at the summer schedule:


Tour Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill, 12:30 – 2 p.m. See how 2-by-4s take shape. Call Hedstrom’s at 218-387-2995 for reservations (limit 12 people). Tour is also offered on Fridays.

Becoming a Boundary Waters Family, Chik-Wauk Nature Center, 2 – 3:30 p.m. From cooking to history to bears, what you need to be a true BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) family. Topics vary.

The Stars Above, Lutsen Resort, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Don’t worry if it is still light outside; find out about the night sky anyway. Learn about stars, constellations, planets, and even the local traces of an ancient meteor strike.

Minnesota Bears, Eagle Ridge, 7:30 – 9 p.m. The black bears are amazingly well adapted to life in northern Minnesota, and smart and adaptable enough to live with humans – but how can we live with bears?


Carnivorous Plants! Life in a Bog, Caribou Highlands, 10 – 11:30 a.m. Explore a ‘bog in a box,” meet some mean eating plants, and learn about this unique ecosystem.

Minnesota WILD!, Grand Marais Recreation Area, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Mammals, birds, rocks, plants. The topics change weekly, but there’s always a campfire, with marshmallows provided.

Logging in the Days of Paul Bunyan, Lutsen Resort, 7:30 – 9 p.m. At the turn of the century, Minnesota supplied the lumber that built the nation. Learn what life was like for the lumberjacks living off “stove lids and dishwater.”


Explore the Shore, East Bay Suites, 10 – 11:30 a.m. Why are our rocks so special? Learn some local geology and hunt for agates and other treasure on the beach at East Bay.

Nature of Oberg Mountain, Oberg Mt. Trailhead, 10:30 a.m. – noon. Come explore Oberg Mountain. There will be naturalist activities on the trail or at the trailhead.

Mostly Moose, Caribou Highlands, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Gawky and awkward looking, moose make you laugh – but they are actually wonderfully adapted to life in the north. Learn about one of Minnesota’s favorite mammals.

A Superior North Shore, Bluefin Bay, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Lake Superior dominates the North Shore, but how well do you know our big lake?


Tour Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill, 10 – 11:30 a.m. Come see how 2-x-4s take shape. Call Hedstrom’s at 218-387-2995 for reservations (limit 12 people). Tour is also offered on Tuesdays.

Make a Dreamcatcher, Eagle Ridge, 10: 30 a.m. – noon. Listen to legends and learn a bit about native cultures as you make your own dreamcatcher. Adults should accompany kids.

Howls in the Night: Wolves!, Cascade Lodge, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Nothing means wilderness like the lonely cry of a wolf. Admired or hated, wolves stir emotions. Learn about Minnesota’s most famous residents.

Fire! The Frenemy of the Forest, Chateau LeVeaux, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Forest fires are described as devastating and destructive in the news, but they are actually an important part of the forest’s ecology. Learn more about how fire, the forest, wildlife and people all interact and depend on one another.


Wildflower Walk, Cascade Lodge, 10 – 11: 30 a.m. Hike the Wildflower Trail and discover what’s blooming. Uneven trail surface; wear sturdy shoes.

Nature of the Point, Artists’ Point at Grand Marais, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. A naturalist will be posted near the walkway to the lighthouse with activities to enhance one’s visit.

Minnesota Wild! At Sawbill Lake Campground Fire Ring, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Mammals, birds, rocks, plants. The event topics change weekly, but there’s always a campfire, with marshmallows provided.

Wildcats of the Woods, Bluefin Bay, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Find out about the wild cousins of your house kitty who are prowling the Northwoods.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.