Day One: Thursday-June 12, 2014
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Arrivals.
Arrive in your gateway city to the Northwoods - Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sally Bell will meet you at the baggage claim area and assist with luggage and hotel transfer. The hotel provides a complimentary airport shuttle and a shuttle to the famous Mall of America, just a few short blocks from our hotel. We look forward to our festive Welcome Dinner at 7:00 pm at our hotel. Meals Included: (D)
Day Two: Friday-June 13, 2014
Historic Fort Snelling and Fort Snelling State Park.
After breakfast we head to historic Fort Snelling and Fort Snelling State Park on Pike Island at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, Fort Snelling was once the farthest outpost of the U.S. military. We will learn about the lives of the people who lived in and around the fort in the early 1800s, as well as the important role the site has played in Minnesota history.
We then head to Fort Snelling State Park. For hundreds of years before Europeans arrived, generations of Dakota people lived in villages along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers that meet in Fort Snelling State Park. The river confluence was believed to be the place of origin and center of the earth by the bands of Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan Dakota, the "Dwellers by Mystic Lake." The park is located in the Mississippi River Sandplains Landscape Region at the confluence of two great rivers, the Minnesota and the Mississippi. Most of the park is on the Minnesota River floodplain. The riverine environment hosts large cottonwood, silver maple, ash, and willow trees along the braided channels of the Minnesota River. We will spend time looking for wildlife with Rudy. We return to our hotel after our walk. Meals Included: (B, L)
Day Three: Saturday-June 14, 2014
Headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park and Lake Cruise.
We head north this morning for Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi. At Itasca State Park, the mighty Mississippi River begins its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
Established in 1891 to preserve remnant stands of virgin pine and to protect the basin around the Mississippi's source, this park has become a famous natural and cultural landmark in North America. The terrain in this area is sometimes referred to as "knob and kettle." The knobs are mounds of debris deposited directly by the ice near the glacier's edge or by meltwater streams flowing on or under the glacier surface. The kettles are depressions, usually filled with water, formed by stagnant ice masses buried or partially buried under glacial debris. The retreat of the ice left many lakes of varying size. The diversity of vegetation in the park supports many wildlife species. Birding is excellent, and visitors are encouraged to help spot and record the bird life they see in the park. Some birds you can expect to see include loons, grebes, cormorants, herons, ducks, owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, vireos, tanagers, finches and warblers. We will take the headwaters loop trail to see the beginning of the mighty Mississippi.
We take a narrated naturalist boat tour of the lake that follows the same route taken by Ozawindib in 1832. He guided Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River where they recorded the source of the greatest river in the United States as it begins its flow 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Following our tour we continue on to Bemidji, MN for our overnight. Meals Included: (B, L,)
Day Four: Sunday-June 15, 2014:
Forest History Center, International Wolf Center.
We depart Bemidji this morning for Grand Rapids and a stop at the Forest History Center. The forests of northern Minnesota have had great impact on the lives of their inhabitants for many centuries. This relationship between people and the land has evolved from those who relied on the forests to provide sustenance, through the cutting of forests to provide the timber that helped to build a growing America, to today's recreational escape from our urbanized society. The Forest History Center tells the story of this changing relationship. The Logging Camp is a "living history" feature where guides or interpreters dress in the clothing of lumberjacks and perform the tasks of actual logging camp workers.
You'll be encouraged to visit with the camp cook and cook's assistants (called cookees), the company clerk, bullcook (camp janitor), saw filer, lumberjacks, barn boss (who cares for the draft horses), the blacksmith and "wood butcher" (carpenter). Board the river "wanigan," the barge-like boat used on log drives, as it floats on the Mississippi River awaiting the next drive downstream. Join the crew of "river pigs" (log drivers) as they push and prod the huge pine logs from the pineries up north into the river for transport to the waiting sawmills in river towns. Walk the Center's three nature trails for a quiet and colorful view of the Mississippi River and northern Minnesota's woodlands. Learn about the value of trees to both industry and the environment.
After lunch at the site, we head north to The International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. We will meet the wolf ambassadors and participate in a program that will tell us about wolf behavior, communication and adaptation as a predator. Our program includes a short 25-minute hike through northern forest wolf habitat. We check into our Ely hotel for the night. Meals Included: (B, L)
Day Five: Monday-June 16, 2014:
Free Day in Ely for Boundary Waters exploration or just to relax and enjoy the area.
Today is free for Endowment tour participants to sign up for a tour in the Boundary Waters area. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1,090,000-acre wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. You may check www.ely.org for area outfitters and tour companies. Remember the Boundary Waters Canoe area is very remote, and there is limited accessibility.
We encourage you to call early for canoe or tour reservations. The Ely, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce number is 1-800-777-7281 for questions and information about the area. Activities are also available at the Lodge. Grand Ely Lodge overlooks scenic Shagawa Lake with smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, pike, crappie and lake trout bustling right below the surface. They offer a marina for you to enjoy a relaxing day on the water. You may rent one of their 16ft. deluxe fishing boats or a 20ft. deluxe pontoon, or fish right off the dock using fishing poles to reel in a keeper. You are never too far from the catch of the day or you can lace up your boots and enjoy an adventure into the beautiful Ely forest.
The Trezona Trail, located just across the street from the resort, provides four miles of scenic hiking for outdoor explorers of all experience levels. Grand Ely Lodge also offers free use of a canoes, kayaks or paddleboats, so venture out on Shagawa Lake and take in some of nature's best kept secrets. The number to call for information on Lodge activities is 1-800-365-5070. Meals Included: (B)
Day Six: Tuesday-June 17, 2014:
Ely to the North American Bear Center, to Grand Portage National Monument to Grand Marais
This morning we stop at the North American Bear Center. There is a huge need for accurate information about bears worldwide. The mission of the non-profit North American Bear Center is to advance the long-term survival of bears worldwide by replacing misconceptions with scientific facts about bears, their role in ecosystems and their relations with humans. It is also working to conserve bear habitats, stop poaching for bear body parts, rehabilitate injured and orphaned bears back to the wild and implement methods to reduce conflict between humans and bears.
We will visit the museum and view the three resident bears before we continue on through the Minnesota Northwoods and along Lake Superior to Grand Portage National Monument. If you like history, this is the place to visit the North West Company’s (NWCo.) reconstructed headquarters on Lake Superior. Although similar gatherings were held on Grand Portage Bay by French traders, the Scottish managed NWCo. They probably held their first rendezvous here in the early 1780s. The scope of operations at Grand Portage continuously grew so by 1789 the NWCo. had constructed a stockade with 16 to 18 log buildings with cedar or birch bark shingles, and some had copper or tin roofs.
Today, you can visit the stockade area with four log buildings: great hall, kitchen, canoe warehouse and a gatehouse. Each building is staffed by knowledgeable employees dressed in clothing of the late 1700s performing activities needed by the NWCo. Canoe building, carpentry, making bread, working with flintlock muskets, gardening, crafting baskets and carving paddles were just some of the activities necessary to make the NWCo. one of the most successful companies during the fur trade. We will enjoy lunch at the site and take a walk on a bit of the Grand Portage Trail. The trail is original and used to take the voyageurs three hours to haul two 90lb heavy packs of fur 8.5 miles. We enjoy dinner before we arrive at our Grand Marais hotel. Meals Included: (B, L, D)
Day Seven: Wednesday-June 18, 2014:
Day Trip to Isle Royale National Park-Windago Bay.
We depart early this morning from Grand Portage, MN, to Isle Royale National Park. Our boat passes and pauses at several points of interest along the way out and back from Isle Royale, allowing time for photos and viewing. We get to Windago Bay around 10:00 am, where we will spend 4 hours of free time in the area. NPS staff welcomes you to take part in planned activities including guided hikes and programs. You can also plan your own hike or just relax at the visitor center, boat dock and Windigo area. We reboard for a 2:00 pm departure back to Grand Portage; we get back around 3:30 pm. The water temps on the big lake seldom get over 50 degrees so it can be cool on the lake; we strongly suggest dressing in layers. Don't forget raingear!
The boat tour includes:
- The Little Spirit Cedar Tree: More than 400 years old, the ancient cedar tree was believed by the Chippewa to have the power to protect and calm the waters of Lake Superior during travels. It was customary for small gifts to be left for the tree as a protective measure before trips on the Lake.
- The Suzie Islands: A favored nesting site for sea gulls and cormorants, the Suzie Islands are a small island chain near Grand Portage. The beauty of these small islands lies in their lichen and rock formations.
- The Sunken Steam Ship "America": This 185 foot long steamship serviced Isle Royale and the North Shore until 1927, bringing passengers, food and mail to the residents of Minnesota's North Shore, Isle Royale and Thunder Bay, Canada. The bow of the ship is less than 2 feet from the surface, while its stern is over 90 feet down. Lake Superior's cold, clear waters have made the "America" one of the best-preserved wrecks in the world, making this a popular dive site.
- The Rock of Ages Lighthouse: This lighthouse guards one of the most extensive reefs on the Isle Royale archepelago. In the early 1900s several large steamships fell prey to this area during fall and spring storms. The water depths near this lighthouse range from hundreds of feet to a mere 5 feet deep within a 20 foot span.
- Washington Harbor: This is a beautiful wooded area of Isle Royale, containing many small islands, abundant wildlife and one of the last commercial fisheries left on Isle Royale. Fisheries research has been carried on from the Washington Island site for a half century. Spawn taken from Lake Trout caught nearby has served to replenish trout stocks for many areas in the Great Lakes.
- Windigo: This is the second-largest landing area on the island, offering many activities including self-guided nature walks, a visitor's center with a small museum and gift shop, camp stores and a variety of interpretive programs put on by the National Park Service.
We spend a second night in Grand Marais after our day trip to Isle Royale.
Meals Included: (B, L)
Day Eight: Thursday-June 19, 2014:
Looking for wildlife on a nature drive along the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway. Chik Wauk Museum & nature walk.
We will spend a leisurely day following the Gunflint Trail and experiencing views of beautiful Lake Superior in the byway's starting point, Grand Marais, and from the 1,000-foot elevation of the Sawtooth Mountain ridgeline. This scenic trail passes through the northeastern corner of Minnesota near the Canadian border. The pastoral landscape of the Superior National Forest is a quiet nature destination where animals outnumber people. The forest changes from mixed deciduous to maple, to mixed conifer, to conifer and to boreal forest--all home to a fascinating variety of birds and mammals. We will enjoy lunch and a stop at the end of the trail at the Chik Wauk Museum for photos, hiking and wildlife watching before continuing on south to Duluth and our hotel for the night. Meals Included: (B, L)
Day Nine: Friday-June 20, 2014:
Duluth to The Dalles of the St. Croix River to Minneapolis, Farewell Dinner at our hotel.
Our final touring day begins as we travel south to The Dalles of the St. Croix River. Enjoy lunch before we head out to tour the world famous Dalles of the St. Croix River by excursion boat. Our licensed boat pilot will point out the unique rock formations that were left behind as the glaciers retreated thousands of years ago. Among the most outstanding formation is the huge stone cross for which the St. Croix River was named. "St. Croix" means Holy Cross. Other sites that can be seen from the boat include: the world's largest glacial kettles or "pot holes", Lion's Head, Turk's Head and the highlight of the boat tour, The Old Man of the Dalles - the most outstanding natural rock face you'll ever see. After our trip on the St. Croix River we head into Minneapolis for our Farewell Dinner at our hotel and our final night in Minnesota. Meals Included: (B, L, D)
Day Ten: Saturday-June 21, 2014:
Transfers to the airport depending on flight schedules. Have a safe journey back home.
Minneapolis Airport Departures Home.
Meals Included: (B)