The Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota spans 150 miles along the United States-Canadian border. Established as a National Forest in 1909 by proclamation of Teddy Roosevelt, this three million acre forest is a rich and varied resource. Here you can find recreation opportunities year round, including travel in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Popular recreation activities include camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, backpacking, and biking. The forest also is an ideal place for swimming, horseback riding, kayaking, sailing, waterskiing, rock hunting, berry picking, nature study, photography and so much more. In addition to summer activities, northwoods winters are ideally suited to winter sports such as cross-country and down hill skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, skating, and sledding. Over 445,000 acres or 695 square miles of the forest is surface water. In addition, more than 1,300 miles of cold water streams and 950 miles of warm water streams flow within the boundaries of the Superior. Fish species such as walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout can be found in abundance in these waters.
The northern forest community thrives with its pine, fir and spruce trees and is home to numerouse wildlife species including deer, moose, the gray wolf, and black bear. Northern Minnesota is the last stronghold of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. Approximately 300-400 wolves continue to roam within the boundaries of the Superior National Forest today.
The geology of the area is unique. Volcanic activity some 700 million years ago followed by at least four periods of glacial ice covering the land throughout the last million years helped to shape what is the forest today. Over these tens of thousands of years, ice from glaciers plowed up forested areas, leveled rocky outcrops, and stripped soil from the land. The many lakes now found in the Superior were formed in wake of retreating glaciers. The forested landscape seen today is the result of an ongoing process of nature rebuilding itself following glaciation. Retreat of the last glacier left the area bare of soil and vegetation. Gradually, soil formed on this barren rock landscape and vegetion once again staked a claim. These processes continue today. As you travel in the forest, you'll see how little soil is found in some areas. What is there took some 11,000 years to form.
For over 10,000 years, humans have lived on the land now called the Superior. The earliest humans, the Paleo Indian culture, pulled travois and lived in skin tents. Not so long ago, French-Canadian canoers, or Voyageurs, inhabited the area. The forest adjoins a part of the Voyageurs Highway, a series of connected lake and river routes, once used by the Voyageurs to move fur and trade goods between Montreal and the North American interior during the late 18th and 19th centuries. These Voyageurs travelled via birch bark canoes and were the first humans to make use of the area's natural resources for economic gain--primarily transporting valuable furs trapped by local natives.
Today, humans make extensive use of the natural resources found within the Superior for both economic and recreational purposes. What will the future hold for this great forest? A goal of the Superior National Forest is to assure that a diversity of plants, animals, and ecosystems continue to thrive. Always keeping this goal in mind, the forest is managed following principles and guidelines outlined in a comprehensive Forest Plan. In addition to this plan, a recently completed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Management Plan and Implementation Schedule is used to provide guidance for managing this important wilderness. We recognize that human resource use in the Superior for both economic and recreational purposes should be balanced with considerations for the land and its non-human inhabitants.