Wildlife at the Minnesota State Fair

My favorite part of the Minnesota State Fair, besides the food, has always been the Minnesota DNR area. Why is it my favorite place to hang out at the fair? Read on and you’ll see why.

 

DNR’s iconic state fair exhibit educates, entertains visitors

A wide range of educational displays, exhibits, presentations along with music and entertainment highlight the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ annual exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair, which runs Aug. 24-Sept. 4.

“The DNR building and surrounding park area serves as a landmark, a meeting place and a must-visit educational and entertainment destination,” said Dawn Flinn, who helps coordinate the DNR exhibit. “It’s where generations of fairgoers have created life-long memories.”

About 500,000 people visit the DNR’s building and exhibit area during the fair.

“Minnesotans are passionate about the state’s natural resources,” she said. “This is a great way for us to spread the word about how interesting, important and exciting nature is.”

This year’s DNR State Fair theme is Wonderful Water. “We’ll have displays and signs that emphasize the link between clean water and natural resources heath and recreation,” Flinn said.

What’s new?

  • DNR building is open daily during fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps erected the building in less than six months using machined logs.
  • Funding came from federal and state emergency relief administration and State Fair funds.
  • Gate tickets in 1934 cost 25 cents. Today, a regular adult admission ticket costs $14.
  • Approximately 500,000 people visit DNR building and surrounding park area each year.
  • The 40-foot-high building opened Sept. 1, 1934.
  • Historic DNR building at State Fair is celebrating 83rd anniversary this year.
  • Displays inside the DNR building cover a wide range of natural resource topics including state parks and trails, rocks and minerals, watersheds, aquatic invasive species, state lands and forests. People can also buy hunting and fishing licenses at the DNR building.The outdoor fish pond and indoor fish tanks give visitors a chance learn about the different fish that call Minnesota home. This year’s exhibit features about three dozen fish species.The DNR fire tower will be open for people who are interested in climbing the 84 steps to get a bird’s-eye view of the State Fairgrounds.There also will be a number of presentations and musicians on the DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage, the Garden Stage and the Forest Stage.For schedule of events, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/events/statefair/schedules.html.

    The DNR’s State Fair building and surrounding park area are located at the corner of Carnes Avenue and Nelson Street in Falcon Heights. It will be open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily during the fair.

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    2017 DNR State Fair exhibit fact sheet

    Main building

  • Small children’s nature play area with climbing boulders and rock interpretation.
  • Explore interactive displays to learn how to prevent spread of invasive species.
  • Iron “Ore” man, photo op of person dressed in a northern Minnesota clothing from early 21st century (Aug. 28).
  • Interactive theater production: “Da Range – Minnesota Iron Range Comes to Life” (Aug. 28).
  • A kayak and paddleboard simulator so people can experience two of fastest growing paddle sports.
  • Gaze upon a wall of tree cookies 11 feet tall – all native, Minnesota trees.
  • Explore a life-sized white pine tree, complete with roots a person can walk on and learn how forests create clean water.
  • Wonderful Water Day, booths and presentations related to water (Sept. 1).
  • Step inside a giant hiking boot surrounded by huge leaves for a unique Minnesota photo. Just imagine what it is like to experience a real Minnesota forest.
  • Fish pond
  • Fish exhibit is one of State Fair’s most popular attractions.
  • Pond holds about 50,000 gallons of water. It is kidney-shaped and is about 100 feet by 50 feet.
  • Fish pond talks take place at quarter to the hour daily, from 9:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Indoor aquariums
  • There are five tanks that show fish in their native Minnesota habitat: trout of southeastern Minnesota; fish of the St. Croix River; and species of central, southern and northern Minnesota lakes.
  • Aquariums are built lower to the ground, making it easier for more guests to see the turtles, fish and other species.
  • Combined aquarium capacity of more than 5,000 gallons of water, the same amount of water the average family of four uses in a month.
  • When full, tanks weigh about 118,000 pounds or about the weight of 118 Minnesota moose.
  • Aquariums are open daily during fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Fire tower
  • Specifically built for State Fair to provide a wildfire prevention message to visitors.
  • Opened in 1966 and was closed in 1978 because of safety concerns. Was repaired and reopened in 2006.
  • It is 65 feet tall and there are 84 steps from bottom to top.
  • There is no charge to climb fire tower stairs to get birds-eye view of fair.
  • Weather permitting, fire tower open daily during fair from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Land and minerals display
  • “Blast Shack” takes historical look at mining in Minnesota and features actual footage of iron ore blasted from an active mine that includes sound. Old-fashioned plunger provides kids with opportunity to get a feel of what it’s like to set off a blast.
  • “What is Under Your House,” display will allow people to check out geology/type of rocks under their house.
  • A “Minnesota Bedrock Geology Quilt” – an 84-inch wide by 108-inch long quilt using 80 colors that show the bedrock geology of Minnesota.
  • A hands-on display of Minnesota-found fossils, co-sponsored by the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Interactive theater production: “Da Range – Minnesota Iron Range Comes to Life” (Aug. 28).
  • “Living statue” of an iron miner available for photo opportunities on Monday, Aug. 28 from noon until 5 p.m.
  • Display open daily during fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Located inside DNR State Fair building.
  • Camper cabin
  • Fairgoers can step inside the 24-foot by 12-foot camper cabin that’s on display.
  • Cabins are built to provide a “camping out” experience within the comfort of four walls.
  • Cabin has two sets of bunks. Also includes a picnic table and fire ring with grill.
  • There are more than 80 camper cabins available to rent in state parks and recreational areas around the state.
  • Many cabins include electricity, and some are wheelchair accessible.
  • Camper cabin display model open daily during the fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Located in DNR Park, near southwest corner of DNR building.
  • DNR forestry display
  • Three new interactive exhibit areas.
  • Step inside a giant hiking boot surrounded by huge leaves for a unique Minnesota photo. Just imagine what it is like to step into a real Minnesota forest!
  • Explore a life-sized white pine tree, complete with roots a person can walk on and learn how forests create clean water.
  • Gaze upon a wall of tree cookies 11 feet tall – all native, Minnesota trees.
  • Walk into a “forest” of interactive, informational trees on: forest stewardship, urban trees, forest products, fire and forests and Minnesota’s biomes.
  • Play with a puzzle of dimensional lumber to learn how much wood comes from a log.
  • Explore the tools foresters use in the woods every day – clinometer, increment borer and drip torch.
    Exhibit is open 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. in DNR Building.
  • Stand-up paddleboard and kayak simulators
  • Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking are the fastest growing paddle sports in Minnesota.
  • Simulators are free and located near the DNR fish pond.
  • Experience lasts about three minutes. All ages welcome; parental participation required for children under 8 years of age.
  • Variety of life jacket styles, including inflatables, will be available to try on.
  • Simulators open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
  • Wall of Shame trailer – Turn in Poachers
  • Mounted animals and stories about how they were taken illegally.
  • 16-foot long lighted trailer.
  • Display located on south side of DNR building.
  • Wildlife Wing
  • Fairgoers can learn about Minnesota species and wildlife habitat.
  • Special sound and lighting effects help create an experience of moving from day to night and through the four seasons, as visitors walk through the display.
  • Master naturalist volunteers available to answer wildlife questions.
  • Display located in DNR building and is open daily during fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Invasive species display
  • Learn about the invasive species present in Minnesota.
  • Explore interactive displays to learn the actions people can take to prevent invasive species.
  • People can clean, drain and dispose to stop aquatic invasive species and PlayCleanGo to stop invasive species on land.
  • Check out the PlayCleanGo pledge wall to pledge to clear gear to Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks.
  • See examples of invasive animals and plants and the impacts they can have.
  • Talk with DNR staff and volunteers about invasive species questions.
  • Smokey Bear
  • Smokey Bear is celebrating 73 years of reminding children and their parents about the dangers of wildfires.
  • Smokey Bear makes daily appearances at DNR Park at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
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Grand Marais is a Wonderful Place to Live

Grand Marais Harbor

Shall I say this is Chapter 2 of Torn? That would assume there might be a 3rd and I’d hate to commit…

People all over are envious of those of us who live in Grand Marais. It’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” (Budget Travel Magazine), A “Top 10 Beach Getaway” (Outside Magazine), and a “Next Great Adventure Town”(National Geographic Adventure Magazine) but it isn’t the end of the Gunflint Trail.

I spent my first 23 years of my life living in St. Cloud, Minnesota. At the time I lived there the population of the city itself was around 40,000 but with the students of St. Cloud State University, the surrounding towns of Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park along with all of the rural towns nearby it always felt much bigger.  An interstate runs through it, major highways bisect it and it’s anything but quaint. When people ask me what I miss about living there I can honestly answer, “Nothing.”

We moved to the end of the Gunflint Trail in 1993 and for the first five years we had no indoor plumbing. While it was a major adjustment from living in St. Cloud I embraced it immediately and fully. Seeing the northern lights at 20 below zero from the seat of the outhouse, washing linens in a ringer washing machine and living in a 20×24 house I felt like I was the luckiest girl alive.

We made trips to Grand Marais, Duluth and Thunder Bay, Ontario but we lived at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Sometimes weeks would pass by before we had to make a trip to town. Those days are a distant memory but one I am so fond of and long to experience again.

I still consider myself a very lucky and blessed woman. How many people get to experience the things I do? I have canoes and boats with direct access into the Boundary Waters just an hour away from my house in Grand Marais. Just 60 miles will take me to the edge of the wilderness where pines sway to the music of the loons.

Driving the Gunflint Trail

My shoulders relax when I think about the calm and quiet of the Seagull River. Where boat motors may occasionally buzz and traffic is the crunch of vehicle tires on gravel. Where the sound of a siren is almost non-existent and a Jake Brake(break) would be one of our crew members at lunch.  A place where we know the day of the week by the arrival of a single delivery truck.

I know I am very fortunate to have a house in Grand Marais. Lake Superior is forever changing in color and shape and creates a most inspirational backdrop to life in town. The Sawtooth Mountains, the sailboats in the harbor and our iconic lighthouse add beauty and charm to our quaint village. It’s a place tourists flock to because of all of the recreational opportunities and terrific restaurants.

Most of those people are so accustomed to noise they don’t even notice all of the sounds that interrupt my thoughts. Maybe I have a sensitivity to noise because I have lived for so long where it is quiet. But in the summertime in Grand Marais with the windows open I hear every sound. Car alarms beeping, power ratchet racket from the nearby auto shop, dogs barking, music from restaurants, shouts of people or children playing nearby and the almost constant sound of traffic. Sometimes my ears burn with the sound of the squawking of seagulls or as I refer to them, Sky Carp.

I know there are far noiser places to live. There are people who live near airports and next to busy interstates and I’m sure if you tested noise levels Grand Marais would be considered quiet. But my ears want to be able to hear the leaves rustling in the wind, the waves lapping on the shore and even the chatter of a chipmunk. My ears long to hear the noise of my other world at the end of the Gunflint Trail.

 

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Bears in the Boundary Waters

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard of any bear complaints from folks in the Boundary Waters. Our guests haven’t had any trouble this year but other visitors to the BWCA have. The USFS informed us of the following.

Bear activity reported on Gneiss Lake on the Granite River and Knife Lake.  On Ogishkemuncie Lake there was a report of two friendly young bears visiting campsites and on Duncan Lake a sow and a cub made a mess of a campsite. 
 
Please continue to stress the importance of a good, clean campsite and food storage practices.  Hang food properly and not always in the same obvious tree.  Bear proof containers are helpful could possibly be tied to a tree, make sure they are clean and free of food on the outside
Encourage visitors to scare the bear out of the campsite, making themselves larger than the bear and creating a lot of noise.

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Torn Between Two Worlds

There is a book called, “A Life in Two Worlds,” actually when I googled it there are two but the one I’m referring to is about Betty Powell-Skoog. She tells of her life in two worlds, the first part of her life growing up in the woods north of Saganaga and the second part of her life when she moved to town. At the time I read it I wasn’t particularly interested in reading about it but I might have to take another look.

As some of you know I too have a life in two worlds. Our daughter Abby is going to be a Senior this year and our son Josh a Junior and they are highly involved in athletics. They have been for some time and this means a ton of travel year around.  In 2007 we purchased a place with a walk-out basement to use as a crash pad in town and had renters upstairs. This allowed the kids to be able to participate in school activities.

Most of you know we have partnership in Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais. Since opening the brewery in 2015 we’ve spent the majority of our time in town. The past few summers we’ve been blessed to have a highly capable crew and managers at the end of the Gunflint Trail.  They have done such a great job operating the canoe outfitting business I don’t need to be up there. While that has been wonderful it has also put me in a strange position.

One time while vacationing we returned to our hotel and one of the kids said, “Phew, we’re home!” Since then I have always said, “Home is wherever we are all together.” I love spending time with my family and my kids but every mother knows the older your kids get the less they need Mom. So while it has been wonderful to have an awesome crew at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters it has also been a struggle. It has placed me in the position of having a choice! A choice as to whether I should be where my heart is at the end of the Gunflint Trail or where my life is right now, in Grand Marais.

Every day I am torn between two worlds.

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Oh Deer on the Gunflint

We’ve been seeing a little buck around Voyageur at the end of the Gunflint Trail lately. We haven’t seen many deer in the past few years and many of us think that is a good thing. When the deer population is up the moose population usually drops. Deer are also carriers of brainworm that can affect moose too. While it’s nice to see deer I prefer to see them closer to Grand Marais or elsewhere in the state of Minnesota.

Deer at Voyageur

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Brule River and Devil’s Kettle in August

There’s a little less water in the Brule River this month than there was earlier this summer but it’s still flowing and as beautiful as ever. It’s a must-do hike when you’re in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

August

June

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Wildlife Wonders of the Canoe Country

I sometimes wonder about wildlife in the canoe country. In July our family paddled across the Quetico Park from Beaverhouse Lake to Cache Bay, under 100 miles but pretty close. You would think in that vast area of wilderness there would be plenty of wildlife to see. Maybe it was because the lakes were large or we weren’t looking closely enough but we didn’t see any big wildlife.

When we got back to the Gunflint Trail we saw a moose on our drive back to town. Why is it we see more wildlife at the end of the Gunflint Trail then we do by paddling almost 100 miles through the Quetico Park? I wonder.

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Colors Changing on the Gunflint Trail

We’re beginning to see some color changes on the Gunflint Trail. Maybe it was the hot, dry spell we had that started the transformation of colors? Whatever the reason we’re not ready for summer to be over quite yet. There’s still plenty of time to get a canoe camping trip in!

 

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Bears and Blueberries on the Gunflint Trail

The blueberry crop this year has been disappointing. First the very wet spring was to blame and then too many days of hot sunshine dried out the few berries there were. Combine that with all of the extremely large piles of bear poop I have seen in our favorite blueberry patches and it’s not a big surprise it hasn’t been good picking.

Good picking for blueberries is somewhat a personal opinion. I like to be able to grab a clump of ripe berries at one time and dislike having to pluck one individual berry at a time. It isn’t as much fun when it takes forever to cover the bottom of a bucket and your back is aching before it’s half full.

I am thinking the USFS might have to plan a few prescribed burns to create some good patches like some people used to do in the “olden” days. Or I’m going to have to go over to Ely where the Pagami Fire raged through the woods.

It’s still nice to be outside in the fresh air and however few blueberries I pick it’s still better than none.

 

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Quetico Park Fishing

While on a recent Quetico Park trip Josh supplied Chef Mike with 3 meals of delicious walleye for the family to enjoy!

Quetico

Quetico Park Fishing

 

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