Where’s the Beach on the Gunflint Trail?

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that not everyone who visits the Gunflint Trail knows something about the geology of the area. For those who have no idea at all here’s an excerpt from the Cook County Visitors Bureau website.

Geological history of Cook County (abridged)

Some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet underlies Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage. Lake Superior rests in a formation of ancient Precambrian bedrock known as the Canadian Shield, which is over two billion years old.

Two dramatic geological events shaped the Cook County landscape:

  • A splitting-apart of the Earth’s crust, which caused a system of fissures called the Mid-continent Rift System. The splitting opened the earth’s core, enabling hot molten rock to well up, forming basalt flows that can be seen today along Lake Superior’s North Shore.

  • Ice ages. Starting about 2 million years ago, glaciation and glacial recession carved the Great Lakes, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/BWCAW, and the ten thousand lakes for which Minnesota is known.

Basically the land beneath us is rock. If it isn’t visible to the naked eye then all one must do is scrape the topsoil with their toes and the rock will instantly appear. You can’t dig a very deep hole in Cook County and anyone who has visited Voyageur has seen this first hand. We built our main lodge building around the rock and most basements in Cook County have rock in them.

So, when someone asks if there’s a beach on the Gunflint Trail a resident would most likely reply, “Yes.” The thing about the Seagull Beach is only a local would call this tiny strip of non-rock that abuts a grassy shoreline a beach. In fact, when the water is high the beach basically disappears altogether.

The reason I call it a beach is because of the gradual slope at which it enters the water and continues for a hundred yards or so into the lake. Most lakes in our area have sharp drop-offs and rocky ledges so this is why the Seagull Beach stands out. I would consider many places that have a boat ramp a potential beach as well.

Can you walk for miles on a sugary sand spit? Maybe a few feet if you are lucky. Is there room for a volleyball net? Only up on the grassy area. Is there a shower or toilet? There’s an outhouse that works fine. Can you relax, build a sand castle, catch a frog and maybe see a leech? OF COURSE! It’s a Gunflint Trail Beach, the only kind we know.

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