There are not many old-growth forests remaining in the state of Minnesota. We on the North Shore are lucky enough to have three of them that can be easily accessed.
What is an Old Growth Forest?
An old-growth forest is a forest that has not undergone any unnatural changes or major disturbances (e.g. logging) for at least 100 years. These forests contain young, mature, and dead-standing trees and have a multi-layered canopy. They tend to recover from natural damage like wind and fire faster than disturbed forests and create a habitat that is ideal for diverse wildlife. Old-growth forests are also known as primary, virgin, primeval or late seral forests. Three old-growth forests that are easy to access on the North Shore can be found at George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park, Tettegouche State Park, and Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA.
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park is designated as a state park with limited development. Inside its borders are 166-acres of northern hardwoods and 196-acres of upland white cedar that make up an old-growth forest. In addition, there are yellow birch as old as 400 years, white cedar as old as 300 years, and sugar maples as old as 200 years.
To access the park from Finland, take the Cramer Road/County Road 7 east of town for 8.5 miles. The park entrance will be located on the right side of the road.
To get to the park from Schroeder, take the Cramer Road (County Road 1) north/west of Schroeder for 6.1 miles. Continue following Cramer Road (County Road 1) as it turns into County Road 8 for 3.9 more miles. At the intersection, turn left onto Cramer Road and follow for 4.1 miles. The entrance to George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park is on the left side of the road. Although the route from Schroeder is only 15 miles long, you will want to allow about 45 minutes for travel on the beautiful, winding gravel roads.
Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park, located near Silver Bay, has a large area of old-growth forest. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it is made up of northern hardwoods (294 acres), upland white cedar (142 acres), black ash (74 acres), and oak (94 acres) forests. The yellow birch is estimated to be an impressive 290 years old, sugar maple 225 years old, and the white cedar trees are up to 220 years old.
This park can be easily accessed along Highway 61 four miles east of Silver Bay.
Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA
Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA is located outside of Hovland. Within the forest are old-growth sugar maples and lower-growing species of maples that cover about 115 acres. Other trees like white cedar, white pine, yellow birch, and white spruce can be seen scattered around the forests. Since many of these tree species were logged and the area was used as a sugar bush years ago, maple primarily makes up the forest canopy. Rare plants can be found growing in the area, as well. They include blunt-fruited sweet cicely, Carolina spring beauty, and Chilean sweet cicely.
To access Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA from Hovland, drive 2.4 miles north on County Road 16, then take a left onto Hovland Tower Road. Drive 1 mile and stay left at the Tom Lake Road junction. Drive 0.3 miles and park at the gate. Hike west to the site.