Upper Manitou Forest Preserve
If you’re looking to find some of the largest and oldest trees on the North Shore, check out the Upper Manitou Forest Preserve. It includes one of the best remaining examples of what the North Shore forest was once like. The 2,450-acre preserve is full of sugar maple, yellow birch, white spruce, and white cedar. They are estimated to be more than 300 years old. Some of the trees growing in the area are more than 5 feet in circumference! That is significant for a maple tree, especially along the North Shore where maples tend to grow slowly due to the climate.
The Nature Conservancy owns this site and selected it because they felt that people should be able to experience the one-of-a-kind North Shore forest in its self-sustaining condition. As one tree dies, another grows, creating a circle of life effect. Without it, the migratory songbirds and other species roaming the area would not have such a healthy forest to call home.
The Conservancy is doing something unique with the Upper Manitou Forest Preserve that is fairly new to Northeast Minnesota. They are working with key landowners in the area to acquire environmentally sensitive lands to preserve, maintain, and restore. Currently, the Conservancy is compiling a forest inventory for the entire preserve. That will include a map of all forest types, as well as different data on the many ecosystems found there.
The preserve is located in Lake County, northeast of Finland, Minnesota. From Finland, visitors should drive on Lake County Route 7 past the Crosby-Manitou State Park entrance (the entrance is 8.5 miles from Finland) then take a left two miles past the state park entrance (or about 10.5 miles from Finland) onto Earl West Road. Drive 3.5 miles to the area marked with a TNC preserve sign.
Note: Earl West Road passes through private property – please be respectful. It is also impassable to vehicles most winters and during the spring thaw and periods of heavy rain. So, don’t hesitate to pack your snowshoes or hiking boots if you are visiting during the winter. We assure you that the incredible experience of being in such rare old-growth forest will be worth the extra work!