If you’ve visited the North Shore in the past, you’ve likely passed the large sign along Highway 61 on the expressway between Duluth and Two Harbors that reads “Tom’s Logging Camp”. Perhaps you’re like me and you see the sign frequently and think “I should check that place out someday”, but as you’re heading up the shore to your destination the thought quickly leaves your mind. It did mine for many years. That is until I decided to finally swing into Tom’s Logging Camp from the North Shore Scenic Drive on a sunny afternoon to see what the place is really about. Now, I am regretting not having done it sooner!
Tom’s Logging Camp is a re-creation of a logging camp that would have been found in the area from the mid-1800s to the early-1900s. A throwback to the days of the original white settlers in the area who found their way to Lake Superior’s North Shore because of the abundance of trees that were needed during America’s building boom. These early loggers were a hardy bunch- working long hours often in the bitter Minnesota cold without the assistance of modern logging equipment. Tom’s Logging Camp pays homage to these men, and their hard work, which paved the way for settlement on the North Shore.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first stepped through the door of the Trading Post at Tom’s Logging Camp, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. The amount of time, effort, and care that the proprietors have put forth into creating a fun and informative atmosphere is impressive. There are eight buildings on site that have been carefully crafted to resemble buildings one would find at an old logging camp. They include a horse barn, blacksmith shop, cook shanty, bunkhouse, and even a Finnish sauna. On display in the various buildings are era-appropriate items that would have actually been used by the logging companies that found their way to the area (with the exception of one area that features a collection of motorized chainsaws because, as owner Bill told us, if you get offered a collection of motorized chainsaws, you don’t turn that down!). Hand-written signage explains what you are looking at and what importance it played in the logging industry at the time. Historic photos adorn the walls showing visitors exactly what the people looked like. In the sauna you’ll even find a list of what each employee earned weekly. You may be surprised by who the top paid employee in a logging camp was! They threw in a little fun house where you can experience how the lumberjacks felt on their annual spree- the time where they take their seasonal earnings and spend a good chunk of it at a bar. I won’t spoil the experience, but it’s definitely something that left an impression on us!
The museum has a few other random oddities from the time period that aren’t associated with the logging industry, but still represents what life was like back at the turn of the century. There is so much to see and do that you could visit a dozen times and still see something new each time. Even the walls of the Trading Post gift shop area are adorned with artifacts of the logging era. The entire place is rich in history but also an affordable destination for families. Those on a budget will appreciate how Tom’s Logging Camp has kept their admission prices for the self-guided tours low cost so the entire family can enjoy a step back into history. Children 5 and under even get to experience the logging camp for free!
Be sure to say hi to Lily while you’re there! She’s the resident llama.
Tom’s Logging Camp can be found at 5797 N Shore Drive, Duluth, MN 55804. From Duluth take the right turn on the North Shore Scenic Drive just before getting on the expressway, and enioy the scenic side road until you reach the entrance to Tom’s Logging Camp. Tom’s is a seasonal destination, so be sure to check out their website for hours of operation. Take the time out to enjoy this step into the past and enjoy a unique North Shore experience. Trust me, you won’t regret it!