- Your Complete Guide to Itasca County Minnesota






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Attractions in the Greater Itasca County Area

  • Bigfork River State Canoe Route (Northern Itasca County)
    The Big Fork River flows north to the Rainy river. Most of the river is easy to canoe with several areas of Class I rapids. There are two spectacular water falls that need to be portaged by all but the most experienced paddlers; Little American Falls (Class III-IV) and Big Falls (Class IV-VI).  The low-lying Big Fork valley is pastoral in places and in other parts wild. Scattered small farms break up a forest of pine, spruce, fir, cedar, aspen and birch. The areas of major development are the towns of Bigfork and Big Falls. The geology is clay, silt and sand deposits, in many places less than five feet thick, overlying Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks. Most of the watershed was once covered by glacial Lake Agassiz.  The river offers excellent fishing for walleye, northern pike and muskies. Wildlife is abundant including, timber wolves, bobcats, lynx, beavers, otters. Big game includes moose, black bears and white-tailed deer. Birds include bald eagles, osprey, ruffed grouse and several species of ducks.

  • Buena Vista Ski Center (near Bemidji)
    View the colors in a horse-drawn covered wagon on the High Ridge trail, known for centuries as "The Top Of The World."   Autumn hues reflect in nine lakes from the pinnacle of the continental divide, where waters either run to the Hudson bay or south, to the Gulf of Mexico. This rustic, historic trail follows the Leech Lake/Red Lake trail, the same route traveled by Native Americans, early explorers and pioneers.
  • Chippewa National Forest
    One of 155 National Forests, the Chippewa was the first National Forest established east of the Mississippi. The Forest boundary encompasses 1.6 million acres, of which over 666,542 acres are managed by the USDA Forest Service. Aspen, birch, pines, balsam fir and maples blanket the uplands. Water is abundant, with over 1300 lakes, 923 miles of rivers and streams, and 400,000 acres of wetlands. These unique qualities offer an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities all year long.

Avenue of Pines Scenic Byway in the Chippewa National Forest

  • Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway (Grand Rapids to Effie)
    Wind your way over the hills and along the shores of thirty six lakes connecting Grand Rapids, Marcell, Bigfork and Effie in Itasca County.  The route begins in Grand Rapids with meadows and lakes, then winds through mixed hardwoods and stands of conifers and aspen of the Chippewa National Forest. As travelers round bends in the road and reach the tops of hills, views of lakes and forest appear. During the fall color season, travelers see brilliant red sugar maples, glowing gold aspen and birch and the deep bronze of the oak trees. For the visitor interested in the heritage of the area, a Self Guided Auto Tour brochure will be available for the summer of 1997. Few roadways embrace the terrain and natural resources like the Edge of the Wilderness. The route truly represents Northern Minnesota with its unique variety of landscapes, recreational opportunities, wildlife and rich heritage.

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  • Forest History Center (Grand Rapids)
    Experience the excitement of life in a 1900 logging camp, the danger of a 1901 river drive and perhaps climb the 100-foot fire tower.  When the glaciers left the land, the forests took over and shaped human culture for centuries. The Forest History Center demonstrates, through "living history", the story of the forests and the ways man has used and valued them over time. Come talk with the lumberjacks, camp blacksmith, clerk and cook in the reconstructed 1900 logging camp. Journey to the spring of 1901 and board the moored river wanigan--a floating cookshack that white-watered with the logs down the mighty Mississippi River to the lumber mills. Then travel to 1934 and learn to fight a raging forest fire or talk to the patrolman about living and working in Minnesota's forests during the "Great Depression."

Headwaters Science Center (Bemidji)
Located near the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Headwaters Science Center is a non-profit facility under a parent organization called Opportunities in Scie nce, Inc. HSC is dedicated to science education and environmental awareness. Opened in 1994, it is the only such facility between Winnipeg and the Twin Cities affiliated with the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Large, hands-on exhibit center and live animal area.

  • Hill Annex Mine State Park (near Calumet)
    Go down in history with a tour of the Hill Annex Iron Mine. On the 1 1/2-hour open pit mine tour, visitors make a spectacular descent into mining's past.  Learn about the mine operation, the people who worked there, and where they came from.  Discover marine fossils in northern Minnesota. Get a sense of the mine's deep, rich history.   Learn how this National Historic Site played an important role in state, national, and world history.
  • Ironworld
    Ironworld Discovery Center, where the heritage of northeastern Minnesota is preserved, celebrated and showcased for visitors of all ages. Hear stories from the past and experience a slice of life as pioneers and immigrants from 43 nations experienced it so many years ago. Don't forget to enjoy miniature golf, a scenic trolley ride, ethnic cuisine and traditional song and dance. There's so much to see and do! Join us! Ironworld is open from May - September. The Iron Range Research Center is open year round.

  • Itasca Heritage Center (Grand Rapids)
    Discover our past in the present. Explore the people, places and resources that make up Itasca County history. Museum exhibits interpret life at the turn of the century, logging, mining, immigrants, homesteading, and native Americans (Ojibway) of this region. Includes a Judy Garland exhibit (born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids). A yellow brick road leads up to Central School, a unique market place that is home to the museum, gift shops, frame shops and a nationally renowned restaurant. All in an 1895 restored grade school listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Itasca State Park
    Established in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park. Today, the park totals more than 32,000 acres and includes more than 100 lakes. Walk across the mighty Mississippi as it starts its winding journey 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Stand under towering pines at Preacher's Grove. Visit the Itasca Indian Cemetery or Wegmann's Cabin, landmarks of centuries gone by. Camp under the stars, or stay the night at the historic Douglas Lodge or cabins. Explore Wilderness Drive past the 2,000-acre Wilderness Sanctuary, one of Minnesota's seven National Natural Landmarks. Tell me more about this park's wildlife, history, geology and landscape.
  • Judy Garland Museum (Grand Rapids)
    Children's discovery museum plus the restored Judy Garland childhood home.

    From November 1, 2005 through March 31, 2006, The Judy Garland Museum® is open two days a week -- Friday and Saturday -- from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Judy Garland Museum® is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 1 through May 27, and seven days a week Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. General admission for all ages is $6 per person - includes Children's Discovery Museum.

    The Judy Garland Museum® is open on Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day. The Museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

  • Lost 40 (near Dora Lake)
    Lost 40, so-called due to a surveying slip back in 1882, is located in the Big Fork State Forest in the Agassiz Lowlands. This site includes a narrow peninsula extending from a large upland esker. The peninsula is flanked by a black spruce and tamarack bog on one side, and a willow and alder marsh on the other. The area contains 28 acres of red pine forest and 18 acres of spruce-fir forest. The virgin old-growth red pine forest is the largest and oldest stand in the Blackduck Forestry Area. White pine over 300 years old can be found on the site. The U.S. Forest Service administers adjacent lands with old growth red and white pine, as well. Fringed polygala, bluebead lily, twin flower, and Canada mayflower occur in this area. Early to mid-summer is a good time to see wildflowers in bloom.
  • Minnesota's Grand Slam of Golf (near Grand Rapids)
    Minnesota's Grand Slam of Golf offers golfers a chance to play four 18-hole championship courses with savings and convenience. Choose from four professionally designed and individually unique courses - Eagle Ridge, Pokegama, Sugarbrooke and Wendigo. All of our green fees are $26 or less for 18 holes - on weekends. Combine that with one of our participating lodging properties, and you have a winning combination. We offer 72 holes, at discount prices, or packages which include carts, meals and accommodations.
  • Mississippi River Parkway Commission
    The river begins its 2,552 mile journey to the sea from its headwaters in Itasca State Park. From its ankle-deep source, the mighty Mississippi winds its way through Minnesota - from the northern wilderness through contemporary, cosmopolitan cities to rich farmlands and plains. Each bend of the river offers something new in the land of 15,000 lakes. From professional baseball thrills in the Metrodome, to the Mall of America, the nation's largest fully enclosed shopping and entertainment complex, to more than 500 beautiful golf courses, the good times flow like the river.
  • Pennington Bog
    Pennington Bog is a virtually undisturbed tract of coniferous forest, providing critical habitat for a diverse array of plant species. A wide assortment of beautiful and unusual plant species grows beneath a dense canopy of white cedar, balsam fir, and black spruce. The forest floor can be easily damaged from visitor use, given the wet nature of the forest community. The best time to visit the site is early- to mid-summer.
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  • Rabideau CCC Camp Restoration
    Tucked away among the birches in the northern Minnesota woods is a precious relic of our Depression era past.  Built in 1935, Rabideau CCC Camp was one of 2650 Civilian Conservation Corps camps established as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program.  Thirteen of the original 25 buildings remain standing, and include the mess hall, four barracks, three officer quarters, recreation hall, hospital, laundry building, and education building.  Rabideau was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.  We believe it has the largest number of unaltered frame-constructed buildings in federal ownership.  As you may imagine, restoration and maintenance of so many structures has been quite a challenge.    With the help of cost-share grants and partnerships from federal sources, local businesses, and organizations such as the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, restoration of the Education Building has been completed, largely through the efforts of PIT volunteers.
  • Scenic State Park (near Bigfork)
    This park deserves its name with seven pristine lakes, virgin pines, swimming beach, and nesting osprey.  Hike the Chase Point Trail for hypnotic views of Coon and Sandwick Lakes and see the giant pines.  Overnight facilities include campsites (boat-in, drive-in, backpack), and a lakeshore cabin.  Stop by the historic lodge, which has displays, summer interpretive programs, and a forest fire tower.

Scenic State Park near Bigfork Minnesota
Scenic State Park near Bigfork

  • Schoolcraft State Park (near Deer River)
    This secluded north woods park is the perfect place to unwind. Quiet and peaceful, the Whisper Trail leads hikers through the virgin pine forest that includes a white pine more than 300 years old.  Canoeists and anglers enjoy the gentle waters of the Mississippi River. A boat access, picnic area, canoe and drive-in campsites are available to visitors.
  • Taconite State Trail (Grand Rapids to Ely)
    The Taconite State Trail stretches 165 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely and intersects with the Arrowhead State Trail just west of Lake Vermillion. The first 6 miles from Grand Rapids are paved for biking and in-line skating. The remainder of the natural surface trail is used primarily for snowmobiling in the winter. The trail goes through a few areas that have standing water in the summer, however portions of the trail are suitable for horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. The Taconite Trail winds through forests of birch and aspen intertwined with pine, leading the visitor by many isolated lakes and streams. From Grand Rapids heading north, you see the impact of the taconite and iron mining industry. The northern portion of the trail terrain is rolling and tree covered as it winds through state and national forest land. Eight trail waysides and picnic facilities offer scenic vistas of the hills, lakes and rivers of this area. The trail also links three state parks: Bear Head Lake, Soudan Underground Mine, and McCarthy Beach. The landscape in and around Bear Head Lake State Park is very rolling and rocky.
  • United States Hockey Hall of Fame
    The United States Hockey Hall of Fame is America's hockey designated shrine and showcase to all levels of the sport.  Since 1973, 107 great American hockey people with outstanding hockey achievements from all of the competitive levels of the game have been enshrined.  Visitors experience the thrilling game action and inspiring achievements of players, coaches, administrators, player/administrators, referees, and teams through authentic, informative and entertaining displays and memorabilia.   Eveleth, Minnesota, "The Capital of American Hockey", has been given that designation and the home of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame because of it's rich hockey traditions. No community the size of Eveleth has produced as many quality players or has contributed more to the growth and development of the sport in the United States.  The United States Hockey Hall of Fame is a national shrine of historical significance dedicated to honoring the great sport of ice hockey in the United States.
  • White Oak Fur Post (near Deer River)
    The White Oak Fur Rendezvous has just completed its Ninth season. Rendezvous is held each summer at the beginning of August. White Oak Rendezvous draws more than 8,000 visitors each year. There are displays, demonstrations, music, food, Trader's Row and camping facilities for overnight stays. Family camp for participants starts one week prior to Rendezvous, and is a great vacation experience. If you have an interest in history and enjoy the company of others with like interests, Rendezvous Reenactment and Participation is a great avenue to explore.

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