Bald Eagles

Bald eagle populations were at an all time low in the 1960's.   At that time less than 12 pairs were doucmented on the Chippewa National Forest.  Today, the Forest supports one of the highest breeding densities of bald eagles in the continental United States. The return of the bald eagle is one of  America's greatest wildlife conservation success stories. The Chippewa National Forest has monitored bald eagles since 1963. There are currently around 400 nests on the Chippewa National Forest. This is 9 times more total nests then 1963!! A subset of the 400 nests are monitored every year via ground based surveys to verify nest activity and status. Aerial surveys have also been conducted, in previous years, to detect bald eagle nests and record activity and productivity.

With a wingspan of seven feet, the bald eagle is the largest bird of prey in northern Minnesota.  An adult bald eagle is easily identified by it's striking white head and tail.  Young bald eagles have mostly dark heads and tails. Their wings are brown and their bodies are flecked with brown and white. This coloration can easily be confused for a golden eagle. Though golden eagles are not residents of Minnesota they do migrate through in the spring and fall.

Bald eagles mate for life and return to the same area each year. Large red and white pines on the Forest make excellent nesting sites, although aspen and other tree species are occasionally used. Generally, nest building begins 1-3 months prior to egg laying. Because nests  are often reused year after year, the addition of new nest material each year makes bald eagle nests among the largest of all birds.  Nests can reach 10 feet in diameter and weigh over 4000 pounds!

Baldeagles generally lay one or two eggs (occasionally three). Incubation lasts about 35 days. The female is the primary incubator but the male also helps! Eaglets remain in the nest up to 14 weeks, at which time they will leave the nest. Young bald eagles go through an exploration phase until age 4 where they attain their adult plumage and can begin breeding.  

Threats to bald eagle populations include lead poisoning from ammunition in hunter-shot prey, collisions with motor vehicles and stationary structures, and development-related destruction of shoreline nesting, perching, roosting and foraging habitats.  Bald eagles are especially sensitive to disturbance during incubation and rearing of young. For this reason bald eagle nest sites are kept confidential. If you know of an eagle nest location, please use caution and watch them only from a distance.


On August 9, 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The two main factors that led to the recovery of this spectacular bird were the banning of the pesticide DDT and habitat protection for nesting, feeding, and roosting sites by the Endangered Species Act.

Although bald eagles are delisted, they are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. In the state of Minnesota the bald eagle is also listed as a species of “special concern”.

The number of active bald eagle breeding pairs appears to be leveling off on the Chippewa National Forest.  Increasing competition among breeding pairs at high nesting densities and continued lake shore development may be factors affecting the Forests "carrying capacity" of bald eagles.



People often make a special trip to the Chippewa National Forest to observe bald eagles. The best opportunity to view wildlife, such as bald eagles, is at dawn and dusk around large lakes and major rivers.   Keep an eye out for openings in tall white and red pine. These trees are often prime perch sites.

In the spring and summer start your bald eagle viewing expedition while boating on larger lakes such as Cass, Winnibigoshish, and Leech. Watch along the shorelines for bald eagles perched in trees on calm days, and soaring overhead on windier days. Canoeing on the Boy River, Mississippi, or Big Fork Rivers almost always guarantees a baldeagle sighting.

You can easily reach open viewing areas at Federal Dam at Leech Lake or Winnie Dam at the east end of Lake Winnibigoshish. Cass Lake and  Knutson Dam and campground provide an expansive view of the lake and opportunities for fishing, by humans and bald eagles. Another great place for bald eagle viewing is the section of Mississippi River that winds along Highway 2 between Cass Lake and Deer River. Bald eagles are often seen soaring overhead. A prime viewing area is where the river meets the highway about eight miles west of the town of Deer River.    

In autumn, bald eagles are often seen perched on lake or river edges, searching for food. The change in temperature causes the lakes to "turn over" as the cooling surface water mixes with lower layers, causing fish to die. Bald eagles capitalize on the fish's inability to adapt to seasonal changes.

Bald eagles remain near open water during winter months. Dams, channels between large lakes, and faster moving rivers provide such habitat on the Chippewa National Forest. The Cass Lake Wayside rest provides easy parking for those with an hour for exploring.


Berry Picking

To find blueberries, search in berry habitat including open, sunny areas with jackpine that have been recently burned or cut over. Strawberries are found on roadsides mid-late June followed by raspberries and blackberries and then blueberries in late July and August. Chokecherries and Juneberries are also found in second growth forests during midsummer.  Look for bog cranberries in September-October.



There are 298 miles of non-motorized trails on the Chippewa National Forest  There are two paved trails on the Forest including the 18 mile Migizi trail near Cass Lake and the 27 mile Heartland Trail which runs from Walker to Park Rapids (an additional 22 miles of paved trail from Cass Lake to Walker).  

Bird Watching

Varied habitats across forest support at least 239 species of birds. A free Chippewa National Forest bird checklist that describes habitat and seasons to find specific birds is available upon request.

For More Information: Bird Checklist


Boat Access

The Chippewa National Forest manages 85 boat accesses throughout the Forest.


Boat Rental

  • Northern Mississippi Canoe and Rentals, 218-335-2078 or 766-7543, canoes/ outfitter
  • Ruttgers Resort 218-751-1630 boats, canoes,kayaks pontoons
  • Bigfork-Bakkes  218-743-3274 boats, canoes
  • Boy River Maple Trails Resort 218-889-2258 boats, canoes
  • Cass Lake Sail Star Marina 218-335-2316 boats, pontoons
  • Stony Point Resort 218-335-6311 boats, canoes, pontoons
  • Grand Rapids God's Country Outfitters218-326-9866 boats, canoes
  • Grand Rapids Marine218-326-8754 pontoons
  • Birch Cove resort 218-326-8754 pontoons
  • Ray's Sport and Marine218-326-0353 boats, pontoons
  • Sport Zone 218-326-8956 canoes, kayaks
  • Walker Thompson Rental 218-547-1252 boats, canoes, kayaks, pontoons
  • Walker City Dock 218-547-1662 boats, canoes, kayaks


Bough Permits

State law requires a permit, written consent or bill of sale to be carried whenever cutting, removing or transporting boughs whether land is publicly or privately owned. Permits are required for harvesting balsam boughs from public lands in Minnesota. Permits can be obtained from Forestry offices located in Chippewa and Superior National Forests, tribal headquarters on reservation lands, DNR Forestry and county land management offices.

Permits are $50.00 per group (up to five people may be listed on a permit)  with no tonnage limit. The Leech Lake Reservation Division of Resource Management offers permits to tribal members. When picking up your permit, you will be asked to list all individuals  who will be included on the permit, as well as how much you plan to cut. Maps may be available showing preferred cutting areas as required by the local office. You will be given a brightly colored dashboard poster which can be placed in the car window when you are picking boughs.  Your permit must be in full view on the dashboard when harvesting and transporting boughs. 

Harvesting the right way, including obtaining a permit, guarantees long-term sustained yield of boughs for everyone.


Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Superior National Forest 218.626.4300


Burning Permits

DNR - You can now receive open burning permits by utilizing the DNR's Internet-based burning permit system. Go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/burningpermits.

For detailed information on burning restrictions.