History & Culture


 Archaeologist screening shovel test during a post-fire survey.

People have been living within the current boundaries of the Superior National Forest for more than ten thousand years, since shortly after the glacier retreated from the region.

The Superior National Forest boasts a unique setting which contains over 2,000 lakes and uncounted connecting streams and rivers. Much of the prehistoric travel, historic travel and development of the area has been closely linked to these water travel routes. Prehistoric peoples traversed the area for several thousand years in dugout canoes and in more recent times in birch bark canoes.

During the historic period, the Voyageurs of the Fur-trade era traveled the water highway of the Forest's current border with Canada in large birch-bark canoes.  In later years, loggers used these waterways to transport timber to sawmills. Modern day visitors share a connection to these bygone peoples as they travel these same routes in their boats and canoes today, enjoying the same beautiful scenery and solitude.

Heritage resources include buried archaeological sites dating back over ten thousand years, to sites related to the area's more recent historic period beginning with European contact with Native Americans, through the fur-trade, logging, mining, settlement, Forest Service administration, and Civilian Conservation Corp projects.
Photo Caption: Archaeologist screening shovel test during a post-fire survey.

Heritage Resource Management

The heritage resource program on the Superior National Forest was initiated in 1979 and in subsequent years more than three thousand heritage sites have been located and recorded. These sites are almost evenly divided between historic and prehistoric archaeological sites.   Approximately 60 of these recorded sites have been evaluated through formal archaeological testing (excavation) or historic documentation. In recent years heritage has led in or participated in the rehabilitation of a number of the Forests' eligible historic structures including the Prairie Portage (Chosa) cabin, the Kekakabic Forest Guard cabin, several structures at the Isabella Work Station, the South Kawishiwi Pavilion, the Chik-wauk Lodge site on the Gunflint Trail, and the Sawbill Guard cabin.

The Superior National Forest Heritage Resource staff is charged with locating, protecting, evaluating, monitoring, and interpreting heritage resources on approximately 2.5 million acres of Forest-managed lands. 

Our current staff consists of three Archaeologists, supplemented with seasonal Archaeological Technicians, volunteers and student interns.

Archaeologist using a Global Position System (GPS) to plot a collapsed building feature of an historic site.

The heritage group provides support to other functional areas in Forest management such as timber, wilderness, fire, engineering, special uses, recreation, trails, minerals and others, in response to the requirements of   Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended (NHPA), which requires the Forest to considerthe potential effects of Forest project work on “historic properties”.  Heritage also initiates project work aimed at increasing our knowledge of the heritage resource on the Forest under Section 110 of the NHPA.

Heritage staff also provides interpretive and educational information by means of static displays, talks to a wide variety of groups, brochures, and interactive volunteer opportunities. The Forest occassionally runs a Passport in Time projects, which provides volunteers with the experience of archaeological excavation, historic structure rehabilitation, artifact processing, and archival projects.  



A Century Later, Arthur Carhart’s Recreation Plan for the Superior

On November 8, 1922, Regional Forester A.S. Peck approved a recreation plan for the Superior National Forest drafted and submitted in May 1922 by Arthur Carhart (1892-1978), a young landscape architect from Iowa that worked for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from 1919-1923.  

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