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Orr Bog Walk & Kabetogama State Forest
Located in the town of Orr in St. Louis County, a trail and a boardwalk along the Pelican River provide access into a northern peatland bog and end with a view of Pelican Lake. <br><br>The surrounding Kabetogama State Forest provides remote settings where many boreal birds and mammals can be seen.
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Orr-Crane Lake Area
Description: Winding and wild describes several scenic routes through the Kabetogama State Forest and Superior National Forest from Orr to Crane Lake near the Canadian border. A feature of the northern St. Louis and eastern Koochiching County region is the numerous waterways of lakes and rivers. Pick your pleasure—drive on narrow paved or gravel back roads, hike on pine forest paths, paddle on pristine water—or do all three as you explore this dynamic destination.

Crane Lake is one of four entrances into the spectacular Voyageurs National Park and fabulous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Just past the Crane Lake Ranger Station look for the Vermilion Gorge Hiking Trail for the 1.5-mile, one-way trek to the Vermilion River. You will hike through pine forests with scenic outcrops of Lac LaCroix granite and watch for wildlife along the way.

An offshoot of the main road from Orr to Crane Lake is the Echo Trail/CR 116. This 52-mile, well-maintained gravel road branches east from CR 24 at Buyck and courses through the woods and wetlands of the Superior National Forest and BWCA to Ely. If you take this route, please note there are no trail signs in the wilderness of BWCA.

Several excellent hiking trails are located along the Echo Trail, including the seven-mile Astrid Lakes Hiking Trail. Portions have been raised above the sphagnum moss to keep your feet dry as some of it winds through a black spruce bog. Avian nesters include yellow-bellied flycatchers and Cape May and Connecticut warblers. Pitcher plants are plentiful too. Note the rock cairns that mark the trail as you hike along huge boulders deposited by glaciers 10,000 years ago.

A third option is an alternate, scenic loop from Orr to Crane Lake by starting out just north of Orr on U.S. Hwy 53, and taking gravel roads to County Road 24, then on to Crane Lake. You will travel along the Pelican River, which may easily be viewed from the road, where numerous waterfowl and other forest birds may be observed.

Wildlife to Watch: Voyageurs Country is great for warblers and many breeding birds of the boreal forest. Special species to note include gray jays, ravens, black-backed woodpeckers, Philadelphia vireos and golden-winged, Canada and mourning warblers. Check the shoreline and sky for bald eagles, osprey, northern goshawks, ducks, pelicans and cormorants. Fast-flying merlins may startle you with their speed as the zip through the air. Listen for the unforgettable signature sounds of loons on the wilderness water.

Watch for white-tailed deer, especially does and fawns, foraging near roadways, red squirrels scurrying about, ever-playful otters frolicking along streams and beavers near their dams and lodges. Moose, black bear, wolves, fishers, pine marten, mink, bobcat and lynx are elusive to be sure, but may be seen if you are patient and persistent.

Special Tips: The best time for spotting many mammals is early morning and during the evening hours. A "Birding and Wildlife Viewing" brochure, "Bogs to Rocks" birding brochure and a bird checklist may be ordered from Crane Lake Tourism Bureau or downloaded at www.birdvnp.com.

Winter wildlife watching is an option too. The Crane Lake Ranger Station is open year round and has information about boat ramps and docks, hiking trails, as well as Voyageurs National Park information, maps and permits for overnight camping. This Station is the only other Voyageurs National Park facility, besides the Rainy Lake Visitor Center, that is open in the winter months.

Other Activities: Gull Island, which is along the Canadian border and near the center of Namakan Lake in Voyageurs National Park, is worth the trip just to view thousands of gulls that have established the island as their primary nesting site. In addition, great blue herons nest on this spot. Please enjoy this premiere habitat from a safe distance on the water with binoculars and camera during the nesting season. Canadian Customs and Immigration laws apply when crossing the international border.

Just north of the Northwest Bay Beaches on Crane Lake you may spot trumpeter swans and other breeding waterfowl. (Accessible by watercraft only.)

Near Orr, visit the 360-acre Vince Shute Bear Wildlife Sanctuary, where dozens of black bears are welcomed and abound. You may safely view and photograph bruins from an elevated platform and learn about their behavior, habitat needs and life cycles.

Ownership: Multiple 
Size: N/A 
Closest Town: Orr

RestroomsParkingTent CampingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesBoat LaunchVisitor CenterHuntingLarge BoatsSmall BoatsDrinking WaterCamp FireBicyclingAuto TourRV Pullout

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Crane Lake - Photo by J. Arnold Bolz
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Driving Directions:
From the town of Orr on U.S. Hwy 53, the starting point, take St. Louis County Road 23 to the east; at Buyck, turn northeast onto CR 24/Crane Lake Rd. Although it is 28 miles from Orr to Crane Lake, it will take almost an hour to travel.

An alternate, scenic loop may be taken from Orr to Crane Lake by starting out just north of Orr on U.S. Hwy 53, and taking (gravel road) CR 180 to Forest Road 203 to Forest Road 491 to CR 24 to Crane Lake. Return by following (paved road) CR 24 to CR 23 back to Orr or on to Crane Lake.

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Orr-Crane Lake Area : Wildlife Viewing Area