|Suomi Hills Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized Area (Chippewa National Forest)|
Suomi Hills in Itasca County offers the solitude of a semi-primitive, non-motorized forest in a world increasingly dominated by the sound of motorized equipment and vehicles. It is part of the Chippewa National Forest and named for the small Finnish community of Suomi, which is on the northern e...
Scenic State Park
|Description: With its pristine lakes, virgin pines, swimming beach, and wilderness-like setting, Scenic State Park is well deserving of its name. Here, visitors can hike the Chase Point Trail for hypnotic views of Coon and Sandwick Lakes and listen to the wind whistle through the giant pines.
The northern Minnesota park is located in the Laurentian mixed forest landscape region abundant with aspen-birch, white and Norway pine, jack pine and mixed hardwoods.
During the last glacial period, imagine a sheet of ice hundreds of feet high slowly creeping and gouging the earth. As the climate changed, glaciers began to melt and retreat, leaving behind depressions, ridges and deposits of soil that formed the area’s rolling hills.
Coon and Sandwick Lakes are water-filled depressions left over from old Glacial Lake Agassiz. Imagine a lake covering an area from the Minnesota-North Dakota-Canada border down to Bigfork. That was the size of the lake that remained after the glaciers melted.
At the park there is another remnant geologic feature referred to as an esker, a serpentine ridge of gravel and sand, probably marking an old stream channel that ran under a stagnant ice sheet. This is one of the most prominent examples of eskers in the state. An interpretive trail follows it between Coon and Sandwick lakes, where there is an overlook at Chase Point.
Although the Ojibwe used this area as part of their hunting grounds, there is little evidence that it was heavily used.
Logging around Scenic started in the late nineteenth century. Logging companies began clearing the forest and hauling logs down the Bigfork River for the spring ldrive northward to the Rainy River. The life of loggers was hard and difficult—beginning early in the morning before sunrise and usually lasting late into the evening.
As land was cleared, homesteaders came in and attempted–unsuccessfully–to farm the area. Early residents of the Bigfork area organized a movement to preserve the birch and pines around Coon and Sandwick Lakes. Their efforts were rewarded when,
in 1921, Minnesota passed a law creating a park commission establishing Scenic State Park.
This site was the first park in the state to provide a complete range of recreational facilities developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). A historic lodge, constructed by the work crews in the 1930s, houses interpretive displays relating to the park.
Today, the park protects the entire virgin pine shorelands of Coon and Sandwick Lakes, plus part of the Lake of the Isles, as well as Tell, Cedar and Pine Lakes. Signs along the Chase Point trail interpret forest trees. A commemorative plaque tells the story of the park’s first superintendent and his family’s donation of Zaiser Island. A log cabin, also built by the CCC, has been restored and is available for rent if you’d like to have some quiet, on-site time to enjoy looking at a wealth of wildflowers and do wildlife watching.
Wildlife to Watch: This is one of the few places in the state where one might see a spruce grouse with relative ease. Ruffed grouse, gray jay, boreal chickadee and the occasional black-backed woodpecker are other treats along the trail. Red-breasted nuthatches are common, winter wren and hermit thrush greet the birder with their beautiful songs. Scenic is a great place for warblers; 22 species are seen during migration and the breeding season. Northern parula and Nashville, mourning, chestnut-sided, yellow-rumped, black-throated green and black-and-white warblers are regulars. Although uncommon, the rare Connecticut warbler is found in the park too. Look for nesting merlins near the cabins along Coon Lake, bald eagles soaring overhead or perched high in trees along the shore. Listen for loons calling from the lake or the hooting of a great horned owl breaking the silent of night. You may even be buzzed by a ruby-throated hummingbird!
Along the lakes, marshes and streams, you may come across frogs, toads or even snakes. Otters, beavers and an occasional moose share this habitat as well. It’s possible to see a wolf or black bear in the vicinity as well.
Special Tips: Restored cabin is available for rent from April 15 to October 31. It has one small bedroom and sleeps up to four people. Toilet facilities are located nearby.
New birding kits have arrived at the park! Visitors may check these kits out at the park office for free. The kits include a carrying case, binoculars, two bird field guides and the Scenic State Park bird checklist.
The park's overnight facilities include campsites (boat-in, drive-in, backpack), and a cabin. This site offers great fishing.
Other Activities: Braided Delta Esker, located on MN Highway between Bigfork and Marcell, is another site to visit.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 3360 acres
Closest Town: Bigfork
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: