Chippewa National Forest


In 1908, the Chippewa National Forest was the first National Forest established east of the Mississippi River. Originally known as the Minnesota National Forest, the name was changed in 1928 to honor the original inhabitants. The Forest has a rich history, ranging from prehistoric times to the early logging era and CCC days.
The Forest boundary encompasses about 1.6 million acres, with about 660,000 acres managed by the Chippewa National Forest. The remaining lands are State, County, Indian, and private. The Leech Lake Indian Reservation is also within the Forest boundary.

Water is abundant on the Chippewa, with over 700 lakes, 920 miles of streams, and 150,000 acres of wetlands. The Forest's landscape is a reminder of the glaciers that blanketed northern Minnesota some 10,000 years ago.

Recreational Opportunities

Camping - Twenty-six campgrounds, located on 12 of the Chippewa National Forest's 1,300 lakes, are open from mid-May to mid-September. Some are open all year. Campground facilities vary from modern, sporting flush toilets and showers, to the more rustic, without any modern conveniences.

Reservations are recommended and can be made 14 days in advance for a small fee. Many campgrounds are universally accessible, allowing the disabled visitor to enjoy a camping holiday in the forest.

For a totally primitive camping experience, over 400 "dispersed" campsites are available along hiking trails or lakes. You are sure to have a "get away from it all" holiday when going primitive. The forest insists that all campers practice "leave no trace" camping by packing out what they pack in.

Fishing - For the angler, the many smaller lakes on the Chippewa National Forest are great places to unleash your fishing gear! Trout Lake is a semi-primitive, non-motorized area that sports 4,500 acres of forest with 26 miles of shoreline on 11 lakes. Trout Lake is popular for splake, bass, trout, northern pike and panfish.

In the Cut Foot Sioux Area, you will find bass, bluegill and trout easy to catch.

Hiking - There is no better way to see the Chippewa National Forest than by taking to its over 106 miles of trails. The Shingobee and Suomi Hills Recreation areas offer exceptional scenic beauty for the hiker. Wildflowers abound in the understory and demand close inspection.

Scenic Drives - For those wishing to view the wonders of the forest from the comfort of their cars, the Cut Foot Sioux area offers a self-guided auto tour along paved highways and gravel roads that winds through towering red pine, young aspen stands, lakes and small ponds. Observing wildlife is best at sunrise or around sunset. The tour is a 20-mile loop and a printed map is available at the visitor center.

Canoeing - Canoe enthusiasts may elect to retrace the routes of the Ojibwa Indians and the early explorers. Choose from nine canoe routes, ranging from a personal look at the mighty Mississippi River and the unpredictable Leech Lake to the slow-moving Shingobee River and other small creeks. Although these routes are not wilderness trips, paddlers often catch glimpses of bald eagles, loons and ospreys.

Birding and Eagle Viewing - From the majestic bald eagle to the sweet sounding wren, over 230 species of birds are found in the Chippewa National Forest. The greatest variety of birds can be found between the forest and open areas. Here smaller birds such as the warbler, sparrow and hawk can be seen perched in the pines or basking in the sun.

Other Wildlife - White-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and numerous waterfowl provide good wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities. Several sensitive species such as the osprey, loon, and great gray owl also make the Chippewa their home. The gray wolf, a threatened species, is present but rarely seen.

Winter Sports - Winter fun lovers enjoy the Shingobee and Suomi Hills Recreation areas for cross-country skiing, as well as sledding and tobogganing. The rolling topography contains scenic, well-groomed cross-country ski trails for both beginner and advanced skiers. Sightings of white-tailed deer, timber wolves and coyotes may also highlight your visit.

Areas of Interest

Historic Places
Chippewa National Forest Supervisor's Office - A three-story log building constructed in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Rabideau CCC Camp - Seventeen buildings remain at the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp site, one of the few camps in the U.S. with standing buildings.

Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station - The oldest remaining ranger station building in the Forest Service's Eastern Region. Tours are arranged through Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Information Center, Deer River District.

Virgin Forest
Elmwood Island - Located within Island Lake, this island is completely undeveloped and contains a stand of upland cedar.

Lost Forty - Virgin red and white pine that was untouched by the early loggers due to a map error that incorrectly showed this area to be under water.

Ten Section Area - Old growth, large diameter, red and white pine tracts grace this area, which was withheld from cutting during the logging era of the early 1900's. Interest in this area from conservationists at the turn of the century initiated the formation of the Chippewa National Forest.

East Lake Pines - Mature red pine left behind in the early logging days on East Lake.

Unique Flora
Gilfillan Area - An undeveloped area with an abundance of orchids and large white spruce seed production area.

Webster Lake Bog - A wetland that contains an unusual abundance of linear-leafed sundew plants.

Pennington Bog - Containing an abundance of orchids, this bog extends onto adjacent state land and is designated as a Scientific Natural Area. Visitor permits are required and are available at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offices.

Disappearing Lake
Miller Lake - A "disappearing lake," originally impounded by beaver, where the last beaver dam washed out in the early 1980's.

As you visit the Chippewa you will observe a working forest. Recreation developments, wildlife habitat projects and timber harvest are evident throughout the Forest. Timber is harvested from about one percent of the Chippewa each year. These timber sales provide raw materials for the paper and wood industry and improve wildlife habitat for white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and nongame species such as hawks, swallows and sparrows.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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