Top Ten National Forests in the United States

Superior National Forest, Minnesota
By Rene Vasicek

The Superior National Forest is aptly named—it is the Midwest's most magnificent example of the interplay between land and water. Glaciers blanketed the Great Lakes region 10,000 years ago, leaving behind thousands of lakes, ponds, streams, and vast wetlands that create phenomenal fishing and paddling opportunities. The Superior also boasts the largest boreal, or "northern" forest, in the continental United States and is distinguished by an abundance of fir, pine, spruce, cedar, and tamarack. The sheer size of the forest also sets it apart from its smaller neighbors like the Chippewa National Forest, Chequamegon National Forest, Ottawa National Forest, and Nicolet National Forest, enabling it to serve as sanctuary for timber wolves that roam the last remaining home range in the Lower 48.

The serrated Sawtooth Mountains rise 1,000 feet above Lake Superior, peaking at the 2,301-foot Eagle Mountain—the highest point in Minnesota. Hiking these rocky highlands reinforces the fact that nearly 700 square miles of the forest is surface water, creating an outdoor Atlantis of cascading waterfalls and inland lakes and streams bordering the vast oceanlike expanse of Lake Superior itself. Native brook and steelhead run the rivers, while northern pike and walleye cruise the waters of the northern lakes.

Just the Facts

Size: 3,850,000 acres

Surface area covered by water: 445,000 acres (695 square miles)

Cold-water streams: 1,300 miles

Warm-water streams: 950 miles

Timber-wolf population: Approximately 300—400

Features: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness boasts 1,200 miles of paddling in a million-acre swath of wilderness along the Canadian border. The Pincushion Mountain Ski Trail System features a cross-country "rim run" that skirts the edge of Devils Track Canyon. The International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, allows visitors to observe captive timber-wolf pups.


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