St. Louis River hustles through Jay Cooke State Park

The St. Louis River on Saturday, looking upstream from the Swinging Bridge. (Sam Cook photo)

I figured the St. Louis River would be rolling along well at Jay Cooke State Park just west of Duluth today, so the yellow dog and I went to take a look. We weren’t disappointed. The river was tumbling over its bed of slate and greywacke as if it were impatient to get to Lake Superior. From the new Swinging Bridge (rebuilt after the June 2012 flood), the dog and I had a drone’s eye view of the action – a churning, rootbeer-colored flow the park officials estimated at 20,000 cubic feet per second. Most of us in this neck of the woods, I suspect, are fine with all of that winter being carried away. The water was running at 32.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S.G.S. gauge upstream at Scanlon. It’s hard not to be moved – figuratively and literally – standing on that bridge witnessing such a chaos of current. The bridge sways and bounces a bit with every move. Swing out to the Swinging Bridge if you get a chance. A daily park sticker is $5 per vehicle.

The St. Louis River tumbles over a small drop in Jay Cooke State Park. (Sam Cook photo)

Standing waves form in the St. Louis River downstream from the Swinging Bridge at Jay Cooke State Park. (Sam Cook photo)

Meanwhile, on shore, winter melts into the St. Louis River one drop at a time from riverside icicles. (Sam Cook photo)


Spring or not, the turkey mating game goes on

A turkey gobbler displays near the home of Sparky Stensaas, who lives near Wrenshall. (Sparky Stensaas photo)

Today’s the first day of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s spring wild turkey seasons, but it isn’t clear how many gobblers will be out strutting in the snowstorm. Sparky Stensaas of Wrenshall passed along a couple of photos of gobblers that have been visiting his birdfeeders this winter.

“We’ve had up to 14 for much of the winter,” Stensaas said in an e-mail. “They destroyed two of my feeders.”

The toms started displaying April 9 this winter, he said. They were in full-strut when he took these photos through his picture window. The gobblers often face off in full display, Stensaas said. The birds are still very wary of any movement inside the house, he said.

For more of Stensaas’ photography, go to

A gobbler in full strut. (Sparky Stensaas photo)




Granite Gear pack named best among summer gear

Granite Gear’s Nimbus Trace Access 70 backpack has been named best pack by Outside magazine’s 2014 Summer Buyer’s Guide, according to SNEWS, an outdoor industry trade magazine. The multi-day backpack features a 3-D, maple-core composite laminate frame sheet. It weighs 4 pounds, 3 ounces and has a capacity of 70 liters and a load rating of 60 pounds. It retails for $349.95. Granite Gear is based in Two Harbors.

Brule River rising as runoff increases

Fishing was slow on Monday and Tuesday on Wisconsin’s Brule River, but action improved Wednesday, said Damian Wilmot of Fly By Night Guide Service. With warmer weather the past two days, the runoff is beginning and the river is rising. Here’s Damian’s recent report.

And here‘s the link to the USGS gauge height graph that tracks water levels on the river.


Anglers catching walleyes on Rainy River; season ends Monday

It’s going to be a short, sweet walleye season on the Rainy River this spring. Much of the river between International Falls land Baudette remains ice-covered. The Frontier landing opened Tuesday, and river ice is moving out at the rate of a couple miles a day, said Alyse Walton at Royal Dutchman Resort in Baudette. So, anglers are moving fast to get a chance at the river’s big walleyes, which come up from Lake of the Woods to spawn.

The season for walleyes on the river is open through Monday, April 14.

“We’ve been full since yesterday (Wednesday), and through the weekend we’re full,” Walton said. “Everyone in town is full.”

Anglers are catching plenty of walleyes, some in the mid-20-inch range, Walton said.

“Nothing huge yet,” she said.

A Sportsman’s Lodge guide fishing near Birchdale on Tuesday afternoon caught lots of fish “from eating sized to wall-hangers,” according to an online report from the lodge.

North Shore streams opening up

The Knife River, as seen from the Minnesota Highway 61 Expressway, was opening up on Wednesday morning. At the right in this photo is the Knife River fish trap, which was repaired this winter after being damaged by the 2012 flood. (Sam Cook photo)

Several North Shore streams between Duluth and Two Harbors were open on Wednesday morning or at least running atop the ice. The Knife River, shown above had created a channel and was running free in most places and over the ice in some spots.

The French River also was mostly open in its lower reaches, rushing down the hill near the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offices at French River. The river disappeared under the ice of Lake Superior at its mouth.

The Talmadge River also was opening up, and in Duluth, the Lester River was flowing over the falls just below Superior Street. Yet just offshore at the mouth of the Lester River, at least one angler was ice-fishing on Lake Superior this morning.

The French River flows beneath the Scenic Highway 61 bridge on Wednesday morning. (Sam Cook photo)

The Lester River rushes over a set of falls just below Superior Street on Wednesday morning. (Sam Cook photo)

Northern Minnesota beaver trapping season extended

Due to prolonged ice cover, the beaver trapping season in the northern third of Minnesota will be extended through May 15, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources news release.

The season was scheduled to close statewide on April 30, but a second consecutive winter of persistently frozen lakes and rivers in the north prompted the Department of Natural Resources to temporarily extend the 2013-14 season. Beaver trapping will close as scheduled in the southern two-thirds of the state.

Trappers who participate in the season extension will be required to take the following modifications to prevent incidental otter catch:

Foothold traps must be set in at least 8 inches of water.

Body-gripping traps must be completely submerged. Those with a jaw opening greater than 7 ½ inches must be set with the trigger wires moved all the way to one side of the trap. The wires must point straight down.

Snares must be set with stops affixed to the cable to ensure that the portion of the snare that makes up the noose loop may not be less than 4 inches in diameter when fully closed.

The season will be extended north of state Highway 200, east of state Highway 73 and north of the Pine-Carlton county line. A map of the open area (the north mink/muskrat/beaver/otter zone) can be found on page 48 of the 2013 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, which is available online

Get a glimpse of Michael Furtman’s photography

Michael Furtman took this photo of a snowy owl near Duluth this winter. (Michael Furtman photo)

If you want to see some excellent wildlife photography, check out the Izaak Walton League meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Avenue. Duluth wildlife photographer Michael Furtman will be presenting a program on wildlife photography. Furtman has shot covers and other photos for Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer and many other publications. He has captured stunning images — and videos — of white-tailed deer, waterfowl, pheasants, raptors, owls, snowshoe hares and many other species. The presentation is free.