February 19th through 21st marks the 30th Anniversary of the Taconite State Trail. Originally authorized in 1974, the trail was completed in 1986 and has since been providing locals and visitors with an unsurpassed view of Northern Minnesota’s abundant mining history and gorgeous country. Les Olila shares his thoughts about the early years of development of the Taconite Trail; “In the early 70’s the idea of permanent long distance trails connecting communities and recreation areas was a new concept of a few visionaries. After the success of the Taconite Trail this concept is the ideal standard for new trails 40 years later”. Les is retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and was one of the Taconite Trail team members that helped to make the trail a reality. “The Taconite Trail is a State Trail not just a snowmobile trail. Snowmobiling occurs on the whole thing but there are sections used by horse back riders, hunters, hikers,mountain bike riders and perhaps in the future, ATVs . The original concept for State Trails was a corridor allowing all compatible uses and in some areas perhaps more than one treadway in the corridor. State Trails were developed for the long run of recreational uses for future generations”, explains Olila. Les is one of the 30th Anniversary of the Taconite Trail celebration event committee members. He has been helping to share the historic pieces of the trail, and first hand experience and love for outdoor recreation on the trail. Les continues to share his passion with future generations so that new trails and community connections will continue to be developed.
Communities all along the Taconite Trail are planning for the 30th Anniversary of the Taconite Trail celebration which will be February 19-21, 2016. Friday, February 19th the Itasca Snowmobile Alliance is planning a banquet and landowner awards dinner. This will be to celebrate those that have spent time developing and volunteering to make the wonderful trail connection that we have today, and to give thanks to private landowners who allow the snowmobile trail to cross their land. Without the landowners permission there wouldn’t be as many miles of snowmobile trail as there is currently. On Saturday, February 20th at 10:00am communities of Grand Rapids, Side Lake and Ely are all planning on doing simultaneous ribbon cuttings with their community dignitaries and residents invited to celebrate. Additional events are being added every day, so you are encouraged to check out the 30th Anniversary of the Taconite Trail Facebook Event Page to stay up to date on all of the activities in all of the different communities. All of these events will be family friendly.
Go Snowmobiling on the Taconite State Trail & More!
Although this trail is open year round, mid December through March 15th marks Minnesota’s peak snowmobiling season. The trail links three state parks: McCarthy Beach, Soudan Underground Mine and Bear Head Lake. Surrounded by rich forests, rolling terrain and secluded lakes, snowmobiling is the perfect way to enjoy the trail. If you’re from out of town, Grand Rapids has many options for snowmobile rentals. Locals will be happy to hear that if you already have a snowmobile State Trail Sticker, the trail is available to use. To see trail conditions, click here.
Although primarily intended for snowmobiling, the trail is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in the summer. Some areas of the trail wind through wetlands so call the local Trails and Waterways office to check on trail conditions. If you are horseback riding, you will need to get a horse pass from the Department of Natural Resources, the fees from which are used for trail maintenance and development. The first 6 miles of the trail are paved- perfect for warm weather roller-blading, biking and hiking.
The Taconite Trail isn’t just for snowmobiling. During the Spring, Summer and Fall the trail is part of the Mesabi Bike Trail that connects Grand Rapids to Virginia, Minnesota. Make sure to bring your binoculars! Over 420 bird species have been recorded in MN, and at least 100 live in the Taconite State Trail area. Year round birds like pileated woodpeckers, nuthatches, grosbeaks and chickadees live there year-round. The area has snowy owls, Canada geese and mallards in the winter and bald eagles, ospreys and warblers head north to the Taconite Trail area for the summer.
There are few places in the world to spot wildlife like northern Minnesota. The Taconite State Trail is home to red fox, porcupine, moose, white-tailed deer, timber wolf, lynx, black bear, snowshoe hare pine marten and red squirrel. February is the perfect time to find wildlife- tracks in the snow can help you discover what animals have been nearby. You are most likely to see wildlife at dawn or dusk- be sure to move slowly and quietly. Remember to always stay safe- while you are sure to see a variety of species on the trail, never approach a wild animal!
For more information on the 30th anniversary Taconite State Trail celebration, check out the event page on Facebook or give us a call.