U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Superior National Forest


Custom Search

Forest Information

The Superior National Forest is located in the northeast corner of Minnesota. It is comprised of 3,000,000 acres and has 27 developed campgrounds, 20 of which meet the selection criteria.

Located in the "Arrowhead" of Minnesota, Superior National Forest is bound on two sides by water - Lake Superior along its southeastern side and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) along the northern edge. Water and ice are the defining features of the Superior National Forest and its history. Glacial ice carved not only Lake Superior but hundreds of lakes that compose the BWCAW some ten to fifteen thousand years ago. As the ice receded its melt filled the lakes and established the boreal forest ecosystem. This ecosystem supports the native plants and animals and provided economic opportunities to the region even before the Voyageurs ventured across the area. Today, the boreal forest ecosystem, managed and maintained by the Forest Service, is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year. For outstanding recreational opportunities and magnificent camping locations it would be hard to find a place better than the Superior National Forest.

As in all National Forests, Superior offers a variety of recreational activities that range from hiking to canoeing, camping to wildlife watching, and much more. However, only Superior has the BWCAW. This area, with 2,000 lakes, is accessible principally by canoe from a number of "portal" or access points. Camping within the BWCAW is classified as "dispersed" and not included in this campground review. Visitors who want to camp and experience the BWCAW must obtain a permit from either a Forest Service office (ranger district) or an approved location. Any camper or group of campers must have a permit, camp at a designated campsite, and than demonstrate their knowledge of "Leave No Trace" camping techniques.

For those who prefer their camping to be a little more developed, the Superior has a variety of campgrounds. There are many "near- wilderness" as well as a growing number of highly developed campgrounds.

Perhaps the most highly developed campground in the Superior is Fall Lake, adjacent to the BWCAW. Most of the campsites have electric hook-ups and the bathroom facilities include flush toilets and hot showers. An RV waste station is available at the Ely Chamber of Commerce. Whiteface Reservoir campground, on its 4,980-acre lake, also has some electric only campsites but its bathroom facilities are limited to vault toilets.

One of the most picturesque "near-wilderness" campgrounds is Trails End located at the end of Gunflint Trail. Located some fifty miles from Grand Marais, the view of glacier-carved landscape from its camp sites makes the trip well-worth the drive. Here, one can directly access the BWCAW and take advantage of an outfitter at the campground entrance. Trails End campground offers a pleasant mixture of car, tent and recreational vehicle (RV) camping sites and great blueberry picking opportunities. But Sawbill Lake campground is a very close second in it beauty and access to the BWCAW. The Sawbill Canoe Outfitter, which has been at this location almost 50 years, provides great assistance to campers and canoeists by offering a depth of knowledge for the area, canoe rentals, hot showers, firewood, gift shop, outdoor equipment, etc.

The legacy left by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) can be found throughout the Forest and Boundary Waters. The CCC workmanship can be seen in the stonework canoe portages and at various campgrounds. A beautiful stone retaining wall, one example of CCC stonework, can be see along the road leading from Sawbill Lake campground to the old Range Station and dock. Log structures, whether picnic pavilion or cabin, also attest to the CCC's presence. An excellent example of CCC workmanship can be found at S. Kawishiwi River campground's log pavilion with a fireplace. This structure was built in 1933 and is still providing services to the public.

Other contributions the CCC made to the Superior are the roads, such as Gunflint Trail (State Rt. 12), Sawbill Trail (State Rt. 2), and The Grade (Forest Rt. 170) and some of the developed campgrounds. Retaining a great deal of its CCC character and charm, is Lake Jeanette campground. Although Echo Lake campground is close to some nearby attractions such as Voyageurs National Park, Crane Lake, Vermilion Falls, and the tiny community of Buyck (pronounced bike), Jeanette Lake campground is just a special place. Its walk-in tent sites deserve the title of "honeymoon suites." And most of the sites in the campground are along the lake with giant boulders looking like the back of some lost Humpback whale rising up from the crystal clear water.

However, it must be said that two of Superior's developed campgrounds are adjacent to a lake. They are Little Isabella River and S. Kawishiwi River campgrounds. These lakeside campground have one characteristic in common - great canoeing opportunities. Anyone looking for outstanding canoeing must consider visiting the Superior National Forest. Between the BWCAW and the numerous crystal clear lakes found throughout, there can't be a better place for flat water paddling.

The quality of the water is also reflected by the quality of the fishing in this Forest. There is Northern pike, Walleye, Smallmouth bass, perch, crappie, Muskie, and Brook and Rainbow trout to challenge anglers of all skill and experience levels.

An innovation in the Superior's developed campgrounds are solar powered water systems that have replaced the old-fashion hand pumps. Now, rather than having to pump a lever, campers have only to turn the spigot's handle. True, there may be fewer sources for drinking water in the campground, but the ease in obtaining potable water is much improved.

The Superior National Forest offers a variety of activities for any season. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are available in the winter. Hiking, mountain biking, camping, and canoeing are excellent in the summer. And just simply sitting and enjoy this magnificent Forest, is great any time of the year.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 8901 Grand Avenue Place Duluth, Minnesota 55808 218-626-4300 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES

2020 W. Highway 61
Grand Marais, Minnesota 55604

1393 Hwy 169
Ely, Minnesota 55731

320 N Highway 53
Cook, Minnesota 55723

318 Forestry Rd.
Aurora, Minnesota 55705

P.O.B. 2159
7355 West Hwy 61
Tofte, Minnesota 55615

Fred and Suzi Dow