I have a new favorite ride. It’s called the George’s Gorge trail between Silver Bay and Finland, Minnesota. It takes you from near the shores of Lake Superior up to the top of the Sawtooth Mountain ridge high above the lake. It follows a winding gorge near a stream flowing to the greatest of the great lakes. Readers of this blog know I do some of my best ruffed grouse scouting from the seat of my snowmobile. The trail is beautiful. It also goes through a dead forest.
What’s Wrong with this Picture?
As grouse hunters, we know. It’s a lack of early successional forest. Basically a forest about 75 years old, and the aspen and birch have reached the end of their lifespan. It’s been a written about, a source of concern. Traveling Minnesotans, driving up the North Shore, expect their white birches and aspen, a postcard picture of a drive. But as you can see from the above photo, it’s now a standing dead forest, one windstorm away from being a massive firewood pile. See how the tops of all the birches end in stumps? It won’t be long now.
A Time of Change
Why are the birches dying? It’s being blamed on everything from invasive earthworms to global warming to whitetail deer. As a grouse hunter, I’ve seen this all before. It’s normal for a forest like this to mature to the next stage, in this case likely maple trees. If deer are browsing too heavily, it would seem a healthy dose of doe tags during firearms season would do the trick. Fencing has been mentioned as a solution, and while expensive it would work in certain small scenic spots along the drive. I’m a fan of the young forests and the critters they support. I hope there is a future for it along the North Shore.
By Joel Schnell
Posted February 2, 2017.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com