July 4th will be the grand opening of Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Over the past few years I have written about it in this blog. Today I will try to give you the complete story.
Chik-Wauk was started in the early 1930’s by Ed and Art Nunstedt. Along with Russell Blankenburg they built a road into the property on Saganaga Lake from Seagull Lake. During the winter of 1932-33 they built their second lodge, a log structure with a rock porch. The log part of the building burned before the first guests stepped in but the porch was saved.
During the winter of 1933-34, they rebuilt the lodge with Saganaga granite rocks. This building served as the main lodge of Chik-Wauk until it was sold to the federal government about 1980 by Ralph and Bea Griffis, the last private owners of Chk-Wauk. Ralph and Bea used the lodge as a summer home until their health no longer allowed them to stay on the Gunflint Trail.
For several years the Forest Service struggled to find a use for the building. Finally they encouraged and supported a group of local people in establishing the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. The society’s goal was to turn the building into a museum and the grounds into a series of hiking and nature trails.
The museum focuses first on the land and lakes of this area. Then it talks about the major population groups of the Gunflint Trail: prehistoric peoples, Native Americans, voyageurs, miners, loggers, businessmen and residents. The nature trails explore the surrounding woods. They take you up into areas recovering from the 2007 Ham Lake fire. There is an excellent wildflower walk exploring the nearby woods. There is also an ADA trail.
The museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is an admission charge of $2 per person or $5 per family. The admission charge is waived for members of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society and their guests. Parking is available on the property. There are picnic tables. A map of the hiking trails and a guide to the wildflower trail are also available.
Anyone who has spent much time on the Trail will enjoy this museum. There are many opportunities to learn more about the people who have lived here over the years. When you make your next trip to the Gunflint Trail, be sure to plan a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.
Like all societies, suddenly this one has many plans for the future to help tell both the natural and cultural history of this wonderful area. As we work on those, it is enough to have the museum completed and open for you to visit.