Friday, November 16, 2012

Jay Cooke: Enjoying park in pieces

Jay Cooke State Park is a sprawling North Woods landscape etched in intricate detail by the St. Louis River. This last summer, the river rose out of its banks in Duluth's 500-year flash flood and gouged the park into pieces. The park will never be quite the same. But with a few detours in mind, park visitors can still have a great Minnesota State Park experience.

Long story short, the flood cut the park up like a Thanksgiving pie, into four big pieces. It was cut north from south, and west from east.
From Minnesota DNR
The flood closed off the park entirely for about three months. Now,  the entrance from the west (from I-35 through Cloquet or Esko) is open again. If you think of the cut-up pie, you can easily reach and explore the upper left (or northwest) quarter of the pie.

The park has a great map available showing what's open and closed.

Open and easy to access now:
  • Park visitor center
  • Park campground (featured in our book Camping the North Shore), including the great camper cabins
  • Hiking trails around the visitor center, including the CCC, Forbay, White Pine and Thomson trails
Other trails are open but more difficult to access. 

In our book Hiking the North Shore, we feature two hikes in Jay Cooke State Park. Hike #1 is Silver Creek Trail and Hike #2 is St. Louis River Loop. Those trails themselves are still in good shape, except both hikes require crossing the Swinging Bridge. With the bridge closed, you can still hike down the south side of the St. Louis River from Thompson starting on the Munger Trail, then do the Silver Creek Trail loop and return the way you came.

Looking ahead
Plans for the 2012-13 winter cross country ski season are still being worked out. There will definitely be ski trails groomed in the area around the Visitor Center. Our book Skiing the North Shore describes the following trails that will be open: CCC, White Pine and Thompson. The Oak and Triangle trails reached off the East Palkie Road should also be open and groomed. Then there is hope to open some of the trails on the south side of the St. Louis River using local access points; more details to follow.

The park plans to have the Swinging Bridge open again in late 2013. That will allow hikers and skiers full access again to the trails. The massive blowout on Highway 210 will have a new bridge by 2014. Two years from now, Jay Cooke will be all put back together again. Until then, enjoy the park all that you can!

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