Legislation Seeks to Route North Country Trail Through Arrowhead

North Country National Scenic Trail re-route map (National Park Service)

Rep. Rick Nolan (MN-8) has introduced legislation seeking to resolve the long-standing challenge of selecting a route for the North Country Scenic Trail through northeastern Minnesota.

When the North Country Scenic Trail was created by Congress in 1980, its 4,000-mile route designated a 100-mile section in northern Minnesota that would require the construction of boardwalks and other trail structures to pass through vast bogs. The National Park Service called such a task “essentially impossible” in a 2004 planning document (PDF).

Advocates and trail-builders have been pushing a proposals that would route the trail along the Superior Hiking Trail and through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Border Route Trail and Kekekabic Hiking Trails.

Faced by such an undesirable route, and with existing popular trails presenting an attractive alternative, the section of trail was never built, and the entire North Country Scenic Trail remains incomplete.

The North Country Trail Association has been a vocal proponent for the re-route, which it describes on its website as more logical and more scenic, “The revised route would be approximately 500 miles long (about 400 miles longer than the original route) and be located in exemplary “North Country” areas with world-class scenery, including Lake Superior’s North Shore and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”

But because Congress had designated the route, it needs to act to remedy the problem. Nolan has joined Vermont Representative Peter Welch in introducing the legislation, which would officially re-route the trail along the existing trails in northern Minnesota. The bill would also extend the North Country Trail into Vermont on its eastern end, connecting it with the  Appalachian Trail.

Nolan touted the trail’s economic impact and environmental sustainability in a press release:

“In Minnesota, we live for the great out-of-doors. I’m proud to be an original author of this bill to boost our multi-billion dollar tourism industry, creating jobs throughout the Northland while conserving wetlands and enhancing the experience for the thousands of hikers who travel these trails today. With the inclusion of the Arrowhead reroute into the national system, we honor the contributions of past trailmakers, ensure future generations benefit from their hard work, and continue the legacy of responsible land stewardship.”

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Senator Amy Klobuchar is reportedly working on companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.


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