Wolf Island is a place of legend and lore, holding the footprints of both Native Americans and Voyageurs. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has taken advantage of a one-time opportunity to protect this prominent archeological site in the middle of Lake Vermilion, one of the premier lakes located in the Minnesota northwoods. Wolf Island, also known as Knotts Island, is located at the lake’s north end where the Vermilion River flows northward from Wolf Bay.
The island was at risk of being lost to development because of its beauty and proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Conserving this nearly 60-acre island was an exceptional, “once in
a generation” opportunity to protect an iconic landscape on one of Minnesota’s most beloved lakes.
Wolf Island was once owned by John Jaeger, a prominent Minneapolis architect who immigrated to Minnesota from Yugoslavia and homesteaded the island after visiting it in 1906. Jaeger meticulously documented the archeological history of the island and drew a series of detailed maps highlighting the rare historic and geologic features he uncovered. His maps capture the story of a pre-settlement island well-used by both Native Americans and Voyageurs. The maps illustrate the existence of Native American burial mounds, a working indigenous canoe shop that he personally witnessed on his first visit, and a navigation point used by a Voyageur more than 200 years prior to Jaeger’s research. In total, Jaeger’s work captures the stories of this island in a rare and personal manner. After Jaeger’s passing, the island was handed down to family friends. Most recently the island was owned by three siblings living in Michigan who wished to sell the property. The Trust for Public Land negotiated for the opportunity to find a conservation solution and purchased the island.
Generous contributions from individual members of the Dayton family, and from both the Scrooby and Quetico Superior Foundations made the purchase possible. The Trust for Public Land will continue to raise needed funds to cover costs associated with acquisition and short-term ownership of the island. It is the expectation and intention of the landowners and donors that the property be conveyed to the Superior National Forest for public use. The Trust for Public Land intends to work with the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa during its holding period to seek its interest in commenting on interim and long-term management of the property. The purchase of the island by TPL will allow the U.S. Forest Service a window of time to appropriate funding for its permanent protection, thereby creating an incredible public resource in the middle of a very beloved Minnesota Lake.
Wolf Island is a good example of The Trust for Public Land working quickly to protect a sensitive geographic and cultural site, so that the opportunity for public ownership and access would be preserved. The acquisition and protection of Wolf Island is also a high priority in the U.S. Forest Service’s new long-term plan to provide more undeveloped, easily accessible primitive recreation opportunities for visitors. In addition, the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan identifies Wolf Lake—situated to the east of Wolf Island—as a potential addition to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Located adjacent to the Superior National Forest, this island will be protected for paddlers, boaters, and other recreationists for generations to come. The protection of Wolf Island is part of a broader initiative of The Trust for Public Land focusing on conserving iconic properties throughout the northwoods. To learn more about protecting other places near the Quetico Superior region, visit http://www.tpl.org/our-work/our-land-and-water/wolf-island.