What is the Sax-Zim Bog?
Sax-Zim Bog is actually about 300 square miles of not only bog, but aspen uplands, rivers, lakes, meadows, farms and even a couple towns! It is not just a giant bog, but rather a “magic mix” of habitats that boreal birds love. The Sax-Zim Bog is prime habitat for bog specialists such as Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Connecticut Warbler. Bobcat, Lynx, Pine Marten, Fisher also use this habitat. Mature bogs are also important wintering habitat for Great Gray Owl, N Hawk Owl, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll. The land is laced with many dirt and paved roads. In fact, most birding is done from the road. We hope to change this with creation of hiking/snowshoeing trails and bog boardwalks.
The best time for the winter specialties is mid December through late February. Migrant warblers move through the bog in the second half of May. Breeding birds are in full song during June and even first week in July.
Located an easy 50-minute drive north west of Duluth, Minnesota, the Bog is easily accessible by many dirt and paved roads. Lodging is available in Duluth, Floodwood, Cloquet, Eveleth, Virginia and Hibbing.
Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center
**WELCOME CENTER IS ONLY OPEN MID-DECEMBER THROUGH MID-MARCH**
Size: 1 acre (leased from St. Louis County) but we utilize the surrounding hundreds of acres of county land.
Activities at this tract: Stop in to the Welcome Center in winter…It is open daily from 10am-3pm from mid December to mid March.
Winter—Two dozen bird feeders are maintained in winter…and a half dozen deer rib cages are placed around to feed woodpeckers, chickadees, Gray Jays, creepers, magpies and in some years, Ermine (Short-tailed Weasel)! A short quarter mile, double loop snowshoe trail takes off from the northwest corner of the Welcome Center (SNOWSHOES ARE AVAILABLE IN THE WELCOME CENTER…FREE if used at this site, or $5 per pair for use in other parts of the Bog (must be returned during open hours). Gray Jay Way is currently a 1/2 mile trail that follows the ditch berm straight north of the parking lot through Black Spruce/Tamarack Bog.
Summer—Feel free to hike and bird the same trails listed above. A Butterfly Garden is maintained next to the parking lot that attracts many pollinators. There are also several hummingbird feeders in the garden.
Outhouse: OPEN YEAR-ROUND!
Species of Interest: Many exciting species have been recorded at this location…I guess it is the “Patagonia Rest Area Effect.”…when many talented birders and naturalists come to a nondescript spot in the midst of a huge habitat, many cool species are found.
Winter species—Regular visitors include Gray Jays, Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Black-capped Chickadees, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Ravens, Blue Jays. Less regular species includes Evening Grosbeak, Brown Creeper, Ruffed Grouse, Pileated Woodpecker. Rare species recorded here include Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl, Hoary Redpoll, Black-billed Magpie, Ermine, Gray Fox, Bobcat, Red Fox, Snowshoe Hare.
Spring/Summer/Fall species—The Welcome Center closes in mid March but there are still amazing birds here. During the last half of May, this is a good spot to start your birding day…migrant warblers recorded here include Cape May Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Ovenbird (resident nester), Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Mourning Warbler (resident nester) and more. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds use the sugar water feeders in the Butterfly Garden frequently. In the summer of 2016, a Broad-winged Hawk pair nested, and fledged two young, within 50 yards of the Welcome Center along the snowshoe trail. Other rarities recorded here during the “green months” include Red-bellied Woodpecker, Indigo Bunting, American Bittern (viewed through the Welcome Center windows during one of our field trips!). Birds nesting in the bog just to the north of the Welcome Center include Lincoln’s Sparrow, Palm Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.
**If you see something cool at or near the Welcome Center, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org**
Parking: There is a 20-car parking lot.
Signage: A large sign along Owl Avenue marks the spot of the Welcome Center. (There are no signs directing folks to this site though)
Location: The Welcome Center is located about 1.5 miles south of Arkola/CR52 on Owl Avenue (see specific directions below)
GALLERY OF WELCOME CENTER CRITTER & PEOPLE PHOTOS HERE
Directions: WELCOME CENTER ON OWL AVENUE (Also marked on our birding map)
The address is 8793 Owl Avenue, Toivola, MN 55765 [NOTE: THIS IS NOT A MAILING ADDRESS]
Directions from Cotton, MN on US53…
*Go West from Cotton on CR52/Arkola for 11 miles
*Turn South (left) on Owl Avenue
*Go 1.75 miles (second curve) to Welcome Center
Directions from Meadowlands, on CR133…
*Go East on CR133 to CR229/29
*Turn North (left) on CR229/29
*Go North to T at Correction Line Rd
*Turn West (left) on Correction Line Rd
*Road curves North and becomes Owl Ave
*Go North on Owl Avenue for 2.5 miles to Welcome Center
Sax-Zim Bog Land Tracts
INDIAN PIPE BOG—SUE & BRUCE HENKE TRACT
Sue & Bruce Henke of Duluth made this purchase possible. Thank you Sue & Bruce! You are true Bog Buddies!
Size: 80 acres (two 40 acre parcels lined up east to west)
Activities at this tract: hiking (bushwhacking…no established trails), snowshoeing (no established trails), birding, photography, botanizing
Species of Interest: Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), possible Black-backed Woodpeckers (barked spruce on site). Very few folks have explored this bog yet, so if you do, please email us a list of things you see to email@example.com.
Parking: Must park on the side of Murphy Road (Don’t pull over too far as this is a very deep ditch)
Signage: No signage yet.
Location: Indian Pipe Bog borders Murphy Road on the east side from 1/4 to 1/2 mile north of Arkola/CR52
Indian Pipe Bog is about 2 miles east of our 97 acre Yellow-bellied Bog.
Here is a note from Sue and Bruce….
“For nearly 40 years we have explored the north woods together in every season. Whether skiing, hiking or canoeing, we have benefited greatly from the efforts of others who have worked tirelessly to preserve or restore these ecosystems for future generations. On a recent trip to the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center, we learned of the group’s mission to purchase tracts of black spruce bog to preserve this important habitat for boreal birds and wildlife. We wanted to do our part to support the mission of this impressive organization.
The black spruce bog is an unique and fascinating ecosystem that we find especially interesting. We are now beginning our retirement years. Bruce is a recently retired pathologist and Sue will be retiring soon from her position as a project specialist at Essentia Health. What better way to mark this transition in our lives than to invest in preserving black spruce bog habitat for posterity.”
This tract gets its name from several lovely stands of Indian Pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) that occur on this land. Photo from a scouting trip here in summer 2015.
Feel free to roam this Bog in winter or summer. We will put in a small bridge to get across the drainage ditch.
A HUGE thanks to Sue & Bruce Henke….Their gift has made it possible for this bog to be preserved for future generations of birds and birders!
WARREN NELSON MEMORIAL BOG
Size: 40 acres
Activities at this tract: hiking (bushwhacking…no established trails), snowshoeing (no established trails), birding, photography, botanizing. Feeders are maintained along the road in winter. There are plans for a parking pad and possible bog boardwalk in the future. Morse’s feeders are just down the road at the intersection of Blue Spruce Road and Swenson Road.
Species of Interest: White-winged Crossbill (occasionally), Golden-crowned Kinglet (summer), possible Boreal Chickadee and Black-backed Woodpecker (not yet recorded here but both have been seen near here in the past), Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule), Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica), Mustard White butterfly. Very few folks have explored this bog yet, so if you do, please email us a list of things you see to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parking: Must park on Blue Spruce Road (Don’t pull over too far as this is a very deep ditch)
Signage: Large “Warren Nelson Memorial Bog” sign at SE corner of property.
Location: Warren Nelson bog starts 1/4 mile north of CR133 on the west side of Blue Spruce Road and continues for another 1/4 mile.
Warren Nelson of Aitkin loved all Minnesota’s birds but had a special affection for our rarer boreal species. He spent much time observing and learning the natural history of Great Gray Owls, Hawk Owls and Yellow Rails.
When Warren passed away his friends in Aitkin County and beyond wanted to memorialize his significant contributions to the knowledge of boreal birds in northern Minnesota. In his unassuming way, Warren Nelson exemplified human dignity, kindness and compassion. He wove those same traits into his love of birds, and birders. Leading by example, his message was simply to treat other creatures, avian or human, with respect. Warren never asked for anything in re- turn for his birding services or expertise, choosing to give freely of himself with anyone who shared his passion for nature.
To honor Warren’s life while continuing to help promote the birds and habitats that fascinated him, a group of his friends came up with an idea to pay it back, while paying it forward by acquiring a bog parcel of land in Sax-Zim as a memorial. Friends of Sax-Zim Bog will hold the title to the land.
Warren Nelson The Warren Nelson Memorial Bog will be on Blue Spruce Road about a half mile north of CR133. This is on a popular birding route and near the Morse’s Winter feeders. The 40 acre bog has a couple nice stands of mature Black Spruce with a deep sphagnum carpet. It has been home to Boreal Chick-adees and Black-backed Woodpeckers.
Plans include a parking pad, natural history kiosk, memorial to warren, bird feeders, and the entire property will be open and accessible to birders and other nature lovers to explore on foot or snowshoe. As of May 2015, $34,000 has been raised. Thank you to all who have generously contributed in Warren’s memory.
Warren Nelson of Aitkin County, Minnesota and his bog bird feeders
Wind damage at the Warren Nelson Bog (July 2016)
GALLERY OF WARREN NELSON BOG PHOTOS HERE
Size: 97 acres
Activities at this tract: hiking (bushwhacking…no established trails), snowshoeing (no established trails), birding, photography, botanizing. Winter feeders are maintained along Peary Road near the north end of this tract.
Species of Interest: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (summer), Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets (summer), Snowshoe Hare, Bobcat (rare, but tracks regularly seen), Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes). Very few folks have explored this bog yet, so if you do, please email us a list of things you see to email@example.com.
Parking: Must park on the side of Peary Road (Don’t pull over too far as it is easy to get stuck in winter)
Signage: No signage yet.
Location: Yellow-bellied Bog borders Peary Road for a half mile on the west side beginning at the intersection of Arkola/CR52 (south of Arkola/CR52).
On October 9th, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog became owner of an additional 60 acres of Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog on Peary Road. This bog is adjacent to the 40 acres of the Yellow-bellied Bog that we already own. We now have a contiguous 100 acre parcel. Thanks to all who have given to our land fund! This is YOUR bog!… But you need to share it with the Bobcats, Snowshoe Hares, Ermine, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and other bog critters.
Feel free to snowshoe or hike on this tract. No established trails.
BOREAL CHICKADEE BOG—THE DORIS STAUB PETRIE TRACT
Our most recent purchase is a 40 acre remote bog between Admiral Road and CR7. It is a wild place only reached with considerable effort (about an hour bushwhack). This will be a wild preserve that is home to Boreal Chickadees, Moose, and Wolves. The Purchase was made possible by a generous contribution from Doris Staub Petrie.
Size: 80 acres
Activities at this tract: NOTE THAT THIS IS A REMOTE TRACT AND ACCESS IS ONLY BY ARDUOUS BUSHWHACKING FROM ADMIRAL ROAD OR CR7. Hiking (bushwhacking…no established trails), snowshoeing (no established trails), birding, botanizing…If you can get there!
Species of Interest: Boreal Chickadee. Very few folks have explored this bog yet, so if you do, please email us a list of things you see to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parking: Must park on the side of Admiral Road
Signage: No signage yet.
Location: Remote tract located halfway between Admiral Road and CR7. NO ROAD ACCESS!
A Note From Doris:
“For 25 years I’ve dreamed of preserving and protecting wild lands for wildlife. When I read about FOSZB’s “Acres for Owls” goal of buying tracts of newly available prime bog habitat, my heart jumped “yes”! That goal makes so much sense to me: buy up and preserve the pristine parcels while they still exist, saving them for wildlife, nature lovers and the larger ecosystem/web of life which we all rely on. I trust FOSZB to keep this land safe – now and into the future. We can’t have the wildlife we love if suitable habitats aren’t available.
And hey – I’m celebrating my good fortune to have survived 3 cancer episodes!
I’m retired now. I was a biologist, then a programmer/analyst, and most recently, an artist. Not sure what the next iteration will be! I’ve been an environmentalist and birder forever.”
Doris Staub Petrie
Conservation Importance Of This Parcel
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog has witnessed the rapid disappearance of prime Black Spruce/Tamarack bog in the area over the last decade. We hope to purchase and preserve tracts of bog for future generations of our beloved boreal birds, owls and birders, photographers and tourists.
The Boreal Chickadee Bog has prime mature Black Spruce-Tamarack bog covering most of the land. Prime habitat for Great Gray Owls, Connecticut Warblers, Boreal Chickadees, Black-backed Woodpeckers and many other priority bird species that require mature bog. Also, as you can see from trail camera photos, it is great mammal habitat too! Its close (less than a mile) proximity to the approved Sax-Zim Bog Wetland Bank is also important to us. This Wetland Bank Project will forever preserve 23,000 acres of the Sax-Zim Bog!
EAST STONE LAKE BOG
Size: 26 acres
Activities at this tract: hiking (bushwhacking…no established trails), snowshoeing (no established trails), birding, photography, botanizing. It is possible to CANOE to this site from the Stone Lake Public Landing in spring/early summer before dense growths of Wild Rice grow up in the channel.
Species of Interest: Gray Jays (year-round), Trumpeter Swans on the lake, . Very few folks have explored this bog yet, so if you do, please email us a list of things you see to email@example.com.
Parking: There is a small (4 car?) place to pull off the road and park along East Stone Lake Road…or park at the snowplow turnaround before the road narrows.
Signage: No signage yet.
Location: Take Stone Lake Road off of CR7 and head east. Go past the turnoff to the public landing and bear right. You will soon come to a wide spot in the road where the snowplow turns around in winter. Take the narrow single-lane road to the left and proceed another few hundred yards to an open spot on the left side of the road. You can park here.