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 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 (see maps below). Lodging is available in Duluth, Floodwood, Cloquet, Eveleth, Virginia and Hibbing. There are also several local B&Bs.
**WELCOME CENTER IS ONLY OPEN MID DECEMBER THROUGH MID MARCH**
Our Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center on Owl Avenue continues to serve as a Gateway to the Bog. The Welcome Center is open and staffed daily mid-December through mid-March. The building is open 7-days per week from 10am to 3pm.
The Welcome Center is a place to find out about the latest bird sightings, thaw out, warm up with some hot cider, but a t-shirt or other souvenir, and use the outhouse. Over 20 bird feeders are on the grounds with a great diversity of birds visiting them. Keep your eyes open for Pine Grosbeaks, Ruffed Grouse, Evening Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll, Brown Creeper or maybe even an Ermine or Gray Fox!
DIRECTIONS TO 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…but put this address into Google Maps or Apple Maps instead of just “Sax-Zim Bog” which takes you to the middle of nowhere]
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
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it cold in winter?
Yes, it is cold in winter. But temps can range from 40 above (rare) to 50 below (rare). Average December high is +20, low +4; January avg high is +17, low -2, February avg high is +23, low +3.
- What clothes should I bring for winter birding?
The warmest stuff you can get. Insulated boots are a must. Dress in layers. Long underwear works great. Hats and gloves. Some folks swear by hand warmers and even place in their boots. Remember though, much birding is done from the car.
- Are the roads plowed?
Yes, but not always right away. If in doubt, stay off unplowed roads.
- Do I need an S.U.V or 4×4?
No, but it doesn’t hurt either! Many of us bird in all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive vehicles. Snow tires help immensely on 2-wheel drive cars. Remember, this is FLAT country…No hills to contend with.
- What is the biggest danger in winter?
The biggest hazard is probably pulling over too far and getting your wheels stuck in the ditch. Many folks have had to be pulled out by 4x4s or tow trucks (which are scarce and expensive). And you may not be found for quite a while. And though cell phone reception is good over most of the bog, it is not complete coverage for all carriers.
- Is there cell phone coverage?
Cell phone reception is okay to good over most of the bog, but it is not complete coverage for all carriers. It can even be spotty for AT&T and Verizon customers.
- How do I find the winter birds?
First thing to do is to download our Birding Map. This shows all the best roads to drive and feeder locations. Secondly, check our Facebook page and the Sax-Zim Bog group for the latest sightings. Also check the MN Ornithologist’s Union listserv. When you arrive, stop by our Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center on Owl Avenue and talk to the host to see what’s been seen lately.
- Are there restrooms in the bog?
There are several but they are few and far between. Our Welcome Center on Owl Avenue has one that is available 24/7. There is an outhouse at the Stone Lake public landing. Otherwise, you’d need to go to Cotton, MN where there are 2 gas stations and a cafe. Outhouses/Restrooms are marked on our birding map. Plan accordingly!
- Where can I eat?
There is the Wilbert Cafe in Cotton that is open daily. In Meadowlands, there is the Trailside Bar & Grill which opens at 3pm on weekdays but before lunch on weekends. You can also get food at the gas stations in Cotton.
- Where can I get gas?
The only nearby gas stations are the two in Cotton, MN. Plan accordingly!
- Do you guys run the festival?
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog organizes the field trips for the festival. The Sax-Zim Winter Bird Festival was started by guide Mike Hendrickson but is now run by the Toivola-Meadowlands Development Board. We support this fantastic event and help however we can.
- Are there any places I should avoid?
Yes, please avoid birding the very north end of Stickney Road just south of Sax Rd (CR 28). If at all possible, use CR7 to get from the south part of the Bog (Arkola/CR52) to the north part (Sax Rd/CR28).
- What else can I do to be a good birding neighbor?
The Sax-Zim Bog is home to many residents, good folks who live there year-round. Please respect them by doing the following:
- Don’t stare into someones front yard or house with binoculars.
- Watch your rear view mirror! Folks need to get to work or home and can be frustrated by us birders/photographers driving slowly as we look for birds. Move over when you see someone coming up behind you.
- Respect private property and only leave the road in areas that are public lands and not posted as private.
- Where are good places for bird photography?
The feeding stations are great places to start…Try the Welcome Center feeders, Admiral Road feeders, and others. Occasionally interesting mammals may come to the feeders too…Ermine, Gray Fox, Red Squirrels, Pine Marten.
- Where can I go snowshoeing?
You can go snowshoeing/hiking on any county/state lands in the Sax-Zim Bog. If you don’t have a plat book, you may want to stick to the obvious locations: Welcome Center has snowshoe trails and the McDavitt/Admiral Road corridors are all public lands in the bog sections.
- Are the mosquitoes bad in May/June?
They can be, but often late May and early June birding is early when cool temps may keep them down. They are MUCH WORSE off the roads and back in the bog. Bring bug dope! The best bug dope is one with a percentage of DEET.
- Is it worth visiting the bog outside of winter?
Most winter birds head back north in the first two weeks in March…So what is a birder to do? Check out our Monthly Wildlife Calendar to find out what else you can see at the bog.
Hire a Guide
Interested in hiring a guide? The Friends of Sax Zim Bog recommends contacting:
- Clinton Nienhaus (Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Naturalist)
- Frank Nicoletti
- David Benson
- Gregg Severson (Sax-Zim and Twin Cities; Birding Bike Trips, Birding & Beer Bus Trips)
- Kim Risen
- Kim Eckert
- Judd Brink (Aitkin County, Brainerd Lakes area, Sax-Zim Bog)
The only lodging in the Sax-Zim Bog is Alesches Accommodations outside of Meadowlands, MN.
Many folks stay in Duluth (45 minute drive to Sax-Zim). The Days Inn near the Mall offers a “birder’s discount.” It is a flat rate of $69 for ANY type of available room!
There is about every chain hotel imaginable in Duluth. If you want to stay at a very nice hotel in the heart of the waterfront within walking distance of many restaurants and shops, you can check out the hotels in Canal Park of Duluth.
If you’d like to stay a bit closer and North of the Bog, the Eveleth Super 8 is a good choice.
The Super 8 in Cloquet is about a half hour from the south end of the Bog. But **Call direct for “Birder/Photographer Discount” of $59.95 plus tax 218-879-1250 (good in Winter and until late May)
An option for unique (and green!) lodging is Green Gate Guesthouses near Biwabik…BUT it is about an hour from the bog to the north.