Signs of Spring!

By Tia
Make the most of Minnesota's transition seasons

Spring is here!

What’s the most underrated time of year in Northeast Minnesota? You guessed it, Spring! As the temperatures rise and the snow begins to melt, we begin to flow back in our lives here in the Northwoods. It’s the season of raging waterfalls, spawning steelhead, and tree tapping.

Chasing Spring Waterfalls

For those of you who love waterfalls, this is the perfect time of year for you. The snowflakes have been waiting patiently for things to warm up, so they can start the great race down to the big lake. All at once the ice and the snow will melt away and break free releasing a mighty force that’s been waiting above and below the surface all winter long. What an experience it is to see our beloved waterfalls in all their spring glory. Are you looking for some recommendations? On your way up the shore, be sure to check out Gooseberry, Tettegouche, Cross River, Temperance River, Poplar River, and Cascade River. All the waterfalls within the places listed above are easily accessed from Highway 61 or the State Park entrances, and there are great map resources on the Minnesota DNR website. If you’re looking for a little more of a hiking adventure, stop by George Crosby Manitou, Judge C.R. Magney, and Grand Portage State Parks. Trust me, the hike will be well worth it.

Pro Tip: Wear your waterproof boots and bring some trekking poles; it’s going to be slippery out there! Don’t forget your State Park Pass!

Fly Fishing North Shore Rivers - The Spring Run!

We humans aren’t the only ones excited about the rivers flowing once again, but so are the great winter-run Steelhead of Lake Superior. What’s a steelhead? Steelhead are the same species as rainbow trout. The primary differences between a plain old rainbow and a steelhead are where they choose to spend most of their lives and how big they can grow based on their choice of environment and food source, all predetermined by their genetic make-up. Rainbows spend all of their lives in our streams, eating various foods and only growing as much as the stream will allow them. On the other hand, Steelhead live most of their life in the big lake, eating other fish and growing much larger. Why are they excited about the rivers? It’s time for the fish to lay and fertilize their eggs, a process known as spawning. Like many of the salmon and trout of Lake Superior, Steelhead are known as anadromous fish. In their native environments, fish of this type are born in freshwater streams, live their adult lives in saltwater, and return to the stream in which they were born to spawn. Lake Superior is freshwater, so all of the non-native anadromous fish have adapted to a new lifestyle, stream, big lake, then stream again. One key thing that separates, Steelhead from the other big lake fish is that they can spawn more than once in their lifetime, whereas salmon typically spawn once and die shortly after. For the same reason, when Steelhead enter the streams to spawn, they are stronger than most fish. This characteristic, along with their shiny chrome coloring, is one of the many reasons anglers target this amazing fish. Don’t get your hopes up though, they are not an easy one to catch. Anglers should expect to spend much of their time casting and drifting their lure through the water over and over again in hope of landing one the most sought after fish of the Great Lakes.

Maple Syrup Tapping

As the days become warm and the nights remain cool, the sugar maples prepare to be tapped. Throughout the summer, the trees use photosynthesis to convert light energy into sugars, and as they prepare to drop their leaves for the winter to come, the sugar moves to the tree trunk and holds there in the form of sap. As Spring arrives, the sap undergoes an everyday freeze-thaw cycle which creates a lot of pressure waiting to burst inside the tree. During this time, the trees are ready to be tapped. Syrup makers put in a lot of time and effort to make sure they get as much of the sap as they can. Of course, there are regulations to keep the trees safe during and after the process. So much sap is needed because much of what comes out of the trees is water. The rest of the process consists of removing as much water as possible from the sap by using extreme heat to cause the water to separate and evaporate from the sugar. This can be a long, daunting process for syrup makers, but the reward makes it all worth it. If you’re up visiting this time of year, stop by one of our local syrup businesses and check out the process, and maybe even taste the fruits of their labor!

If you don’t already have your trip planned, you better get busy because the rivers, the Steelhead, and the sugar maples are becoming impatient.

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