Minnesota is a state like no other. Its unique history, geographical qualities, and legends rarely leave residents bored. Most people think of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area when they think of Minnesota, and for good reason. Over 60 percent of the state’s population lives in the area. However, this concentration leaves much of Minnesota sparsely populated and unexplored. With a third of the state covered by forests, that’s a lot of rural land. Explore Minnesota’s most remote spots, complete with advice on how to get there.
The Northwest Angle: The Most Remote SpotEmbed from Getty Images
Latitude: 49° 15′ 60.00″ N/Longitude: -95° 02′ 60.00″ W
The Northwest Angle Ice Road is a 37-mile ice road across the Lake of the Woods, leading to the northernmost point of the contiguous United States.
The Northwest Angle is only accessible by water. During the warmer months, boats are available for passage, but the harsh winters present travel challenges for residents. To travel before the ice road, residents had to take personal snowmobiles across the lake or drive the highway through Canada. For the last few years, the construction of an ice road across Lake of the Woods has allowed another route. The road, made of 37 miles of ice, requires a round-trip toll of USD$250. The toll offsets the cost of plowing and packing the road through the winter season.
Drivers should be aware the speed limit on the ice is 20 miles per hour and that it will take about two hours to cross the road from end to end. The road starts at Springsteel Resort and terminates at the Northwest Angle. Once there, visitors are welcomed to what feels like another planet. A landscape that resembles the Antarctic welcomes hundreds of ice anglers every season, with several ice huts and resorts available. Approximately 100 people call this remote area home year-round.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Latitude: 48°N 91°W/Longitude: 48°N 91°W
Slightly to the South end of Knife Lake, on the Minnesota side, there’s a spot that’s so remote, that it’s over 12 miles from any road. The Wilderness Protection Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, protects the Canoe Wilderness Area from development. Prohibited activities include logging, mining, permanent structures, roads, and motorized vehicles. Also, further regulation in 1978 protected the area known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
If you want to reach this point, you’ll have to hike. Before you do, however, be sure to apply for your permit to camp. Quota permits are available from the U.S. Forest Service. No more than six people with four watercraft are allowed to camp as a group. While rudimentary latrines are available at campsites, explorers are advised to be prepared to camp without any facilities available. Disposables such as glass and aluminum are not allowed inside the area. Campers can choose from 26 entry points around Knife Lake, each with different trails.
The Red Lake Bogs are a Landscape So Remote that no One Can Reach Them
Latitude: 48 20.281N/Longitude: 94 33.237W
Glacial Lake Agassiz retreated from the area over 10,000 years ago, leaving a 50-mile-long, 12-mile-wide swath of land known as the Red Lake Peatland. Over 30 varieties of peat grow here, with the deepest layers of peat measuring over 10 feet high. The state owns the peatlands, however, some tribes have access.
The land appears dry, but it’s misleading. From the sky, drones show that water covers much of it. Slow-moving rivers cut through the peat, consequently hiking is an impossibility. One wrong step would leave the hiker immersed in acres of peat and water, with no solid ground within reach. The density of the peat makes boating impractical. Some have relied on winter to freeze the area into hard masses to explore. This is a dangerous practice and not recommended. This area of Minnesota is so remote there are no rangers or assistance available. The peatlands are a protected area, with no camping, fishing, or fires allowed. Some of the peatlands are protected for access only by tribal members. Any non-tribal member can be prosecuted for trespassing.
The “Lost 40”: How A Mapping Error Gave Minnesota Old Forests
Latitude: 47 45.970N/Longitude: 94 5.065W
As Minnesota was logged as a state for development, mappers labeled an area in the Northern part of the state as Coddington Lake. The expense of developing wetlands was too great, hence, axes and machinery didn’t make their way to the region to cut down the trees. This mapping mistake blessed Minnesota residents with old-growth woodland. Trees that have stood for up to 300 years tower 150 feet in the air. While they’re not as big as the Redwoods and Sequoias that make California and Arizona famous, these trees are impressive on their own. The remote Lost 40 contains older White Pine trees. Since heavy logging during development cut down many White Pines, old-growth White Pines are significant.
The Lost 40 is located in Itasca County and protected by the State. Accessible by roads, hiking, photography, and permitted hunting are allowed. However, camping, fires, and other activities are not. The area also holds an esker. Eskers, created by retreating glaciers, are important formations. Usually consisting of gravel and other soil, these deposits can stretch for miles. Eskers provide valuable insight into the path retreating glaciers took, as well as the environment.
The Iron Range Region is Full of Remote Mines
Latitude: 47° 27′ 28.79″ N/Longitude: -92° 56′ 3.59″ W
In the very Northeast portion of Minnesota, there’s a remote area referred to as the Arrowhead region. Named for the shape of the land, the area contains the Lake Superior Basin. Mining for taconite is still in production. The Sawtooth Mountains, Minnesota’s only mountain range, dominate the area. Most of this area is home to National Parks. Voyageurs National Park, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and the Superior Hiking Trail are notable features. While some areas are accessible by roads, the total 10,635 square foot landmass contains areas only accessible by boat in the summer or snowmobile in the winter. Less than 250,000 people call this region of Minnesota home, providing plenty of space per person.
Oak Island is Home to a Seasonal Population
Latitude 49.315617 Longitude -94.854067 (Sunset Lodge, Oak Island, Minnesota.)
In the far Northeast corner of Lake of the Woods, you’ll find Oak Island. Home to Sunset Lodge, this remote spot offers year-round fishing, boating, and chartered private planes to vacationers. Only one general store and one post office service the island. Much of the land is owned by the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The Ojibwa tribe inhabited much of Minnesota from the early 1700s. During the 1800s, the tribe seceded large plots of land to the United States but the Red Lake Band maintained control over other plots. This makes the Red Lake Indian Reservation unique as it is one of the few reservations in Minnesota to be owned and operated only by members of the tribe. It’s also one of the most remote reservations in the United States.
Oak Island is a challenge to get to, but that’s part of the fun. The island itself shares border waters with Canada. The island can be accessed by taking a private plane or boat, or by driving. If you choose to drive, be aware that you will need to pack your passport. The only roads that lead to Oak Island require a short journey through Canada, at either the Warroad or Roseau crossing. Drivers are advised to program Young’s Bay Resort into their GPS to receive proper driving directions.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Maxger/iStock via Getty Images
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