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Join us for an extraordinary immersion in North Woods nature timed for the first hints of fall color and fall songbird migration. Discover boreal birds, search for iconic northern species such as Common Loon, Moose and Beaver, canoe and explore in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and survey the shores of Lake Superior—its grandeur and history.

This journey is a Sampler tour with a nice blend of birding with other activities including hiking, canoeing, sightseeing and learning local history and geology. We recognize that this is your vacation, so staying back at the Lodge to enjoy the fire or a quiet walk or paddle is certainly an option. While time at lovely Gunflint Lodge at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is for most the trip highlight, exploring Lake Superior’s exquisite coastline is also memorable—pebble beaches, historic lighthouses, quiet coves, lush forests and beaches are all a delight.

And, we begin and end in Duluth where a world-class raptor and songbird migration is underway. We highly recommend you start your trip from here with our pre-tour extension to neighboring Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands. Better yet, join our Isle Royale trip in Michigan and make a grand sweep of the states surrounding Lake Superior.

Tour Highlights

  • Relax in cozy lodgings at the edge of the Boundary Waters
  • Enjoy vistas along Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake
  • Explore the Boundary Waters on a canoe excursion
  • Witness some of the fabulous waterfalls and cascades that feed Lake Superior
  • Visit the artsy harbor town of Grand Marais
  • Learn about Ojibwa culture and Voyageur history at Grand Portage National Monument
  • Marvel at migrating raptors soaring over Hawk Ridge

Trip Itinerary

Tues., Sept. 7: Arrive in Duluth | Hawk Watching


Please plan to arrive to Duluth, Minnesota today. If you also book our Apostle Islands extension, you will arrive in Duluth to start on September 3, then be back in Duluth to start in with some fabulous birding. Those flying should arrive at Duluth International Airport (DLH). For those that plan on hawk watching, arrive no later than 2:00 PM; we will coordinate pick-ups after we receive flight information from everyone. Those arriving afterwards, please plan to taxi to our waterfront hotel.

We drive right up to Hawk Ridge (between the airport and our hotel) to get a quick read on how raptor migration is going; this is the time for Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks to be pouring through in the late afternoon. We then check into our hotel?with views of Lake Superior?before heading to a favorite local restaurant for dinner.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (D)

Wed., Sept. 8: North Shore Scenic Drive | Gooseberry Falls | Tettegouche State Park


After breakfast at our hotel we drive north along the scenic Lake Superior shoreline. We make stops along the shore to enjoy Lake Superior views, do some rock-hounding, and scan for migrating warblers and raptors at the various stops and overlooks.

The shoreline consists of high rocky outcroppings in some areas, and smooth rocky beaches in others. There are several stops with lovely cascades and waterfalls descending to the lakeshore. We stop at Two Harbors to see the historic lighthouse and marina, and both there and in Grand Marais we look for mergansers and ducks at the waterfront. A great walk to a viewpoint lets us stretch our legs at Tettegouche State Park. Enjoy some free time in Grand Marias where tempting shops, an ice-cream or a cold brew at the local pub might entice you.

We continue to our historic and delightful lodgings at Naniboujou Lodge. The birding is wonderful here with many Cedar Waxwing feeding on berries, good shrubbery to attract flocks of Black-capped Chickadees and migrant warblers, and a small pond just down the way home to Belted Kingfisher, Spotted Sandpiper and sometimes herons or other waders.

Dinner this evening is at our lodge. The Lodge opened in 1927 and was originally a private club. Probably the most memorable aspect of the Lodge is the wondrously painted dining room. Cree Indian designs cover the walls and the 20-foot-high domed ceiling (resembling the shape of a canoe). Guests marvel at its originality. The almost psychedelic Cree Indian designs covering the walls and ceiling are like a North Woods Sistine Chapel. This work of art continually amazes and intrigues, echoing the elegance and style of another era. While the dining room is absolutely stunning, the food is great too!
Accommodations at Naniboujou Lodge (B,L,D)

Thurs., Sept. 9: Naniboujou Lodge | Grand Portage National Monument | Pigeon Falls


Meet your guides on the expansive lawn that leads down to the lakeshore for some early optional birding. We enjoy a scrumptious breakfast in the lodge dining room. Then, we head up the shore of Lake Superior, which seems to get only wilder and more lovely as we approach the Canadian border. We want time to walk and bird at Pigeon Falls, the highest falls in Minnesota. Our main destination is Grand Portage National Monument, a mere five miles from the Canadian border. We spend the afternoon exploring the history of the Ojibwa people and the North West Company of the North American fur trade at Grand Portage National Monument. We take in the sights and smells of a bustling depot reconstructed over its original footprint. Each building is staffed by knowledgeable employees dressed in clothing of the late 1700s, performing activities needed by the North West Company. Canoe building, carpentry, making bread, working with flintlock muskets, gardening, crafting baskets, and carving paddles were just some of the activities necessary to make the North West Company one of the most successful companies during the fur trade era. There are films and a bookstore and trails, and plenty of history and nature to absorb.

Tonight we dine back at our Lodge. Enjoy the night skies and sounds of Lake Superior lapping on the shore.
Accommodations at Naniboujou Lodge (B,L,D)

Fri., Sept. 10: Gunflint Trail | Chik-Wauk Museum | Dinner at Gunflint Lodge


Today we explore the length of Minnesota’s famous Gunflint Trail. Turning west at Grand Marais, we plunge into more and more remote country—a mosaic of meadows, ponds, forests and burn areas from the large 2007 fire, now recovering. Before our lodge, but almost at the very end of the “trail” (which is really a road that ends in the wilderness near the Canadian border), we stop at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, an historic lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake. The center presents the area's cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique rural community, including Native Americans, Voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners, and current residents. We spend some time here looking at the exhibits and hiking and birding. We can walk a loop trail of several hours duration at a leisurely pace to take it all in.

Afterwards we head back down the trail, with time to check into our accommodations at historic Gunflint Lodge. We enjoy a great dinner in Justine’s at Gunflint Lodge, complete with views of the lake.
Accommodations at Gunflint Lodge (B,L,D)

Sat., Sept. 11 & Sun., Sept. 12: Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness Paddling | Birding and Nature Excursions—Two Full Days with Options!


Gunflint Lodge offers a number of excursions with naturalist guides and you will have choices during our stay here. There are full day paddles, and gentle “birding” or “geology of fire and ice” paddles. There are walks with themes on many topics from geology to local history—even a talk on Lake Superior Ghost stories. We can book a sunset cruise or paddle, and learn about local history on a pontoon boat ride.

We do encourage you to head out in canoes or kayaks with a guide to explore the area from a different vantage point. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a unique area of over 1-million acres located in northeastern Minnesota. Retreating glaciers left behind rugged cliffs and crags, canyons, gentle hills, towering rock formations, rocky shores, sandy beaches, and several thousand lakes and streams, interspersed with islands and surrounded by forest. We’re far from big-city life, and after a few hours on the water you gain a sense of clarity and peace. If paddling is just not your thing, you’ve landed in a fine spot to relax, bird the grounds, take a leisurely walk. The lodge is famous for fishing, so if anyone wants to hire a guide and pursue that challenge—it’s possible.

A treat here is the food! There is a strong emphasis on local foods, and traditional foods of the North Country. You will find creative dishes with walleye, wild berries, wild rice, maple syrup and mushrooms. The Gunflint Lodge experience is savored by regular guests, and we treasure our three nights here!
Accommodations at Gunflint Lodge (B,L,D both days)

Mon., Sept. 13: Return to Duluth | Cascade Falls | Hawk Ridge | Dinner at New Scenic Café


Today we enjoy breakfast at the lodge (blueberry buttermilk pancakes anyone?), then pack up and head back to Duluth, with stops along the way. We have time for some hiking and exploring. First we stop at Cascade River State Park. Dropping 900 feet in the lower three miles, Cascade River takes a steep final run in the last quarter mile as it drops 120 feet through a deep, churning gorge. It is a beautiful and exhilarating sight! We enjoy a picnic lunch at Cascade Park, a beautiful spot right on the shore of Lake Superior.

From here it’s an easy drive into Duluth and we plan to arrive with time for those that wish to pop up to check the hawk migration activity at Hawk Ridge. We return to our same Lake Superior shoreline hotel, so if you have driven you can park there, or if you wish store some items while we are north.
For dinner we retrace our steps about a half hour up the scenic shoreline, because we so love the dining experience of the New Scenic Café. We can’t think of a better spot to host the farewell dinner, recount our favorite moments, and tally up our final species list.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (B,L,D)

Tues., Sept. 14: Departures from Duluth


Our great North Country adventure comes to an end. Until the next adventure. Please plan departures at your leisure today on flights from the local airport. (B)

Wisconsin's Apostle Islands Pre-Tour Extension

Fri., Sept. 3: Our Pre-tour Extension Begins!


If you are coming to Minnesota, why not add to your trip and do a little exploring with us—heading east from Duluth to visit the Lake Superior shoreline areas of neighboring Wisconsin with a boat trip out to the Apostle Islands and the Lake Superior shore of Wisconsin. This is new terrain for Naturalist Journeys, recently scouted by guide David Mehlman. Some of the group will come over from our Michigan Isle Royale tour—our plan is to meet up as a group in Bayfield, Wisconsin to explore several areas that have good birding, natural history, and some hiking.

Bayfield is the jumping off point for our Apostle Islands visit. Please arrive in Duluth no later than 2PM as it is about a two-hour drive to Bayfield and we may make some stops on the way. We then have time to settle into our hotel and freshen up before we meet for dinner and discuss plans for the next day.
Accommodations at the Bayfield Inn, Bayfield (B,L,D)

Sat., Sept. 4: Bayfield | Apostle Islands


For those interested, we’ll have an early breakfast and depart for a short hike and birding trip at the nearby Bayfield Fish Hatchery; those who want to sleep in can have breakfast at their leisure. If the weather permits, we will then head to the nearby boat dock for our 10:00am, 3-hour boat tour of the Apostle Islands. The Islands are Wisconsin’s “crown jewels” and we see lighthouses, sea caves, stunning natural scenery, and plenty of wildlife.

Returning from the boat tour, we will undoubtedly be hungry, so we head for lunch at a nearby restaurant. After lunch and a brief break, we reconvene for an afternoon outing at the Meyers Beach Sea Cave Trail in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The hike is about 4.5 miles and we’ll have a chance to explore at close-range the sea caves from the land side, as well as hope to catch some of the fall bird and insect migration.

We return to our hotel in Bayfield at the end of the day and meet to discuss the day’s adventures and have dinner.
Accommodations at the Bayfield Inn, Bayfield (B,L,D)

Sun., Sept. 5: Wisconsin Lake Superior Shore


The schedule for today depends on whether we were able to take the boat trip the previous day. If not, we’ll try again at 10:00am. If we were successful at the boat tour, after breakfast, we spend the day exploring other sites along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. There are many excellent sites to choose from, depending on the weather, what we have seen and visited previously, and how much time we have. We will try to visit the Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area, a birding and wildlife hotspot right on Lake Superior and, if time permits, continue westward to the Port Wing Boreal Forest State Natural Area. After lunch at a restaurant, many other sites await us south of Bayfield near the town of Ashland including the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Prentice Park, and Bayview Park. It will be hard to stop, but we will return to Bayfield, relax, meet to discuss and review the day, then head for dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations at the Bayfield Inn, Bayfield (B,L,D)

Mon., Sept. 6 : Minnesota Lake Superior Shore | Duluth


After breakfast at our hotel in Bayfield, we load the van and continue west toward Duluth, Minnesota. We spend this day doing some local birding around Duluth. Depending on the weather and how migration is going, we may explore Wisconsin Point (near Superior, Wisconsin), Park Point (just south of downtown Duluth), and/or Hawk Ridge. Wisconsin and Park Points are thin strips of land that jut into Lake Superior and almost reach each other; in fact, the channel between them is the state line. Both have the open water of Lake Superior on one side, and the harbor where large barges deliver goods on the other. During migration these are fantastic spots for unusual sightings.

Hawk Ridge is a high point on the north edge of Duluth; here one of nature’s remarkable spectacles can be witnessed each fall. Most raptors are reluctant to cross large bodies of water; when they migrate and encounter Lake Superior, the birds naturally veer along the lakeshore. Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned, and other hawks concentrate in impressive numbers here and are thrilling to watch as they traverse the ridge, often at or below eye-level. The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve has over four miles of hiking trails; you can explore the geology, flora, and wildlife.

Lunch today is a picnic at Park Point or at a favorite local restaurant, the Duluth Grill, depending on weather and the intensity of migration. After a full day of birding, we head to the New Scenic Café, located about 10 miles north of Duluth. The menu is creative, and the food is fantastic. Plus, it has a great view of Lake Superior! We return a bit early today, allowing everyone a chance to rest and then we gather one last time for our farewell dinner at a nearby restaurant. Relieving our journey in and around Lake Superior and celebrating the new friendships made.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (B,L,D)

Tues., Sept. 7: Main Tour Begins!


Today we will return to Duluth ahead of this main tour and start the morning with some fabulous birding.

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  • Cedar Waxwing, Lake Superior, Minnesota Boundary Waters, Naturalist Journeys, Minnesota Birding Tour, Lake Superior Birding & Nature; Naturalist Journeys Birding Tour
  • Common Loon, Lake Superior, Minnesota Boundary Waters, Naturalist Journeys, Minnesota Birding Tour, Lake Superior Birding & Nature; Naturalist Journeys Birding Tour
  • Gunflint Trail, Lake Superior, Minnesota Boundary Waters, Naturalist Journeys, Minnesota Birding Tour, Lake Superior Birding & Nature; Naturalist Journeys Birding Tour
  • Spotted Sandpiper, Lake Superior, Minnesota Boundary Waters, Naturalist Journeys, Minnesota Birding Tour, Lake Superior Birding & Nature; Naturalist Journeys Birding Tour
  • Tettegouche State Park, Lake Superior, Minnesota Boundary Waters, Naturalist Journeys, Minnesota Birding Tour, Lake Superior Birding & Nature; Naturalist Journeys Birding Tour

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $3890 DBL / $4790 SGL, from Duluth, MN. Cost of the Pre-Tour Extension is $1550 DBL / $1995 SGL.
This cost includes: accommodations for 7 nights, all meals as specified in the itinerary, airport welcome and transfers, land transportation during the tour, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, canoe fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.

Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Duluth, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services.

Please note if you choose to combine our Michigan Isle Royale trip with this one, bridged by Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands extension, you earn a $300 per person discount for this grand slam trio along Lake Superior!

Travel Details

The airport for this tour is Duluth, Minnesota, and we will arrive in time for airport pickups after 2:00 PM on Tues, Sept. 7. You may leave at the time of your choice from Duluth on or after September 14.

Map for Minnesota’s Lake Superior Shore & Boundary Waters

Photo credits: Banner: Lakeshore at Cascade River, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Belted Kingfisher by Pete Nuij on Unsplash; Misty Lakeshore Morning, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Black Bear, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Lakeside, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Lakeshore at Cascade River, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Moose, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Boundary Waters Scenic by Dodie Logue; Cedar Waxwing, Steve Buckingham; Common Loon by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash; Lake Superior by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash; Black-capped Chickadee, Doug Greenberg; Minnesota long crop, NJS; Belted Kingfisher by Pete Nuij on Unsplash; Spotted Sandpiper by Ryk Naves on Unsplash; Gunflint Trail by Samantha Gades on Unsplash; Cascade River State Park by Josh Hild on Unsplash; Lake Superior by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash; Tettegouche State Park, by Josh Hild on Unsplash; Moose, Greg Smith; Lake Superior by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash; Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildnerness by dan carlson on Unsplash; Cedar Waxwing, Steve Bull; Common Loon, by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash; Gunflint Trail by Samantha Gades on Unsplash; Spotted Sandpiper by Ryk Naves on Unsplash; Tettegouche State Park, by Josh Hild on Unsplash.

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