Spring/Summer Naturalist Programs

Our Naturalist program is included with you stay at Gunflint Lodge! Our naturalists will lead activities in the Nature Center, on the Lodge property, on the lake and on the water. They will help you to learn about the animals, geography and history of our unique area. They are always happy to answer your questions and to recommend a hike or day trip on the lake. They can really add to your experience in the Northwoods!

We are at a challenging point in our history with this COVID-19 pandemic.  Many generations will look back at this time and learn from what happened.  We are having to rethink our daily habits and activities.  That is true for the Gunflint Lodge Naturalist Program.  These are some of our changes:

  • All activities will meet outside if the weather permits. In the case of inclement conditions, we will be inside with social distancing in place.
  • To keep our guests and staff safe, we will be limiting activities to no more than 9 participants. To track the numbers, we need you to sign up for the activities with guest services in advance.
  • If you are at all sick, we ask that you do not come to the activities.
  • We request that you wear a mask to any activity which meets inside.
  • In all activities, you should stay at least 6 feet from any other non-family participants or staff.
  • Many of our crafts have to be temporarily suspended due to the germ spread associated with sharing of equipment. Candle Making, Dream Catchers, and Soap making will still be offered, albeit in modified forms.
  • Regular music performances, presentations, hikes, and paddles will still be offered.
  • All pontoon activities will be for a fee. We have a brand-new pontoon on which the lodge will be offering a wide variety of cruises (see guest services for details).  Bridal Falls, Wildfire Ecology, and Gunflint Lake History Cruises will be on a request basis and will be limited to small family groups.
  • We will continue to monitor the C.D.C. Guidelines and modify our activities so you will have a safe and fun time.



Did you know that the little brown bat (one of the local species) can eat up to 1,600 mosquitoes per hour?  Come learn about these amazing flying mammals in this fascinating new presentation.

Fire Safety (Coming Summer 2020)

How often should you change your smoke alarms?  What are some common things that cause fires in homes?  How do you use a fire extinguisher?  Are fire sprinklers effective?  Come to this fascinating new presentation and learn the answers to these questions and many more.

Great Lakes Ghost Stories

The tales of ghost ships, haunted lighthouses, and other restless spirits which inhabit the five Great Lakes are told in this spine-chilling activity.

Gunflint Lake History

Come learn about the human history of this amazing place.  We will discuss the early native tribes, Voyageurs, mining, logging, and tourism that has defined Gunflint Lake for many generations.

Ham Lake Fire

In 2007, a giant wildfire started at Ham Lake, and spread throughout much of the Gunflint Trail.  Residents were evacuated, and many structures were destroyed.  Over a thousand fire fighters from all over the continent helped fight the fire.  The forest was reborn in an incredible way.  Come to this fascinating presentation and hear what this event was like from one of the firefighters who experienced it.

Lake Superior Shipwrecks

Come learn about some of the 500+ shipwrecks in our nearest Great Lake.

Life of a Voyageur

Did you know that the international border is based off of the old Voyageur’s route?  Come learn about the history of these adventurers who traveled these waters over 200 years ago.

Minnesota Ghost Stories

Did you know that most of the college campuses in Minnesota are reputed to be haunted?  How about that you most likely passed several haunted sites on the way up here.  Learn about these stories and much more at the Minnesota Ghost Stories program.

Minnesota Storm History

Minnesotans love to talk about the weather.  We take a certain pride in surviving the worst Mother Nature can throw at us.  In this fascinating program, we will discuss the severe weather from the late 1800s to the present.

Northern Lights

Come learn about one of the most fascinating phenomena around the world in this fascinating presentation about the Aurora Borealis.

Sensational Snakes

Join John and his reptilian companion to learn about the ecology, biology, and mythology surrounding these fascinating, yet very misunderstood creatures.

Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes

Did you know that there are thousands of shipwrecks on the bottom of the Great Lakes?  You actually passed several of the wreck sites on your way up here.  In this program we go over a variety of wrecks from all of the Great Lakes, covering everything from the 60-foot Griffon to the 729-foot Edmund Fitzgerald.

Underground Railroad Presentation

The Underground Railroad is a major part of the culture of the Great Lakes Region.  The Great Lakes were often the last step to freedom, since Great Britain and her territories became free well before the United States.  Come to this program and learn about the fascinating first civil rights movement through stories and songs.


Celtic Music Show

Come hear music and poetry from Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Wales.  Many of the instruments of the Celtic Nations will be played, including some things you may not have seen before.

Classic Country Music Show

Enjoy songs from the roots of Country Music.  You will hear Country Gospel, Old Time, Western, Bluegrass, and Honky-tonk played on the guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, and fiddle.

Gunflint Folk Music Show

Come learn about Folk Music through stories and songs performed on the guitar, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle.  Singing along is allowed, but not required.

Old-Time Gospel Music Show

This music show is good for the soul.  John will play and sing a nice variety of Gospel Music on the mountain dulcimer, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo.

Songs of the Civil War

The American Civil War has been called the most musical of the wars, due to the large amount of powerful songs which came out of that rough time in our history.  This new program features music that was played on the battlefields and at home.  There will be songs from the Union, Confederacy, and some that were played on both sides.

Craft Projects

*All Craft Projects will take place outside if the weather permits.

Candle Making

Learn the ancient art of candle making by creating a dip candle.  Due to the length of time it takes to heat the wax, please sign up at least two hours in advance.

Dream Catchers

The dream catchers are an Anishinaabe device used to capture bad dreams, while letting the good dreams through the hole in the center.  The bad dreams that are caught in the webbing melt away with the morning dew.  Come to this craft and construct your own dream catcher which will influence your dreams for years.  Kids under age 15, please bring an adult helper.  Helpers, please sign up as well so we may follow C.D.C. Guidelines with respect to group size.

Soap Making

Have you ever wondered how soap is made?  We will be melting the soap base, adding color and scent, and pouring it into a mold to get your very own bar of homemade soap.  We have a wide variety of bases, colors, scents, additives, and molds to choose from in this exciting activity.


Boreal Birding Hike

“Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.”  “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”  “Chickadee dee dee dee dee.”  These songs come from the white-throated sparrow, the barred owl, and the black-capped chickadee.  Come on the Boreal Birding hike to learn about these birds and many more.

Birding Canoe Paddle

In this fun and informative paddle, we will learn about birds while searching for such species as the common loon, red-necked grebe, American black duck, common merganser, and much more.  This activity will be moderately challenging.

Bird Migration Hike

Spring and fall are the times to witness some of nature’s greatest journeys; the migrations of the birds.  Birding during migration is very exciting because you never know what you are going to see.  Some birds are migrating from the Gunflint Trail, others are migrating to it, and there are also avifauna that are just coming through this beautiful region.  Come on this fun hike, see some amazing birds, and learn about one of the greatest adventures on Earth.

Birding Presentation and Hike

Learn the basics of backyard birding, including; field guides, optical equipment, and identification techniques, while viewing some of the common birds of the area.  There will be an optional hike at the end of the presentation.

Eagle Canoe Paddle

Come learn about our national bird while taking a scenic paddle.

Loon Kayak Paddle

There are several pairs of loons who nest on Gunflint and Magnetic Lakes.  Learn some interesting facts about our state bird while paddling among them.

Kid’s Only Activities

Scavenger Hunt

Learn about plants, rocks, geology, and more on this fun activity.  When we are halfway through the hike, it will be your turn to find the items on the list.  Prizes will be awarded when we get back to the Nature Center.  You must be able to read (or have a helper with you who can read) to participate in this activity.  Ages 6+

Adventure Story Time (New)

The participants of this activity get to join in a choose your own adventure story.  We read part of the story, and the kids get to vote on where the story goes after that.  Ages 5+


Animal Tracking

To be an animal tracker is to be a nature detective.  Not only do we look at what kind of animal made the track, we also look at what the animal was doing at the time.  On this hike, we will search for the answers to questions such as; “Why is the bark missing from a part of this tree,” and “Why are these snowshoe hare tracks thirteen-feet apart?”  Learn the answers to these questions as well as many more in this enlightening activity.

Berry Picking

Strawberries, dewberries, raspberries, Saskatoon berries, blueberries, and thimbleberries.  When your mouth stops watering, come sign-up for this fun and delicious hike.

Geology of the High Cliffs

The High Cliffs were formed underground during a major rifting event over an eon ago.  Massive continental glaciers came through during the Great Ice Age, and dug away the softer surrounding rock, leaving gigantic cliffs towering above the landscape.  Learn about these things and much more on this fascinating hike in which we see one of the best geological views in Minnesota.

Geology Hike to Lookout Point

This is an easier version of the geology hike listed above in which we travel to Lookout Point and learn about Gunflint Trail and Lake Superior Geology.

Invasive Plants (New)

This short hike will introduce you to many of the invasive plants in the area.  Most of the invasive plants were brought here as food, some were brought for their looks, and some just arrived by accident.

Medicinal Plants

Learn about the plethora of plants with medicinal qualities on the Gunflint Trail.


During this hike we will focus on how to set up the picture to make it interesting, and we will take some great photos of things near and far.  A camera is not required for this activity.

Wild Edibles

A lot of wonderful wild edibles come out throughout the spring, summer, and autumn.  Learn about edible bark, cattails, ferns in their fiddlehead stage, berries, Labrador tea, and much more in this fun activity.


Come learn about the beautiful wildflowers of the area.

Wolf Howling Night Hike

Join a naturalist on a night-time trek through the wilderness as we communicate with one of the most spectacular of all northern animals, the gray wolf.  Along the way, we will learn about the wolf, and why it likes to howl.  This activity can be challenging due to the lower light conditions.

Paddling Excursions

*For safety, each kid under age 15 must be accompanied by an adult.

*All paddling activities are moderate to challenging.

*See Birding Activities (above) for more ways to paddle!

Fire and Ice Geology Paddle

There are several fascinating Precambrian geological formations within easy paddling distance of the lodge.  Join one of our naturalists to gain a new appreciation of extremely ancient history.

Sunset Canoe Paddle

Come view the sunset on Gunflint Lake from the beautiful vantage point of one of our canoes.

Wildfire Ecology Canoe Paddle (New)

Come learn what happens during a fire, how our fire dependent ecosystem reacts to the fire, and a local fire history in this fascinating new paddling activity.

Activities upon Request

Talk to a Naturalist well in advance if you are interested in these activities. If possible, they will try to accommodate you.

Introduction to Canoeing

This is an introduction to the basics of canoeing in which you will learn the Forward, J, Draw, and Sweep strokes.  You will practice these things on the dock and then put your new knowledge to use out on Gunflint Lake.

Boat Trip and Hike to Bridal Falls

Take a relaxing excursion aboard our pontoon boat on the six-mile journey to Bridal Falls.  The short .6-mile hike into the falls is full of unique plants such as jack-in –the –pulpit, coral fungus, and nodding trillium.  The falls themselves come down on massive amounts of shattered slate, and head towards the lake in a roaring creek.  This hike is of moderate difficulty, and you may get your feet wet.  Dress in multiple layers of clothing as the pontoon ride may be cool, even if it feels warm on the dock. This activity is for small family groups only, and there will be an additional fee.

Gunflint Lake History Cruise

Did you know that there used to be two towns, and two railroads on the shores of Gunflint Lake?  How about the fact that there used to be a railroad trestle over the Gunflint Narrows, with customs on either side?  Enjoy a relaxing cruise aboard our pontoon boat and learn about the incredible history of this beautiful place. This activity is for small family groups only, and there will be an additional fee.

Introduction to Kayaking

This introduction to kayaking includes the basic paddling strokes, proper entry and exit techniques, and more.

Musical Jam Session

Bring your instruments and your voices to the Gunflint Nature Center for a good, old fashioned hootenanny.  The musical selections will depend on who is present, and we will take turns leading the songs if you are interested in doing so.  Otherwise, you can just join in on other people’s songs.

Wildfire Ecology Cruise

In 2007, a wildfire bigger than any ever seen on the Gunflint Trail burned over much of the Gunflint Corridor, and well into Canada.  Fire is the natural way a forest regenerates itself.  While being an ending for some plants, it signals the birth of many others.  Come on this fascinating cruise and learn about both wildfire ecology as well as local fire history.  This activity is for small family groups only, and there will be an additional fee.