Interpretive Naturalist Programs

Spring/Summer Programs

Spring rains bring flowers to bloom and we embrace the open water to add summer specific programs. This will be indicated with a ☀️.

Fall/Winter Programs

As the leaves fall and snow blankets the ground our programs begin to shift. Please note that winter specific programs will be indicated with a ❄️. Winter hikes become more challenging with snow covered and possibly icy trails, boot crampons and trekking poles may be recommended.


Life of a Voyageur Presentation

The Voyageurs in the fur trade were like the truck drivers and truck engines of today.  They were the fastest way to get trade goods into the interior, and furs back to Europe.  Come to this activity and learn what the lives of these early adventurers were like well over a century ago.


Did you know that spider silk, ounce for ounce, is actually stronger than steel?  How about that it is liquid when inside the spider?  Come to this interesting new program and learn about these very beneficial, yet highly misunderstood forms of life.

Ham Lake Fire

Twelve years ago, 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.

Northern Lights

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

Ravens and their Relatives Presentation

Come learn about one of the smartest of all birds, the northern raven.  We will also learn about some of the raven’s relatives, including: the American crow, Canada jay, and blue jay.

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.

Fire Safety

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.

Celestial Legends ❄️

Come learn the legends of the stars and planets. We will cover stories from several cultures, and at the end, go out and see the constellations visible from the Gunflint Nature Center.


Did you know that the little brown bat (one of the local species) can eat up to 1,600 mosquitoes per hour? How about that bananas, mangoes, and dates are pollinated by fruit bats? Come learn about these amazing flying mammals in this fascinating new presentation.


Come learn about the basics of photography in this fascinating new presentation.  We will discuss such things as basic composition rules, wildlife and landscape photography, and how to capture the northern lights.

Sensational Snakes

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

Craft Projects

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.

Watercolor Craft and Hike

Go on a hike to a beautiful place, paint a picture of it in your mind, and return to the Gunflint Nature Center to put your mind’s painting on paper with watercolors.

Dream Catchers

The dream catchers are an Anishinaabe tradition 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.

Candle Making

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

Wreath Making ❄️(Nov & Dec Special)

Come make your own wreath to hang on your door this holiday season.  Participants in this activity work together to clip the branches, clump them together, wire them onto the frames (with our machine), and decorate with ribbons.  Due to the pandemic, only one cabin will be allowed in at a time with a maximum of 6 participants.


Old-Time Music Show

Old-Time Music is the style used in the first few decades of Country Music.  It is focused on string music and vocals that come straight from the soul. This show will be featuring the fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, and baritone ukulele with playing and vocals by John the Naturalist.

Old-Time Gospel Music Show

This music show is good for the soul. John will play a nice variety of Gospel Music on a variety of acoustic stringed instruments.

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.

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. There will be some pictures of Ireland (including some of the places that are in the songs,) as well as a chance to learn some basic words and phrases in the Irish Gaelic language.

Christmas Carol Sing Along ❄️ (Nov & Dec Special)

Sing some traditional Christmas carols with John. Listeners are also welcome.

Daylight Hikes

Boreal Birding Hike

Jay! Jay! Jay! Yank. Yank. Yank. Chickadee dee dee dee dee. These songs come from the blue jay, red-breasted nuthatch, and the black-capped chickadee. Come on the Boreal Birding hike to learn about these birds and many more.

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.

Winter Wilderness Survival Presentation and Hike ❄️

Come learn a basic survival method for surviving unplanned wilderness time. This important information could save your life someday.

Wild Edibles

Many have asked, “Are there wild edibles in the winter?”  The answer is a resounding “yes.”  Come on this easy hike and learn about how to make pine needle tea, flour from cattails, harvest tree bark, and much more.


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.

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.

Geology of the High Cliffs

The High Cliffs were formed underground during a major rifting event several eons 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.

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.

Night Hikes

Celestial Legends Night Hike

Have you ever heard the song ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’? Did you know that the song acted as a map for escaping slaves who were trying to gain their freedom, or that the drinking gourd is also known as the Big Dipper? Learn about this, along with other fascinating celestial facts and legends as we take a trek under the stars. Due to the lower light conditions, this activity is challenging. Be sure to bundle up to stay warm.

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.

Things to Know about Night Hikes

  • Dress in warm layers. If there is any wind, make sure everything is covered. Remember, it is colder when the sun goes down.
  • Wear warm boots with good traction.
  • If you want or need snowshoes, they must be picked up at the Outfitter’s rental shop prior to 4:00 PM.
  • Leave your white lights in your cabin; red lights are fine to bring along. White lights wreck night vision, red lights do not.
  • Hiking in the forest at night is an amazing experience that you will never forget!

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

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.

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.

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.

Nordic Skiing Excursions ❄️

Introduction to Nordic Skiing Lesson

Learn the basics of Nordic Skiing which will get you off to a great start on a lifetime of winter fitness and joy.

Night Ski

Our night ski will be around the moderately difficult Little Pine Lit Ski Trail.  If you need to rent skis, please come to the Outfitters well before 3:00 PM.

Activities upon Request

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

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 severe weather events from the late 1800s to the present.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lake Superior Shipwrecks

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

Dragonfly Presentation

Come learn about the first forms of life to take to the skies on Earth.

Sing Along

Join John for a good, old-fashioned sing along.