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Two Island Lake
Superior National Forest
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Norman W. Hildrum

The faint putt-putt sound of an outboard motor and the pungent smell of the campfire drifted through our campsite as Sharon and I watched the sun dip behind the Two Island Lake from Campsite - Photo by Norman Hildrumforested hills surrounding Two Island Lake. We sipped our after dinner coffee and watched a pair of loons lazily swimming about 50 yards off shore. The setting sun was tinting the clouds creating an intricate pattern of reds, oranges, and yellows. Summer is great in the Superior National Forest!

We’ve been camping in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota for more than thirty years and still marvel at the broad range of recreation opportunities. The forest, totaling more than 3 million acres, is dense with pine, fir, spruce, birch, and poplar trees. It is home to numerous wildlife species including grouse, deer, moose, timber wolf, and black bear. We particularly enjoy traveling along the north shore of Lake Superior, visiting the state parks and small towns, especially Grand Marais. Here, Lake Superior resembles the ocean. The town and harbor bustle with tourist attractions and activities.

Camping opportunities abound in this area and facilities vary from commercial developments, catering to those who like all the comforts of home, to forest campgrounds offering fewer amenities but considerably more privacy. Our destination on this trip was Two Island Lake located about 12 miles from Grand Marais (see map). The U.S. Forest Service campground has 38 mostly shaded sites Location Mapdivided into three gravel camp loops. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are a number of nicely situated lakeside sites. As you can imagine, these sites are very popular and fill quickly. Your stay is limited to 14-days and we have found that our best chance to get a prime site is during mid-week. On several occasions, we have taken a less desirable site and then moved to a prime site several days later. All sites have fire rings, picnic tables, and tent pads.

There are a number of back-in sites suitable for tents, travel trailers, fifthwheels, and motorhomes (we were using a pop-up camper). Excellent drinking water is available from a hand pump and the campground’s vault toilets are well maintained and clean. The cost was $7.00 per night (summer 1998). There is a boat launching ramp (motors are allowed) and the cool clear waters of the lake contain smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleyes. There are a number of islands in the lake and moose frequent several of the shallow bays. Firewood for campfires may be collected from dead and down wood without a permit. There are numerous logging roads in the area and finding firewood is an easy task.

The trailhead to Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota, is 4 miles to the west. We’ve been on easier trails, but the views are worth it. There are many lakes nearby offering a variety of fishing and canoeing opportunities. In addition, we like to use Two Island Campground as a base camp and go on day trips to places like Grand Portage National Monument or Thunder Bay, Ontario. For a really great experience stop for High Tea at Nanibijou Lodge 13 miles east of Grand Marias (adjacent to Judge C.R. Magny State Park).

Travel Directions to Two Island Lake: From Highway 61 in Grand Marais follow County Road 12 (the Gunflint Trail north 3.7 miles and turn left onto County Road 8. Go 6 miles and turn right onto County Road 27. Proceed 4 miles on this well traveled gravel road to the campground entrance. For more information, visit the Superior National Forest web site or contact the Gunflint Ranger District, P.O. Box 790, Grand Marais, MN 55604, or call (218) 387-1750.

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