Though the villages share many commonalities such as beautiful surroundings on the North Shore of Lake Superior, welcoming residents and rich histories, they are each unique with diverse backgrounds and cultures. When you arrive, let your curiosity lead you and prepare to hear the vibrant stories and local legends that make each village a jewel of northern Minnesota.
Beaver Bay/East Beaver Bay
Beaver Bay has a long and diverse history with famous residents as well. It was founded in 1856, two years before Minnesota became a state, by German pioneers who arrived by steamship. This was the only mode of transportation to the area until 1899 when a sleigh trail was established along the length of the north shore. One famous resident was Ojibwe mail carrier and fur trader John Beargrease for whom the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is named. The village was the first Lake County seat and boasted an active harbor, which docked the largest steamships on Lake Superior. Over its 152 year history, it has been home to such commercial enterprises as sawmill, grist mill, tannery, logging operations, railway, fishing, shipping, hunting and lodging, and tourism. It has been a vacation destination for over 80 years and this shows in the warm welcome, thoughtful services, engaging physical activities and comfortable lodgings.
Finland was founded by Finland-Swedish pioneers in 1907 due to is similarity to their home country and was one of the last areas to be settled because of its rugged isolation. The countries of Finland and America have many similarities. They are both newer countries with turbulent backgrounds. Finland was first controlled by Sweden until Russia took over in 1809 and ruled until 1919. It is amazing to think that Finland, Minnesota was named 12 years prior to the country and it's more the case of a country named after a town! The area is home to four of the oldest mountain summits in the country and is great for mountain biking, whitewater rafting (class IV), hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Finland was once a logging community and is now home to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, the Organic Consumers Association, a checkpoint for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, and four popular decades-old Finnish celebrations. Budding and professional photographers will have ample opportunities to capture wildlife in their native habitats. There are several lodging and dining establishments that expertly host outdoor enthusiasts year round for hunting, ATV riding, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. This century old, enterprising community is in the process of raising funds to build a new state-of-the-art environmentally friendly recreation hall.
Isabella is one of two villages located inside the Superior National Forest and is located on the Laurentian Divide. It sits 2,000 ft above sea level and is also at the edge of the BWCA Wilderness Area. The boreal forest of the north and the hardwood forests to the south meet here providing a unique variety of flora and wildlife habitat. The area boasts the Yukon Trail, the Tomahawk Trail and the Flathorn/Gegoka Trail systems. The trail systems have access to lodging and dining. Two systems also have access to fuel for the motor sport enthusiast. Outdoor activities is the draw here! Wildlife photography will have a bounty of shooting opportunities. Commonly seen animals are moose, black bear, bald eagle and deer and is also home to the endangered grey wolf and Canada lynx. Activities are bountiful with hiking, fishing, ATV riding, skijoring, cross country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and hunting.
Little Marais was named by early French Voyagers for its little marsh, in contrast to the larger marsh of Grand Marais, and was settled by Scandinavian fishermen in the late 1880's as a fishing port. Much of the early growth is due to Ben Fenstad, his family and brothers, who arrived in the 1880's. Many of his descendents reside in the area. Little Marais has several resorts and B&Bs that offer a wide range of amenities, making the village a great hub to set out on day trips along the shore. There is also espresso, fine coffee, and fresh baked goods to get your day started. Village shopping includes handcrafted furniture, art, clothing, culinary delights, and jewelry. Day trips include agate hunting, picnicking, fishing, and hiking. Little Marais is a quiet, relaxing village centrally located on the North Shore of Lake Superior ready for you to escape the hustle and bustle of the daily routine.
Silver Bay is a new town with a long history. It began in the early 1870's with the discovery of lower grade iron ore, which spurred dreams of various iron ore enterprises over the next 70 years. It wasn't until the 1940's that construction began and in 1954 Silver Bay was given its name. Two years later it officially became a town. The uniqueness of its more recent history is that it was a planned town from the ground breaking with business development, education, housing, transportation, and shopping. Like many mining towns, Silver Bay has had its booms and busts. The industrious, creative people have started new enterprises to keep the town alive and vibrant. The first marina on the North Shore of Lake Superior opened in 1999 and has 108 slips with many amenities for boating enthusiasts. The Lake Superior Salmon Classic is a very successful annual event with last year's largest catch being a 23.67 lb lake trout. There is a regulation par 36 public golf course that is surrounded by heavily forested hills and the Beaver River. The course has a PGA member for instruction, a fair challenge to visiting golfers and an adjacent driving range.
The list of activities is long and includes: shopping, dining, hiking, rock climbing, alpine sliding, kayaking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ATV'ing, snowmobiling, and sight-seeing. And if all that activity tires you out just by reading it, there is always putting your feet up, relaxing, and reading a good book.