Arrowhead Region, Minnesota

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Named for the distinctive shape of its borders along Canada to the north and Lake Superior to the southeast, the Minnesota Arrowhead region offers spectacular views of Lake Superior as well as valleys, rivers, lakes and numerous waterfalls as they tumble from inland waters and empty into Lake Superior. Starting at Duluth and stretching west to Highway 53 and then north to the Canadian border, the Arrowhead area encompasses several large swaths of wilderness, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) with more than one-million acres, Voyageurs National Park and Superior National Forest (wherein the BWCAW lies), established in 1909 by Theodore Roosevelt. The BWCAW contains more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 15 hiking trails and approximately 2,000 designated campsites—not to mention primitive pictographs from North American Indians, many of which are only accessible by canoe. State parks here are beautiful, like Temperance River and Cascade River, to name just a couple. The history surrounding this beautiful pocket of America is rich with ongoing tourism, early Scandinavian fishing, iron ore mining and the ongoing logging industry. Varieties of Pre-cambrian bedrock are exposed throughout the area, making scenery rocky and rooty, with lots of conifers, poplars and birch trees. Natural erosion also led to many thousands of lakes in the area, which is why Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The Arrowhead is also home to Minnesota’s only mountain range, the Sawtooth Mountains, along the northern shore of Lake Superior.

Winter comes early in October and stays through April. Snow is pristine and absolutely pure white, especially since you can use snowshoes to cross a frozen lake during this time. Dress in layers, and don’t forget sunglasses, thermal boots and warm outerwear. From May to September, be prepared for any type of weather—warm, breezy, cool and rainy, all in a range of anywhere from 32ºF to 85ºF. The average high in July is 77ºF, and the average low is 53ºF. Along Lake Superior, winds make it feel 20° cooler, however, which is important information when camping in any of the state parks from Duluth to Grand Portage that dot Lake Superior’s shore. In high summer, bring plenty of bug spray and head netting as the mosquitoes and black flies can be overwhelming.

Photo Experience
Early morning and the evening hours afford the best lighting for Lake Superior’s many moods. In Superior National Forest, overcast and low-light times are best for lower contrast and colorful images of foliage and wildlife such as bear, moose, whitetailed deer, loons, beavers, osprey, eagles and pine martens. Both telephotos and wide-angle lenses are a must for all areas in the Arrowhead, and a camera with high ISO functionality is needed to quickly capture early-morning, fast-moving animal sightings. Tripods with spikes in the feet are great for the uneven, rocky terrain. Bring warm thermal layered clothing, good waterproof hiking boots, a raincoat, gloves and a hat, and protective coverings for your equipment, as well.

Best Times
With the vibrant greens of summer or the many autumn colors found on these inland lakes, the best times for shooting are mornings to capture deep, rich colors, which look so nice coupled with misty conditions. Spring provides plenty of beauty, with definitive leaf buds and plentiful wildflowers blooming. It’s the best time to photograph the rivers and streams, as well, as snowmelt turns them into raging waterways, with robust rapids and thundering waterfalls. Fall is another jewel season, with rich, breathtaking foliage displays. If you’re going to camp or stay at a resort, make reservations early for this time! This season provides beautiful morning visions of the mist rising off the lakes, which can be as still as glass.

Contact: Superior National Forest,

Essential Gear

When hiking long treks, it’s imperative to stay light on your feet, but for nature photography, you also want the best in image quality. While primes may offer the highest resolution and fastest apertures, a quality zoom often can be a better choice for working frequently in the field. Tamron’s 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens is available in mounts for Canon and Nikon cameras. The aperture is fast and constant at ƒ/2.8 throughout the zoom range, and the VC anti-shake technology provides up to four stops of shake reduction.