Monday, September 1, 2014

Unique birds await hikers in Sax-Zim Bog

Great gray owl. Photo courtesy of
Minnesota DNR.

Route crosses northern Minnesota
in rural Hibbing-Eveleth region

Day hikers can enjoy prime birdwatching country on a trail in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog.

Located northwest of Duluth near Hibbing and Chisholm, the McDavitt-Admiral Corridor Trail runs 0.75 miles one-way (1.5-miles round trip). The trail actually is unnamed but has been christened here for convenience’s sake.

Filled-in lake
To reach the trailhead, from Hibbing, take Minn. Hwy. 37 east. Turn left/south onto County Road 7 then right/west onto County Road 27. You are now traveling the northern edge of the McDavitt-Admiral Corridor, so named because of the two north-south roads that border this prime birdwatching zone. Next, go left/south onto County Road 83 (aka McDavitt Road), which becomes County Road 213. In about 1.5 miles, look for a dirt road on the left/east side. Turn into it and park off the road.

Walk the dirt road northeast. You’ll pass trees on the left/north and open country on the right/south. A black spruce-tamrack bog, the corridor’s terrain is fairly level.

If you think the soil below your feet looks like it belongs at the bottom of a stream, you’re right. Much of the bog is a lacustrine plain, meaning it once was a lake that since has filled with sediment washed into it.

Bits of the lake remain as ponds. A little more than half-way across the corridor, you’ll come across a small series of them.

More than 240 species
The unique terrain also makes for a great place to spot a variety of birds. In fact, more than 240 species of migrant and breeding birds have been tallied in the Sax-Zim Bog.

Along the trail, great gray owls can be spotted year-round while the summer yields Connecticut warblers and yellow-bellied flycatchers. During winter, a feeder in the area makes this an excellent area spot to see boreal chickadees, gray jays, and redpools; also making the cooridor home during winter are black-backed woodpeckers and white-winged crossbills.

In addition to birds, a number of interesting plants can be found in Sax-Zim. Among them are bog birch, pitcher plant, leatherleaf, stemless lady’s slippers, and sundew.

Upon reaching County Road 788 (aka Admiral Road), turn back. You can extend the hike, however, by crossing the road and circling a pond on other side; depending on how wet the ground is, this can add up to 0.6 miles to the walk.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.