The Chippewa: One of Minnesota’s Wonders

Minnesota is a state as ecologically diverse as its 5.4 million people. Nearly every imaginable terrain can be found within its borders, from corn fields to native prairie grasslands, steep bluffs to low valleys, and wide and deep lakes and rivers to small creeks and swamps. For Minnesota’s outdoorsmen and women, it is about as perfect of a state as you will find anywhere.

One of the features that I am always in most awe of, however, is the millions of acres of pure, unadulterated timber that can be found through much of northern Minnesota. I enjoy driving forest roads that are only just wide enough for a ATV or truck. Camping is also an important activity for me, and living in Northern Minnesota, one particular area always amazes me in terms of its size, wildlife, and history.

The Chippewa National Forest has the distinction of being one of the largest and well-known public forest lands not only in Minnesota, but the United States as well. Originally established as the Minnesota Forest Reserve in 1902, today’s Chippewa National forest covers nearly 1.6 million acres of land and water.

Visitors to the forest will find no shortage of things to do, see, and explore.

Camping is a mainstay for visitors, and the Chippewa offers campsites of nearly every kind imaginable. Both developed and primitive campsites are available throughout the forest. Fishing, hunting, and hiking are also maintains in this area.

To read more about the Chippewa National Forest, click here.

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Tick Tock for Tick Season

They say there are two things that are unavoidable in life, and those things are death and taxes. I feel that there is a third thing that should be added to this list, and that is that anyone who ventures into the woods this spring, summer, and fall will almost certainly pick up one of the dirty bloodsuckers in the picture below somewhere on their bodies or clothes.

The Deer Tick. Why, god, why?

For the uninitiated, ticks are small arachnids that often live in wooded or grassy areas. They live by attaching themselves to all types of unsuspecting animal life as they simply go about their their normal, everyday animal business and then proceed to gorge themselves on the blood of the host until they are so fat and happy from the host’s blood that they fall off.

There are quite a few different species of ticks. In Midwestern states, the most common species are the wood tick and deer tick. Wood ticks, also commonly called dog ticks, are usually larger than deer ticks, which are small and depend largely on populations of whitetail deer to serve as hosts. Wood ticks are usually harmless – they feed and then they fall off. Deer ticks, on the other hand, carry Lyme disease which causes a wide range of various ailments.

Image of state of Minnesota with areas of high risk for tick-borne diseases highlighted.

As shown above, much of Minnesota is prime breeding grounds for ticks and tick-borne illnesses, especially in heavily wooded areas in northern and central parts of the state. May through July is often considered peak time for transmission of tick-borne illnesses.

“Yeah, yeah. We get it,” you may be telling yourself, “Some deer ticks carry Lyme disease, which is bad.” You may also be wondering why ticks are such a big deal, or why you should you take precautions to prevent picking up a tick when camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, or just generally enjoying the outdoors.

As stated earlier, deer ticks are of main concern in Minnesota because they carry Lyme disease. The first sign of possible Lyme disease is a red bullseye mark on the skin of the host, followed by pain in joints and muscles, fever and fatigue, and general body stiffness. In most cases, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics with no lingering health effects. Hospitalization is rarely required, except with extreme untreated cases.

So how can you avoid being a tick’s snack this spring and summer? The best method is to simply avoid the woody and brushy places where ticks frequent, especially in peak times of the year (May through July). Needless to say, if you truly enjoy spending time out in the woods in the summer you won’t let a few ticks stop you from being outside. Apart from giving up the outdoor pastimes you most enjoy like camping and hunting, the next best course of action is to wear light colored clothes that cover exposed skin and spray yourself down liberally with tick repellent.

So now that you know a few ways to prevent ticks latching on, what should you do if you find one on your skin? (hint: panic is not the right answer.)