Jay Cooke State Park (Minnesota) 07-Jul-2022

After an excellent dinner (Lake Avenue) and a restful night in Duluth, we drove south to Jay Cooke State Park, which surrounds a section of the St. Louis River (Lake Superior’s largest U.S. tributary). The park is named after Jay Cooke, a prominent financier who helped fund the Union side in the Civil War and railroads in the Upper Midwest after the war. There are 50 miles of trails within the park – including a section of the Superior Hiking and North Country Trails – but we decided to hike the Silver Creek Trail loop, which is also the Hiking Club route.

What we weren’t expecting was the Swinging Bridge or its crossing of the roaring St. Louis River. Truly amazing! πŸ˜ƒ The bridge didn’t swing (too much) and it gave us a bird’s eye view of the coffee brown waters of the river as it rushed over ledges and boiled through narrow constrictions in its shale bed. It looked terrifyingly un-runnable but is apparently run (Class II-V) by expert kayakers or by rafts at low water levels and flows. Well, maybe. 😲

On the Swing Bridge
An island divides the river into two branches
The branch on river left
The branch on river right
The cascade at the head of the river right branch
Looking downstream toward Lake Superior

We looked at the river from the bridge, then crossed it and clambered up a use trail on the opposite bank to get a closer look at the cascade we could see in the river right branch.

Crossing glacier polished rock for a close-up look at one of the cascades
The cascade in the river right branch
Class III?? 😲πŸ₯Ί

We finally tore ourselves away from staring at the river and started our loop on the Silver Creek Trail.

Along the Silver Creek Trail
Canada Anemone
The St. Louis River from the Silver Creek Trail

We soon came upon a junction with the River Trail and, our interest in the St. Louis not sufficiently sated, decided to follow it down to the river. Where the trail comes closest to the river, we did a little cross-country scramble out for a closer look at its surging main channel.

The LovedOne seizes the initiative
As we scramble across sharp shale to see the river (again)
The St. Louis River from our perch on the shale
Patterns in foam in a downstream eddy

We clambered back to the River Trail and followed it up to the Silver Creek Trail, which is also part of the Superior Hiking Trail at this point. Much of the remainder of the loop was through a green tunnel in the lush summer vegetation. It wasn’t too muggy amongst all this lushness and – thanks to DEET – the mosquitos 🦟🦟 weren’t too bad – but they were all over us anytime we stopped walking. But we can’t blame the mosquitos for us missing the Lady’s-slipper Orchids that are reported to grow near the trail shelter. πŸ˜•

On the Silver Creek Trail (and the SHT at this point)
The trail shelter supposedly near the Lady’s-slippers
There were a lot of these little critters scampering around
Back to the Swing Bridge
Once more across the St. Louis

Although the river captured a great deal of our attention, we nonetheless enjoyed our loop (which came to 3.8 miles (6.1 km)) through the greenery that fills the park’s interior. Another visit in the Fall – when all this green changes to colors (and the mosquitos 🦟 are dead) – for a different, longer loop seems like an excellent idea. 😁 We just need to not let the St. Louis distract us (too much). πŸ™„

Our loop on the Silver Creek Trail, with diversions to see the river close-up

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