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Group DescriptionThis turn-of-the-century logging camp in Grand Rapids, Minnesota explores the past, present and future of the northern forests of Minnesota through costumed characters and museum exhibits. Visitors can board the moored river "wanigan," a floating cook shack, take a seat on the porch of a 1930s Minnesota Forest Service patrolman's cabin, climb a 100-foot fire tower or hike along the site's self-guided trails.
The site is filled with living-history characters who acquaint visitors with life in a 1900 logging camp. The camp cook and cook's assistants (called cookees), the company clerk, bullcook (camp janitor), saw filer, lumberjacks, barn boss (who cares for the draft horses), the blacksmith and "wood butcher" (carpenter), perform the duties of actual logging camp workers. Visitors can ask questions and can often assist them in their work.
The 1901 "wanigan," a barge-like boat used on log drives, floats on the Mississippi River awaiting the next drive downstream, as the crew of "river pigs" (log drivers) push and prod the huge pine logs from the pineries up north into the river for transport to the waiting sawmills in river towns.
The Forest Patrolman explains the importance of protecting the forest from fire at the 1934 Forest Service cabin. Visitors can keep watch over the forest by climbing the state's only 100-foot fire tower, which features a live daily interpretive program.
The Forest History Center opened to the public in 1978. More than 5,000 square feet of new exhibits and a renovated visitor center, completed in 2004, look at ecology and conservation, forest products, fire, timber harvesting, population growth, the future of the forest and how visitors can impact decisions about how forests are managed and cared for. Highlights include the "EcoLog," an interactive, full scale log that visitors can crawl through to discover the flora, fauna and animals of the forest; a John Deere/TimberJack selective harvest simulator, where visitors can sit in an actual Harvester Cab and practice virtual timber harvesting in a sustainable selective manner; films on logging transportation and timber processing; a multimedia display using contemporary voices to explore the many sides of "Who Owns the Forest?"; a porch from a log home in an area looking at recreation, population and disturbances in the northern forests; and a virtual timeline looking back at Minnesota's forests thousands of years ago and forward to forecast what the forests may look like in the future.
At learning stations along a half-mile of renovated trails, visitors can see forest management techniques put into practice and take part in decision-making opportunities about forest management.
The forests of northern Minnesota have had great impact on the lives of their inhabitants for many centuries. This relationship between people and the land has evolved from those who relied on the forests to provide sustenance, through the cutting of forests to provide the timber that helped to build a growing America, to today's recreational escape from our urbanized society. The Forest History Center tells the story of these changing relationships.
The site connects people to forests through entertaining, meaningful experiences so they appreciate and understand the importance of forests - past and future - to their lives.
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