Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center
Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is located just one mile from the end of the legendary and scenic Gunflint Trail. The museum is on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest just minutes from Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Like a hidden gem Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is tucked into a bay of Saganaga Lake off of Moose Pond Road.
Long before it was a museum Chik-Wauk was a thriving wilderness resort popular with vacationers. Fishermen flocked to Chik-Wauk to take advantage of the excellent fishing on Saganaga and beyond. Vacationers enjoyed the quaint cabins and scenic beauty surrounding the beautiful lodge. Sasha the Hamm's Beer Bear spent nights at Chik-Wauk while filming commercials on area lakes during the day. Memories were made and stories were told at this Gunflint Trail Resort.
Ed Nunstedt started Chik-Wauk Lodge in 1931 and finished the lodge in 1933. Before the first guest could enter the lodge a dog started a fire by overturning a kerosene lantern which burned the building to the ground. By spring of 1934 a new lodge was built entirely of rock in the same location where the previous resort had sat. Ralph and Bea Griffis purchased the lodge and ran it as a resort until the USFS bought out businesses in and around the BWCA in 1978. The Griffis were able to use the lodge building until 1999 when the sunset period for their use ended.
When Mike and I moved to the Gunflint Trail in 1993 we met Ralph and Bea Griffis. Ralph would come to Voyageur to purchase ciscoes for fishing Lake Trout on Saganaga. We enjoyed visiting with both Ralph and Bea over the years they spent their summers on Saganaga.
I was always intrigued with the history of Chik-Wauk and the beautiful surroundings. I questioned the Griffis, "Where did the rocks in the fireplace come from? How many cabins were there around the bay? What was living on the Gunflint Trail like in those years?"
I thought it was a shame the USFS was going to take over the lodge and possibly use it to house USFS wilderness crews. I thought it should be preserved and listed on the National Historical Register. Ralph and Bea didn't know if anyone would want to visit the old lodge but thought it would be great to have the lodge preserved. We talked with then USFS District Ranger Jo Barnier about it and later with USFS District Ranger Dennis Neitzke. Then I went to the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway Committee I was on with the idea of preserving Chik-Wauk and making it into a historical site and was told it sounded like an interesting idea but it was too much for the Scenic Byway Committee to do. From that meeting a small group of individuals met to discuss the possibility of turning Chik-Wauk Lodge into a Museum and from that idea the Gunflint Trail Historical Society was formed and a magnificent museum was born.
After hours upon hours of planning, preparing and collecting Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center opened its doors on July 4th, 2010. The transformation of a simple lodge into a first class museum didn't happen overnight but it did indeed happen. The museum is filled with state of the art displays, taxidermy and the history of the Gunflint Trail. From fishing to mining, Native Americans to loggers, books to taxidermy the story of the Gunflint Trail is told through artifacts, maps, video presentations and more. The inside of the museum will amaze you and a person can spend hours looking at the displays and taking in all there is to learn about the Gunflint Trail.
Outside the walls of Chik-Wauk Museum trails on the over 50 acres of property beckon the visitor to explore. Names like Tamarack Alley and Big Sag Trail invite people to explore the unique eco-system where there are granite rock outcroppings, wildflowers blooming and waterfowl waiting. Wildlife can be seen, blueberries can be picked and folks can relax in a unique BWCA like setting. The Chik-Wauk property provides hours of opportunity to explore and spend time with nature.
The Boundary Waters waits just a few minutes paddle from the shore of the lodge. If you want to explore the bay or Saganaga Lake then you can call us at Voyageur so we can help you. As you gaze at the Chik-Wauk Museum you can almost hear the laughter of those who had once stayed there as a guest. With the sound of a fish splashing in the bay one wonders how many fishing stories were once told on the docks of the bay. When you hear the lodge bell sound you can close your eyes to picture Bea Griffis standing next to her lilac bush waiting for guests and friends to join her in the lodge. You can imagine them at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand listening to the day's activities be retold even grander than they were experienced just hours before.
And similar to the telling of those stories you will be able to relay your Chik-Wauk memories to your friends and family. The magic of Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center will allow the rich history of the area to be passed on from person to person, generation to generation preserving the history of the Gunflint Trail for all to experience.