Berry Picking Up the Gunflint

July 5, 2019

Money might not grow on trees, but up the Gunflint Trail it could be growing on a blueberry bush!

Once again this summer, Gunflint Lodge and other businesses along the Trail will participate in the annual Biggest Blueberry Contest. The contest runs this summer in 2019 from Friday, July 19 through Sunday, August 11.

The rules are simple: Blueberries are measured by weight and must be picked fresh in Cook County. Blueberries purchased in a store are not allowed to be entered. And in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s very obvious what is picked up the Trail and what comes from a grocery store. Plus, what’s the fun in that? The best part of the berries is getting outdoors to find and pick them!

This year there will be the different prizes for the three biggest blueberries by weight. First place will bring you $100 in cash, second place $50 and third place will be presented $25.

We’re hearing reports that blueberries along the Gunflint Trail area are just beginning to ripen and tend to peak around late July or early August. There are many locations to find blueberries within a short drive of our Lodge here on Gunflint Lake. Areas near the Magnetic Rock hiking trail, Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness up the Granite River are some of our favorite spots.

If you’re new to the berry-picking scene in northern Minnesota, wild blueberries are easy to identify. Think of the blueberries you’ve seen in grocery stores across the country in the small cardboard cartons and you’re on the right track. Our berries are somewhat smaller than the store-bought varieties, but they taste even better in our humble opinion.

The plants where Gunflint blueberries grow are small woody shrubs with green leaves that are close to the forest floor.  Look for hillsides or areas that receive a bit of shade during the day for the largest berries. The area where the Ham Lake Fire burned in 2007 continues to produce plentiful amounts of berries, a tip worth keeping in mind as you venture out. It’s also worth noting that blueberries almost always grow in patches, so if you find one collection growing on the vine, you’re likely to find more nearby.

And while the blueberry season is just ramping up, there’s still more to look forward when it comes to wild fruit growing along the Gunflint Trail and throughout the Boundary Waters region. After blueberries come the raspberries, which are also incredibly delicious and grow wild. Many of our guests find raspberries along portage trails, hiking trails and around the edge of Boundary Waters campsites.

It’s berry season on the Gunflint Trail, and this year it could pay off in more ways than one!