Published: Dec 18, 2015

Whitewater Rafting Duluth, Minnesota: Ecology of the St. Louis River

St. Louis RiverWhitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota on the St. Louis River will take you through northern hardwood and coniferous forests, typical of the Northern Lakes and Forests Ecoregion. Majestic red and white pines tower over the river like sentinels of the past. Giving us an idea of what northeastern Minnesota forests looked like before the axe befell most of the old growth pines across the state. Along the riverbanks northern white cedars stretch towards the sun and the occasional stand of paper birch and sugar maple interrupt the backdrop of evergreens and pines.

This boreal ecosystem is home to a diverse array of life. Within this section of river there are several species of predatory fish including northern pike, small mouth bass, and walleye. There are also channel catfish and sturgeon, an ancient fish millions of years old. Fish aren’t the only critters in the river. Macroinvertebrates, such as dragonfly and mayfly larvae, live in and around the river’s bottom—don’t worry, they are too small to attack you! These seldom seen creatures begin their lives underwater feeding on dead and decaying matter, actually helping to improve water quality.

Macroinvertebrates are extremely useful bioindicators for scientists that research aquatic ecosystems and monitor water quality. The presence or lack thereof specific species are indicators to scientists on the health of the river ecosystem. For example, stonefly larva are very sensitive to even the lowest levels of pollutants in the water and need high levels of dissolved oxygen to survive. Their presence is the St. Louis in relatively abundant numbers indicates a healthy river ecosystem.

Although there are not many mammals that live in the river, there are a few that do or spend a great deal of time in it or near it. Beavers and river otters are common to the St. Louis River. Beavers more so in back water bays, ponds, and where small tributaries pour into the Louis—beavers are driven by the sound of moving water to damn it up. River otters are highly aquatic and move as family groups (mother and pups) up and down the river, traveling more than 25 miles a day! They feed on fish, cray fish, frogs and other various critters. It is always a pleasure to see a family of otters while whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota.

Within the watershed of the St. Louis River, which ranges from the Superior National Forest to Lake Superior, are all the mammals typical of the boreal forests. The gray wolf, coyote, bobcat, black bear, red fox, whitetail deer, occasional moose and red squirrel are among the 45 species of animals that call these woods and Jay Cooke State Park home. There are also several species of reptiles and amphibians such as the painted turtle, the eastern red belly snake, and the wood frog, to name a few.

There are over 180 species of birds that either reside here or migrate through. On this section of river you have a good chance of seeing: bald eagles and osprey soaring above the river, belted kingfishers and blue herons leap frogging their way downriver, and common mergansers swimming and diving for fish.

While you are whitewater rafting near Duluth, Minnesota on the St. Louis River you may wonder why does the river look like ‘Rootbeer?’ The St. Louis River gets its ‘rootbeer’ color from tannins released from decaying leaf and plant matter from the wetlands with in its watershed. This is typical of north woods lakes and rivers.

So if you like wildlife, forests, and adventure then our whitewater rafting trips on the St. Louis River are for you! Give us a call to book your trip today!

Category(s): Blog Posts