Seasonal snowmelt and heavy rainfalls are pushing North Shore rivers to the highest levels recorded in years, causing damage to scenic bridges and washing out hundreds of trees.
Bridges at the Lutsen Resort were overtaken by raging waters on the Poplar River and the Cascade River is reaching the top of the culvert under Highway 61 as it thunders into Lake Superior.
"Unfortunately, our iconic red covered bridges have not been spared from the scathe of the high-water levels, however we will do whatever it takes to ensure they are repaired and remain part of Lutsen Lodge for many more decades to come," a resort spokesperson told Bring Me The News.
The situation is so serious that the Minnesota DNR has issued a rare warning to travelers to the North Shore, noting that "many tributaries to Lake Superior are breaching trails, roads and bridges and have resulted in closures to portions of state parks and trails in the area."
"The majority of state parks along the North Shore are experiencing flooding," it says. "The public should also understand that these hazardous conditions along the North Shore are not limited to state parks and trails."
Parks and trails affected include Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche, George H. Crosby Manitou, Temperance River, Cascade River and Judge C.R. Magney state parks and portions of the Gitchi-Gami and North Shore state trails and the Superior Hiking Trail.
"These waters are dangerous and unpredictable and have the power to sweep away anything. Please stay safe by staying away from these areas," said Ann Pierce, Parks and Trails Division director.
On Friday evening, the Minnesota Department of Transportation confirmed Highway 61 remains open but bridge engineers are continuing to monitor conditions, while there have been a number of roads closed in St. Louis County due to flooding and collapsed culverts.
The high waters, while potentially dangerous, are creating talking points for locals and waterfall season-visitors alike.
"It's like a circus," said Thom McAleer, co-owner of Cascade Lodge and Restaurant.
McAleer walked the 8-mile loop trail from Highway 61 to County Road 45 along the Cascade River on Friday.
McAleer said the river is so wide it's cleaning the banks and shooting hundreds of trees out into Lake Superior, rolling giant boulders and snapping trees along the way.
"It's just intense and incredible strength," he said.
Anne Soash, chief financial officer of the Tettegouch Lodge, said there's been a lot of anticipation for how fast the rivers would be running this year.
The Baptism River runs immediately behind the Tettegouche Lodge (formerly the Baptism River Inn) near Finland.
"Normally, you're a good 10-feet up when you sit on the cliffs overlooking the river," Soash said Friday. "Right now, it's almost to the top of those cliffs."
For now, the bridge that provides the only access to Tettegouch Lodge is still operating.
"Our bridge is still safe, but it was getting close," Soash said.