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This is a contributing entry for Dorothy Molter Museum - The Root Beer Lady and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

This 1/4-mile nature trail is available to Museum visitors at any time, year-round. Although short, it meanders through a variety of eco-types common in the Northwoods starting in a 70+ year old red pine stand, meandering through a mixed conifer-deciduous patch and skirting a wetland. Interpretive signs highlight flora and fauna found in northern Minnesota such as the pileated woodpecker, sphagnum moss and the tamarack tree. A nature guide is available free of charge, which provides information about the coniferous biome of the Northwoods by pointing out specific features of the landscape along the trail. Pick up the trail guide on the north side of the Interpretive Center, next to the door or at the trail head, indicated by a sign. Dorothy’s Discovery Trail Backpack is also available for use with admission and includes a variety of field guides, tools and suggested activities to help you learn more about the natural world. The trail is on natural soil with some rocks and roots exposed. Pets are welcome if leashed, well-behaved and deposits are picked up.

  • Trail Head with Trail Brochures
  • "To the back house"
  • Towering Trees
  • Seasonal Residents
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Near the end of the trail

The Museum’s nature trail provides a brief introduction to the Northwoods that Dorothy called home. In a forest much like this, Dorothy found the woodpeckers that would become her friends and the sphagnum moss she would use to keep her famous root beer cold. Interpretive signage introduces guests to the flora and fauna that inhabit the border country of northeastern Minnesota and share insights to the life off the grid that Dorothy loved.

The stand of trees the Museum is situated on is known as the John Rozman Memorial Forest. Planted in 1950 by John Rozman, a former game warden out of Winton, and local schoolchildren; it is primarily red, or Norway, pine trees. 

In the mid-1800s, red and white pines drew timber companies west-ward. This mass harvest of pines lasted through the 1800s and disrupted the natural succession (development) of regional forests and changed some of its ecology. The northeastern region of Minnesota is considered a coniferous biome – a conifer-dominant forest ecosystem. In addition to red pines on this trail, white and jack pines, white and black spruce, balsam fir, white cedar and tamarack (a deciduous coniferous tree) are the dominant tree type.

Deciduous tree types like birch, aspen, maple and basswood do mingle with the conifers here. However, a long, cold winter makes for a short growing season in this region, which is why conifers are the dominant tree type. Keeping their needles for 2-15 years allows them to begin photosynthesis as soon as spring temperatures allow AND conserve energy and nutrients by not having to produce a full tree of new ones each year.

Although pines still dominate the Northwoods, the forest composition is constantly changing, either from human causes such as timber harvest or natural causes such as wildfire. However, the diversity of a coniferous forest is often lower than that of a deciduous forest because conifer needles are slightly acidic. When needles fall to the ground, this acidity leaches (soaks) into the soil when it rains and can inhibit the growth of some plants. It is one way that conifer trees can prevent other plants from using the nutrients in the soil that the tree also needs to survive.

The coniferous biome also features innumerable wetlands that include lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, swamps, peatlands and wet forests. 

The Northwoods are rich with wildlife such as wolves, moose, black bears, otters and lynx, just to name a few. 

Regardless of the size or shape, they all have unique adaptations to help them survive year-round. A keen sense of smell, thick underfur, large feet, the ability to hibernate – are all tools that contribute to each species’ ability to obtain food or escape from becoming food from another species, securing shelter and raising young.

From the largest moose to the smallest shrew, all of the creatures that call the Northwoods home are a wonderful part of what makes this place special.

Dorothy Molter Museum Interpretive Signage

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Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum

Dorothy Molter Museum