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Brad Dokken: Northwest Minn.'s Rydell Refuge marks 25 years

Brad Dokken

If you've never been to Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, here's the perfect excuse for a last-minute road trip.

The Friends of Rydell and Glacial Ridge Refuges group is hosting an event marking Rydell's 25th anniversary from 1 to 4 p.m. today—Sunday, June 11—at the refuge, located at 17788 349th St. SE between Mentor and Erskine, Minn..

The refuge is about 55 miles southeast of Grand Forks, and getting there is as simple as heading east on U.S. Highway 2, turning south on Polk County Road 210 between Mentor and Erskine and following the signs to the refuge.

Events on tap for the 25-year celebration include a wildlife program featuring The Nature Connection, golf cart tours along the refuge's extensive trail system and kids' activities. Refuge staff and Friends group members will be on hand, and the Visitor Center and Gift Shop will be open. Food and drinks also will be served.

According to a profile of the refuge I wrote in 2000, Rydell National Wildlife Refuge is named after Leonard Rydell, a longtime Grand Forks businessman who in 1992 donated property that had been used as a wildlife sanctuary to the Mellon Foundation.

The Mellon Foundation then donated the property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Rydell, an avid outdoorsman, was 86 when he died in April 2000.

Rydell refuge, which covers 2,120 acres, sits in a transition area between the Red River Valley to the west and the forested lake country to the east. The refuge features an abundance of wetlands, along with mixed stands of hardwood trees, conifer plantations, prairie meadows and croplands.

The refuge, along with Options Resource Center for Independent Living in East Grand Forks, hosts a deer hunt for disabled hunters every fall, and 7 miles of trails are available for wildlife watching and exploring the varied landscape the refuge has to offer.

For more information, contact the refuge at (218) 687-2229 or check out the website at

Beltrami trail event

Two northwest Minnesota sportsmen's clubs have formed a trail alliance to promote and enhance their efforts to establish and maintain ATV trail systems in Beltrami Island State Forest.

The new Northstar Trail Alliance is a cooperative venture between the Fourtown Grygla Sportsman's Club and the Roseau-Lake of the Woods Sportsman's Club.

The alliance is hosting a trail signing event at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 17 departing from the Bemis Hill Campground.

"We're going down to work on signing trails and making routes, and we've got a bunch of volunteers coming in," Myles Hogenson of the Roseau-Lake of the Woods Sportsman's Club said. Combined, the two clubs handle about 1,000 miles of ATV trails within the forest, he said.

The upcoming trail signing event also is a lead-in, of sorts, to a meeting set for 6 to 8 p.m. June 28 at the Department of Natural Resources Forestry Office, 804 Cherne Drive NW, Warroad, Minn., where DNR staff will take input on a revised trail plan for Beltrami Island State Forest.

DNR staff have said the new plan doesn't take away any trails, but Hogenson and other trail advocates say they'd like to see a .7-mile trail connection added to the plan.

The connection falls on a parcel of federally owned LUP—short for Land Utilization Project—land within the forest, Hogenson said. About 86,000 acres of federal LUP lands are scattered throughout the forest. Access across that .7-mile route would provide a continuous trail from Bemis Hill at the north end of the forest south to Fourtown. Without access to the trail, which Hogenson says dates back to the early 1900s, ATV riders have to drive an extra 12 miles to bypass the LUP land if they want to get from Bemis Hill to Fourtown.

"Twelve miles is a long time when you're on a wheeler," Hogenson said. "Our reputation far exceeds us that we've been pretty good to work with the forestry and trails groups and DNR. They've got to understand why we want to do this."

Volunteers will be on their own for lunch and snacks during the upcoming trail event, but the clubs will provide meat and soft drinks for an evening meal back at Bemis Hill. Some of the club members also will be making a weekend of it and camping at Bemis Hill, Hogenson said.

For ATV enthusiasts, Beltrami Island State Forest offers one of the region's most extensive trail systems so the outcome of the revised trail plan bears watching. The goal, Hogenson said, is to make the trails as user-friendly and easy to follow as possible.

More information on the DNR's proposed trail plan for Beltrami forest is available at

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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