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Geology Up the Trail: Exploring the Ancient History of the Gunflint Trail

Course Overview

Head up the Trail and experience the unique and ancient geology of the Gunflint area. We are pleased to partner with Gunflint Lodge to offer students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history of this special area using one of Minnesota's premier wilderness resorts as a home base for exploration. After an introductory presentation on ​Friday night, all day Saturday and half of Sunday will be spent in the field, traversing through an ancient sequence of exposed rocks  that tell an incredible and awesome story of how the core of North America was assembled. We will start our field exploration at the “End of the Trail” viewing 2.6-billion-year-old granites that formed in the eroded roots of an ancient mountain range and are now exposed around Saganaga Lake. Heading south, we will come upon a 1.85-billion-year-old iron formation that was deposited in an ancient sea by the oxidizing effects of photosynthesizing algae. We will also see evidence for the catastrophic upheaval of this iron formation seabed caused by tsunamis and earthquakes generated from a large meteor impact that struck 480 miles away near Sudbury, Ontario. Finally, we will explore intrusions of magma generated 1.1 billion years ago when North America was attempting to split apart. Along the route, we will also observe the effects that mile-thick glaciers had on reshaping the Gunflint Trail landscape as they repeatedly crept out of Canada over the past 2 million years. Please note that several of the field stops require hiking up to 1 mile on forest trails. Participants should be able to walk on trails of moderate grade and locally uneven ground without much difficulty.

A variety of lodging options are available to students at special rates at Gunflint Lodge, though students are welcome to stay wherever they choose during the class. Students are responsible for their own lodging reservations. Lodging reservations at Gunflint must be made by calling 1-800-328-3325, and referencing this class, since room prices are discounted for North House students. Registration for the North House course can be made online (see below) or by calling North House at 218-387-9762.


Fri, Oct 11th, 2019  –  Sun, Oct 13th, 2019

Course Details

Length: 2½ Days
Skill Levels: Beginner to Advanced
Hours: Day 1: 7-9pm; Day 2: 8am-9pm; Day 3: 8am-1pm
Intergenerational age: N/A
Tuition: $205.00
Materials fee: $5.00

Required Tools

You will need the following tools for this class:

  • water bottles
  • sturdy-soled shoes
  • rain gear and other suitable outdoor clothing
  • lunch for Day 2 (can be ordered through Gunflint Lodge)

Optional Tools

  • Feel free to bring your favorite tools and whatever materials you might feel appropriate for this course.
  • rock hammer
  • camera
  • safety glasses
  • magnets
  • hand lens/magnifying glass

More Information

Once registered, students will receive a confirmation email with further class information. Please call us if you haven't received it within 24 hours.