Grassy Point is an area of over 100 acres of wetland and shallow open water habitat located in the St. Louis River Estuary. Submerged and emergent plants, shrubs, swamp and forest provides home to a wide variety of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In 1861, the Duluth-Superior harbor was originally charted, and a large ‘thumb’ of wetland protruded into the open waters of the estuary was noted. This ‘thumb’ was the remains of a ‘bay-mouth bar’ that at one time marked the head of the estuary. The current bay-mouth bar form Minnesota (Park) and Wisconsin Points five miles away.
Fluctuating water levels from a variety of factors constantly mix lake and river waters. These changes influence the types of plants that may survive there. For example, trees do not tolerate long periods of flooding. Additionally, human pressures have altered the character of the point over the years. Maps show many sawmills at Grassy Point in 1890, and tons of sawmill waste was left, settling slowly into the wetland, some of which can still be seen today. The 1918 Cloquet fires burned through the area, ending commercial activity. Several tug ships servicing the docks were burned as well. Local, state, federal agencies and community and educational groups partnered to complete Grassy Point’s restoration. Habitat restoration work focused on removing more than 11,000 cubic yards of waste wood debris, examining flow patterns of nearby Keene Creek and restoring it to its original location, closing of roadways, construction of boardwalks and expansion of Common Tern nesting habitat. In 1996, public access to the area was completed and includes a floating boardwalk into the marsh, elevated viewing platforms, a parking area and benches. The plan also looks at non-native species control, such as Purple Loosestrife.
Today you may stroll on an accessible boardwalk, observe many species of migrating waterfowl in the fall and nesting birds throughout the breeding season. Watch for painted and snapping turtles sunning atop logs. Enjoy the native flowers and the fall colors. And imagine how much of the St. Louis River estuary likely appeared prior to European contact.