The Friends of the Namekagon Barrens is leading a series of Nature Walks during the summer of 2018. The first was led by Gary Dunsmoor (above) on the morning of June 16. Gary has been a powerful advocate for our Barrens for over 40 years as both a DNR employee and Freind. The south boundary of the South Unit is home to the the only sizeable stand of native lupine in the NBWA. The endangered Karner’s blue butterfly depends entirely upon this plant for propagation. Our location is thought to be about 20 miles north of historic range for both the lupine and the Karner’s. The nature walk confirmed the lupine’s 40-year continued presence on the same large south-facing hillside (below). We arrived just after a summer thunderstorm with wind and overcast hanging around, and predictably, butterflies were not flying. Other hillside flower species were puccoon, moss phlox, and harebell, Song birds identified were black-billed cuckoo, golden-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, black and white warbler, song sparrow, eastern towhee, eastern kingbird and least flycatcher.
The northwest corner of the South Unit contains a series of large bogs plus a sizeable bog pond. The area does not have a name, but Mark Nupen and Jerry McAllister think it should be called Duns Moor. Gary is of 100% Scottish descent. The hike began near the intersection of River Road and Namekagon Trail. The view from the starting point is stunning (below). It is from 2-300 feet above the bog and pond and captures both plus a sizeable portion of the 19th Century overland wagon road from Fort Snelling to Madeline Island. Native Americans used the same pathway for hundreds of years to get from Lake Superior to the Mississippi River, well before Zebulon Pike’s establishment of Fort Snelling.
Primary bog plants observed near the pond were cotton grass, small cranberry, pitcher plant, bog rosemary, pale swamp laurel, Labrador tea, leather leaf, and lots of sphagnum moss. Gary provided all of these identifications. Butterfly weed provided its usual showy orange near the trailhead leading to the pond. Birds about the bog and pond were black-billed cuckoo, golden-winged warbler, eastern kingbird, eastern towhee, mourning dove, Canada goose, and hooded merganser. Insects were noticeably absent.