|Paul Bunyan took a giant step
during the summer of 1995. The first 50 miles of the 100 mile, multi-use, recreational
trail was paved with asphalt and opened in October, from Brainerd/Baxter to Hackensack,
MN. Creation of the Paul Bunyan Trail, named after the legendary logger, required a
Bunyan-sized effort. Construction and paving of the trail is the longest paving project
undertaken by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources under one contract.
The trail pathway follows the original railroad line built
in 1893 by Burlington Northern and abandoned in 1983. It is now among the longest paved
"Rails to Trails" in the nation. This new Trail will ultimately link 16
communities between it's source in Brainerd/ Baxter and Lake Bemidji State Park on the
north. It is non-motorized, except for snowmobiles. Uses of the Paul Bunyan Trail will
include bicycling, hiking, in-line skating, and it is fully accessible for persons with
disabilities. The Trail showcases area pine forests, sparkling lakes, colorful wildflowers
and wildlife. The user will pass along the shorelines of 21 lakes, through scenic
wetlands, and cross bridges over streams and rivers. Trail users will find lodging, dining
and support services available at convenient locations and in all price ranges. Vehicle
parking is available in each community along the trail. In Baxter, where the Paul Bunyan
Trail begins, a temporary parking lot is located at the trailhead. Other lots are located
in Merrifield, Pequot Lakes, Pine River and Backus.
The next phase of construction,from
Hackensack to Bemidji, will begin pending funding from the legislature. When completed,
the Paul Bunyan Trail will intersect at Walker, MN with the 51 mile Heartland State Trail.
At Bemidji, the Paul Bunyan Trail continues on as the Blue Ox Trail, for another 110 miles
to the Canadian border. With the Paul Bunyan Trails connection to the Heartland State
Trail, the Blue Ox Trail and other planned extensions, this system of trails in Minnesota
will become one of Americas Longest Rails to Trails.
Thank you to Terry McGaughey for all photographs