Lady Slipper Scenic Byway goes “over the river and through the woods,” just like the song says. The river is the Mississippi River, where it passes out of Cass Lake as a wilderness stream, close to the beginning of its long journey. The woods are the pines, aspen and birches of the Chippewa National Forest, and the Leech Lake Reservation. This rustic route is one of the 22 Minnesota Scenic Byways.
The byway itself is a 28-mile drive that follows Cass and Beltrami County Road 10/39 between the small, north woods town of Blackduck and Highway 2 east of the town of Cass Lake. The largest nearby city is Bemidji, about 20 miles west of the byway. A portion of the byway is also the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.
Along with scenic views of the forest, the byway brings you to beaches, trails and campgrounds. The Mississippi Trail, a bike route from Lake Itasca to the Gulf is part of this byway. You can learn about the Mississippi River, the ecology of the region, orchids and about the Native American Ojibwe culture and heritage of the area. Rabideau CCC Camp, now a National Historic Landmark, is an interesting piece of history located near the north end of the byway.
This byway was recently renamed in honor of the state flower, the Showy Lady’s Slipper, which is a protected orchid. Thriving in swamps, bogs and damp woods, the orchids grow slowly, taking 4-16 years to produce their first flower. They can live up to 50 years and grow up to 4 feet tall. They bloom in late June to early July and there are more than 10,000 Showy Lady Slippers along the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway, between Cass Lake and Blackduck Minnesota.
Orchid Rescue and Transplant Project
Since 2006 The Lady Slipper Scenic Byway Board has been committed to preserving the showy lady's slippers along the byway. Highway reconstruction threatened the large population of orchids growing along the road. Many volunteer hours have been invested in surveying the existing colonies of orchids, working with the highway department and relocating and storing orchids in advance of the highway reconstruction. With our partners, the US Forest Service, Conservation Corps Minnesota, Rabideau Conservation Academy and Learning Center, Beltrami County Highway Department, Beltrami Electric Cooperative and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources we have successfully restored thousands of orchids back to the completed highway.
Lady Slipper Scenic Byway Interpretive Sites
There are two interpretive areas along Beltrami County 39, the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway. These areas are a place to take a break from traveling. At the Mississippi River Site, stop and learn about the rich Native American culture and history of the area where the river travels east to west. At the Lady Slipper Interpretive Site, learn about nature and get close to lady's slipper orchids on the accessible boardwalk.
These areas were constructed through a cooperative effort between the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway, Beltrami County, and the Chippewa National Forest. We hope you enjoy visiting our Byway and our new places to explore!
For more information visit our website. ladyslipperscenicbyway.org or like us on Facebook!