Trail Map (PDF)
Lester Park trail begins in Lester Park which is located at 61st Ave East
and Superior Street where the west and east branches of the Lester River
come together. The park is a popular place for family outings and includes
picnic tables, grills, a covered pavilion, a softball diamond, sand boxes,
and one of the easiest and shortest walking trails withing the city limits.
The park's main entrance is on the left side of Lester River Road approximately
one block north of Superior Street. It also can be reached from London
Road at 61st Avenue East. Enter the park by crossing over the bridge at
the lower end of the parking lot. After crossing the bridge, follow the
signs to the old steps leading down to the east branch of the Lester River.
1. From here
you can see a concrete dam that is built across the river. The dam was
constructed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to raise
the water level and enable the fish to make the jump over the falls while
traveling upstream to spawn. The old rustic bridge sketched on the cover
of the brochure was built over the falls and contained a railed opening
in the lower deck of the bridge for viewing the rapids below.
2. The trails continues at this point across the park to the footbridge
on the west branch of the Lester River and follows this branch of the
river upstream to the next footbridge crossing the river. The three footbridges
you will cross on the trail were constructed with storm damage money received
from the federal government after the 1972 floods. The first bridge was
built in the fall of 1972 during construction of the new Superior Street
bridge. The other two were completed in the summer of 1973.
3. The rock exposed along the creek beds is the familiar dark basalt which
is so common along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The basalt is a volcanic
rock extruded in successive flows, one on top of the other, one billion
years ago. If you examine the rocks along the creek beds carefully, you
can see some features common to many basalt flows. The top of a flow often
has gas bubbles, known as vesicles, formed as the lava crystallized and
hot gases rose towards the top. In some placed these bubbles were filled
later on with minerals left by fluids filtering through the basalt. Lower
in a flow, the basalt doesn't have gas bubbles, and is more dense and
massive, and thus is not as easily eroded by stream action as the "bubbly"
4. Downstream, the creek cuts through the massive part of a basalt flow.
From this point to the waterfall upstream, the course of the stream is
controlled by contact between two basalt flows. The stream easily erodes
the bubbly upper-part of the lower flow, undercutting the massive, blocky
bottom of the overlying flow. At the waterfall, the stream is still cutting
down through massive basalt into a deep pool carved in the softer top
of the underlying flow. You will also pass a magnificent stand of cedars
on the left that are approximately 75-100 years old.
5. Before you get to the second footbridge, you will cross over an old
stone bridge built by the WPA. You can observe here how nature is working
to break up the stone into soil. Two tiny plants, a fungus and alga, are
growing together on the rocks forming plants known as lichens. The fungi
produce an acid which helps to dissolve the rock beneath. As soil is formed
other plants such as mossed begin to grow
6. When you reach the next footbridge you may want to pause and take a
picture while enjoying the view of the waterfalls and creek. Below the
bridge is the popular swimming hole known as "The Deeps". Evidence
of the Ice Age can also be seen here. The forerunner of Lake Superior,
called Glacial Lake Duluth, at one stage rose to the level of Skyline
Drive, and red silty clays were deposited on the bottom of the lake. With
the waning of the Ice Age, the lake drained to the level of Sault St.
Marie, Michigan, causing the streams to increase their cutting power.
This gave rise to the gorges and waterfalls so common to the streams of
the North Shore of Lake Superior. Evidence of the red silty clay from
Glacier Lake Duluth can be seen along the trail between this bridge and
the power line.
7. When the trail reached the power line you will leave the creek and
begin to follow the cleared area beneath the power line. This part of
the forest is more open and is marked by newer growth inclduing many young
aspen and birch. This area was possibly logged or affected by the fire
in 1918 and has re-seeded itself with the quick growing aspen and birch.
8. As you continue you will find balsam fir and white spruce on the right.
Both are more shade tolerant and longer living than the birch and aspen
and will eventually crowd them out. The balsam fir (flat needles and erect
cones) is the distinguishing characteristic of the fir is the rough spike
left after the maturing cones fall off. Other evergreens shed their entire
cones. The white spruce cones hand down and do not fall apart like those
on the fir.
9. After turning and leaving the power line, you will be traveling through
a popular feeding ground for many animals, particularly deer, moose and
rabbits. The low area is very moist, and is home of trees and plants that
thrive on these conditions including the speckled alder (brown bark with
white bar-like markings), red osler dogwood (red stems), willows, and
young white pine. The white pine already show signs of white pine blister
rust, a disease that fees alternately on the gooseberries or currants
and white pine. The disease will kill the white pines, but does not harm
the other plants. If you are particularly observant you can tell whether
a deer or rabbit has been feeding on a particular plant, since a deer
leaves a smooth cut (the branches of the red osler dogwood look as if
the tops have been pulled off), and a rabbit leaves a jagged cut. The
speckled older, besides its noticeable bark, has flowering catkins in
late winter that develop into small woody cones. The dogwood has flat
topped clusters of white flowers followed by white berries.
10. After leaving the feeding area you will be walking down the old steps
to the footbridge crossing the east branch of the Lester River. From here
you can follow the river back to the parking lot and to the end of your
journey. Hope you have enjoyed your visit to Lester and will help to preserve
For further identification of trees, plants, and animal life, please refer
to the Chester Creek and Congdon Creek Nature Trail brochures.
OF LESTER PARK
Land Company officials, when they were plotting residential areas in their
small eastern community, set aside land for a park near a beautiful winding
river which is now known as Lester River. The Indian name for this river
is "Busa-bika-zibi" meaning river where water flows through
a worn place in the rocks. Lester River was named after an original homesteader
and the Lakeside Land Company, a large employer in the community, decided
that the park should likewise be named Lester Park.
located between 60th and 61st Avenue East and Superior Street, was plotted
May 15, 1890. The estimated value of the 44.81 acres was $21,585.00. Two
more acres with a value of $500.00 were plotted November 19, 1890, giving
the park a total of 46.81 acres. Mr. Thomas F. Cole, former president
of Oliver Iron Mining Company, donated other land to the park that is
now the location of the Lester Park Golf Course.
Land Company also gave land to the United Stated government in 1888 for
a fish hatchery, which was built adjacent to the park. Dr. R.O. Sweeney,
a well-known painter of wild flowers, was the first superintendent of
the fish hatchery. A dam was constructed on Lester River along with the
flume which carried natural river water to the hatchery. The building
is located west of the mouth of Lester River on London Road and is now
owned by the University of Minnesota-Duluth Limnological Society.
vehicular bridge was built over Lester River in 1893. A crude footbridge
which had been constructed in earlier days, was washed out due to heavy
rains in 1897. Mr. John Busha, a Civil War veteran with French and Chippewa
parentage, set out to build a lovely rustic bridge (pictured on the cover)
to replace the old one. Mr. Busha cut cedar logs during the winter and
formed Chippewa designs with the unpeeled cedar poles and logs. Mr. Busha,
and his sons, Abraham and George, built the bridge the spring of 1898.
The bridge became quite a tourist attraction. Picnic tables were placed
on the bottom level while the upper promenade deck was used for lounging
and enjoying the view. The bridge was constructed over some river rapids
and there was an open well surrounded by rallings for looking down at
the rapids. The passage of years and inclement climete were harsh on the
rustic bridge. Its upper deck was taken down in 1916, and the lower deck
was removed in 1931 because it was unsafe.
of the rustic bridge were very popular at the turn of the century as well
as pictures of the fish hatchery and boys swimming in "The Deeps".
"The Shallows" were located on the east branch of Lester River
and "The Deeps" were on the west branch.
was very popular during the holidays, especially Memorial and Labor Day
weekends. Scores of people would arrive in carriages or in the early automobiles.
Many families would take the streetcars which ran from downtown to Lakeside.
A small waiting station is still standing near the entrance of the park.
Festivities included sack races, blueberry pie eating contests, ball games,
and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Park Pavilion, owned and operated by Mr. L. A. Gunderson, featured refreshment
parlors, a dance hall, merry-go-round, small zoo, and shooting gallery.
It remained a favorite amusement spot in the 1900's until it was destroyed
by fire. Nearby Harmonie Hall was also used for dances. It was decorated
with Chippewa designs similar to those on the rustic bridge. Both resembled
Indian embroidery, examples of Mr. Busha's handiwork.
Saint Louis County Historical Society
Mr. David Vaughan
Connie Dinan, Chairman
Sue Harnish, Coordinator
Nancy Gower, Art Work
Kay Gower, History
Christabel Grant, Geology
Davidson, Mary Evans, Marcia Kohlhaas, Pam Roth, Kathy Stoltz
by the Junior League of Duluth, Minnesota in cooperation with the City
of Duluth Parks and Recreation Department.