region K Area 93a larger picture

Superior Stony and Rocky Loamy Plains and Hills, Western Part

Area is in the Superior Upland Province of the Laurentian Upland.

Area entirely in Minnesota

Total Land Area 8,570 square miles (22,205 square kilometers).

Towns/cities include:
Ely, Finland, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, and Cloquet

Indian Reservations include (parts or all of):
The Grand Portage Indian Reservation is at the tip of the 'arrowhead.' Part of the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation is in the southeast tip of the area, and the Vermilion Lake Indian Reservation is in the central part of the area.

Most of the area is in the Superior National Forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is in this MLRA.


This area is covered by glacial till, drift, and outwash and by lake sediments, alluvium, and thin layers of loess. These deposits range from only a few inches to several hundred feet in thickness. Bedrock is on the surface or at a shallow depth in many areas.

The bedrock formations in this area include Middle Precambrian graywacke and mudstone and their metamorphic equivalents, Upper Precambrian basalts, gabbroic rocks, including the Duluth complex, and Lower Precambrian granitics, metabasalt, and graywacke. Iron ore is mined in this area.

Glaciated by numerous advances of the Superior, Rainy, and Des Moines glacial lobes during the Wisconsin and pre-Wisconsin glacial periods. Most of the surface of this area is young, dominated by drumlin fields, moraines, small glacial lake plains, outwash plains, and bedrock-controlled uplands. The several thousand lakes within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness were formed by the scouring of the bedrock landscape by glacial ice.

This area is covered by glacial till, drift, and outwash and by lake sediments, alluvium, and thin layers of loess. These deposits range from only a few inches to several hundred feet in thickness.

Most of the surface of this area is young, dominated by drumlin fields, moraines, small glacial lake plains, outwash plains, and bedrock-controlled uplands.

Topography -

Elevation generally ranges from about 600 to 2,100 feet (185 to 640 meters). Local relief ranges from 10 to more than 100 feet (3 to 30 meters). It can be 600 feet (185 meters) or more in some areas adjacent to Lake Superior.

Eagle Mountain, at an elevation of 2,301 feet (701 meters), is the highest point in Minnesota.


The average annual precipitation in almost all of this area is 25 to 30 inches (635 to 760 millimeters).
It is as much as 33 inches (840 millimeters) at the tip of the “arrowhead.”
The average annual temperature is 36 to 40 degrees F (2 to 4 degrees C).
The freeze-free period averages about 150 days and ranges from 120 to 175 days.

Major Hydrologic Unit Areas

Name Code Extent*
Rainy (0903) 53%
Western Lake Superior (0401) 45%
Mississippi Headwaters (0701 ) 1%
St Croix (0703) 1%

* this is the percent of area drained by each named hydrologic unit

The surface drainage network in this area is immature and is primarily remnants of glacial meltwater channels. The major channels are occupied by the Vermilion, Whiteface, and St. Louis Rivers. Many small tributaries drain into Lake Superior from the uplands to the west.


Estimated withdrawls in this MLRA:
Public supply surface water 8.4% ground water 0%
Livestock surface water 4.2% ground water 9.1%
Irrigation surface water 0% ground water 0%
Other surface water 78.3% ground water 0%

Total daily withdrawls average 19 million gallons per day (72 million liters).
9% Ground water sources
91% Surface water sources

The numerous lakes and streams are sources of water. The timber and mining industries use most of the surface water that is used in this area. This water is of very good quality and is suitable for most uses.

Ground water occurs in joints, fractures, and bedding planes in the Precambrian crystalline rocks underlying most of this area. This water typically has more than 500 parts per million (milligrams per liter) total dissolved solids and is hard. The median level of iron exceeds the national secondary standard for drinking water of 300 parts per billion (micrograms per liter). This aquifer may be the only source of ground water for domestic use and livestock in most of this area.

Volcanic rocks along the shore of Lake Superior also contain ground water. The water in these basalt flows generally has a median level of total dissolved solids of about 200 parts per million (milligrams per liter) and is moderately hard. This aquifer provides water mostly for domestic use and livestock.

Naturally occurring areas with very saline water are not used.


  • Frigid soil temperature regime.
  • Udic soil moisture regime.
  • Isotic or mixed mineralogy.
  • Dominant Soils:

  • Entisols.
  • Histosols
  • Inceptisols
  • The parent material is dominantly dense loamy till, coarse glacial drift and outwash, silty glaciolacustrine sediment, local loess, alluvium, and organic material. The soils are dominantly shallow or moderately deep in the northern part of the area and very deep in the southern part. They are very poorly drained to excessively drained and are level to very steep.

    Great Group Series Location
    Eutrudepts Ahmeek, Brimson, Eveleth, Hermantown, Normanna, and Toimi series formed in till.
    Dystrudepts Conic, Insula, and Mesaba series formed in till over bedrock.
    Udorthents Quetico series formed in loamy and very shallow loamy material over bedrock.
    Udipsamments Grayling and Mahtomedi series formed in sandy outwash.
    Haplohemists Rifle and Greenwood series formed in thick layers of organic material.

    Fauna and Flora

    Prior to settlement, the vegetation consisted almost entirely of forest communities. The forest types included white pine-red pine forest, aspen-birch forest, mixed hardwood-pine forest with sugar maple on ridges, and jack pine barrens in the uplands.

    Conifer swamps or bogs occupied the depressions and areas of outwash. Many areas on uplands support quaking aspen and paper birch. Some scattered areas have old-growth pine stands.

    Fire dependence characterizes all of these forest types.
    This area is still dominantly forested and much of the land is in public ownership.

    Some of the major wildlife species in this area are whitetailed deer, moose, and ruffed grouse. Because of its relatively unaltered landscape, this area supports a high percentage of the rare plants and animals that occur in Minnesota, including the bald eagle, the Canada lynx, and the eastern timber wolf.

    The thousands of kettle and bog lakes in this area support populations of common game fish. Numerous short, high gradient streams lead directly from the highlands to the shores of Lake Superior, supporting native, sustaining populations of trout and also serve as breeding waters for several species of trout common to Lake Superior.

    Land Use

    1% - Cropland - private
    44% - Forest - private
    31% - - Federal
    2% - Urban development - private
    10% - Water - private
    8% - Water - Federal
    2% - Other - private
    2% - - Federal

    Forest land supports timber industry. Mining and recreation are important in this area. The many areas of surface water provide opportunities for recreation.

    The major resource concerns include the water erosion and reduced water quality caused by timber harvesting. They also include management of wildlife habitat and riparian areas.

    Conservation practices on forestland generally include forest stand improvement and forest trails and landings. These practices reduce the impacts of timber management activities on water quality. Riparian forest buffers help to protect streams and rivers from timber harvesting activities, improve wildlife habitat, and protect water quality.

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