State Forests

Beltrami Island State Forest


Forest Landscape: Much of the forest is composed of lowland conifers such as spruce, tamarack, and cedar. The better-drained soils support red pine, aspen, and jack pine. Smaller acreages have birch and white pine with some hardwoods such as ash and oak interspersed. The Roosevelt area is one of the few places in extreme northwestern Minnesota where red maple can be found.

Management Activities: Timber harvesting, reforestation, wildlife habitat improvement, and recreational management occur in the forest. The DNR also protects the forest and surrounding areas from wildfires.


American Indians have lived in the Beltrami Island area for more than 10,000 years. Artifacts—including finely crafted spear points, arrowheads, and fragments of pottery—have been found along the region's rivers and lakeshores.

French explorers arrived in the 1730s, searching for a route to the Pacific. The French stayed on to engage the indigenous peoples in the fur trade, adopting much of the Indian life way. The French influence waned after 1760, whereupon the Hudson's Bay Company exerted British influence through the area. Americans did not gain control of the entire Beltrami Island area did not occur until 1818.

Much of northwestern Minnesota was reserved for the Ojibwe under the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863. The area north of Upper Red Lake was ceded to the U.S. government in 1889, but the Red Lake Band retains many parcels within the forest.

A land boom in the early 1900s attracted farmers to the area. Peatlands were extensively ditched for agriculture, but the sandy soils and extensive swamps proved to be unsuitable for farming. By 1940 most of the settlers had left, many with the assistance of the federal government. Abandoned homestead sites and cemeteries can still be encountered in the forest.

In the 1930s public works programs such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were initiated by the federal government. Norris Camp, established as a CCC camp is 1936, retains many of the original buildings and now serves as the headquarters of the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area. Many of the stately pine plantations seen throughout the forest were planted by the CCC.

Beltrami Island State Forest takes its name from Count Giocomo Beltrami, an Italian explorer who in 1823 searched for the source of the Mississippi under the shade of a red umbrella. Although Beltrami did not find the river's source, he ventured into northwestern Minnesota by circumnavigating the Red Lakes. The "island" in the forest's name refers to an area of higher terrain that may have existed as an island within the waters of Lake Agassiz.

Acres: 703,381

Year Estab: 1933


Rare Species Guide:


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