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The Lost 40 – A Minnesota Forest Legacy

In the late 1800’s, Minnesota was one of the largest timber producing States in the country. Timber companies and developers were moving westward as they logged the northern forests of the United States. Minnesota was on their radar during this period of time.

Today, less than two percent of Minnesota’s forested land contains virgin or “old growth” timber. Fortunately, there still exists an easily accessible area in Northern Minnesota that was never touched by loggers or developers. This property is called the “Lost 40″ and it is home to one of the last stands of virgin, “old-growth” Red and White Pine in Minnesota. Some of these trees are well over 300 hundred years old.

How This Is Possible?

In 1882, a land surveyor by the name of Josiah A. King, and his three-man crew, traveled 40 miles from the nearest white settlement called “the Grand Rapids of the Mississippi.” For a month, canvas tents were their homes, and flour, pork, beans, and dried apples their rations. Josiah and his crew were finishing the last of three contracted townships in one of the first land surveys of Minnesota’s north woods.

As the November winds blew around the crew, they surveyed a six square mile area between Moose and Coddington Lakes. Perhaps it was the chilling weather, or all of the desolate swamps around them, but the crew became confused, and they ended up plotting Coddington Lake about a half mile further northwest than it was actually located. Josiah’s crew’s error is Minnesota’s great fortune.

As a result, these towering pines were mapped as a body of water, and the virgin pine in this area was overlooked by the hungry logging companies. Afterall, what logging company would want to pay for swamp land. This parcel of land became known as “The Lost Forty” and went untouched by loggers. It is now managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources under their Scientific & Natural Areas Program.

Where Is It Located?

It’s located in the Chippewa National Forest in Northern Minnesota and you can actually hike about a mile through the “The Lost Forty” if you’d like. For more information, visit the Lost 40 SNA page on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site.

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