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Finding Minnesota: Gunflint Zip Line Tour

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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GRAND MARAIS, Minn. (WCCO) – It has long been understood that the best way to see Minnesota’s northern treasure of lakes and woods is by canoe. But now, Gunflint Lodge, in extreme northeastern Minnesota, is offering another nice vantage point, from the air.

Visitors can fly through and above the tall trees of the Superior National Forest, on the new Towering Pines Canopy Tour.

It is Minnesota’s first extensive zip line tour.

“We really wanted something new that people hadn’t done before,” said Jason Merrill, the course manager.

Merrill and the other designated “sky guides” ease visitors into it, with smaller zips to build up their confidence.

Then when they’re ready, they’re off on a fast, smooth glide past white pines that are hundreds of years old, taking in views of three lakes and two countries.

“Right across that lake, that’s Canada,” said Merrill from one of the platforms. “And you can see, that got hit pretty hard by that Ham Lake fire of ’07.”

The course uses half-inch galvanized aircraft cable, designed to hold more than 20,000 pounds.

“Stepping off the platform took a lot of nerve,” said Karen Sherrick, a visitor from Springfield, Illinois. “But it was fun, it was great fun and I ended up going twice.

“You have the best view of everything up here, like you’re soaring over all the trees and you see the lakes. Horses are going by and it’s really fun.”

The guides are strict about safety features, and serious too about providing a good time.

“Oh, it’s amazing,” said Merrill. “I’m pretty sure we’ve got just about the most fun job up here. I haven’t had a single person say that they wouldn’t do it again.”

The tour costs $79 and lasts about two hours.

Riders have to weigh at least 70 pounds and no more than 240 pounds.

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