Mysteries of Knife Island

Mysteries of Knife Island!

Knife Island

…Knife Island Campground in Esko, Minnesota; mysterious, small, rich history and a connection to present day St. Louis River activities. Northern Minnesota, like Maine, has a rich history with close ties to the land. Lumber, mining, fishing, farming, and rock quarries all have a history in both states. And Knife Island Campground is the home of a colorful slate quarry that brought industry and jobs to the area in the mid-1800’s.

A small privately owned campground with many remnants of the old quarry, Knife Island CG sits on the bank of the St. Louis River just about 5 miles upstream of Jay Cooke State Park. It has a remarkable woodsy feel despite being on the edge of i35, a major traffic artery that goes from San Antonio, Texas to the Canadian border. It is also near a beautiful bike trail that feeds into Duluth. This campground is my second choice. Jay Cooke is my first but it is under major construction this year. The nostalgic feel and history make Knife Island a good choice.

At first, I couldn’t find a proprietor to register. Eventually though, we registered and arrived at our lot. After settling in, exploring the area was in order. Our friends, Rick & Anne, live only 5 miles away so off we went. Rick drove us around visiting such places like the Bent Paddle Brewery and the North Shore. It was clear that Duluth and the surrounding area was on the upswing.

The next several days involved us hanging and relaxing with Rick & Anne. Reminiscing about our shipwreck in the Caribbean (in 2005), old hangouts that we frequented in the ‘70’s, and conversation about friends and family gobbled up much of our visit. It also included an afternoon out at the Buffalo Junction for a buffalo burger and great Alaskan Ale.

And any stay near Duluth should include a bike ride on the trails. Rick, Deb and I headed out one morning from Carlton to downtown Duluth. This was our first ride of the year and was ambitious. About ¾ of the way to downtown, we came across the intersection of the trail that gave us an out! Buffalo Junction was just to the left …and we know they have great buffalo burgers and craft beer. Needless to say, we’ll have to complete the trip on our next trip to Duluth. And Anne, thanks for the ride home.

Meanwhile, back at Knife Island, what were the mysteries here? How long did operations of the slate mine last? When did the campground open? What is the story behind the death of Benjamin Deetz? Ummm….

Old Deetz


STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”! Coming soon.


Roosevelt Arch

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