Water, Water Everywhere, Especially On the SHT


Water, Water Everywhere, Especially On the SHT

October 23, 2019

The abiding memory SHT users may have of their 2019 experience on the Trail may well be, “Sure was wet and muddy out there.”

Indeed. With the record amount of snowfall last winter, some falling well into May, and the near-daily rainfall we’ve had on the North Shore since early September (exaggeration, sure, but it feels that way), the Trail has been at best soggy and, at worst, distressingly sloppy.

With more water on the Trail than ever before, mud pits and saturated tread have become increasingly common issues.

Why distressing?  We’re doing permanent damage to the SHT’s tread when it’s this wet.  We acknowledge there are some design flaws out there — the Trail was not built to modern trail-building standards that helps shed water. We’re doing our best to install boardwalks to prevent those mudholes from expanding and improving “trail plumbing” overall. 

But we’re well aware that our efforts to renew the SHT can’t keep up with the onslaught of climate change-induced downpours and what we like to call “the abundance of love” the SHT gets from Trail devotees. 

When it’s wet and soggy, the SHT is sensitive to damage by good-intentioned trail users. This “loved to death” section near Lutsen Mountains will take time, money, and dedicated volunteer crews to fix.

We’re watching what happens in Duluth. Motivated by preserving its natural surface trails, Duluth Parks is closing them when conditions warrant.  Keeping all people off all trails is probably impossible, but signaling to trail users that their continued use of a wet trail will beat it up, and that closing it protects the Trail for their benefit, is the right thing to do.

You can help us protect the Trail. Before you head out:

  • Check our Trail Conditions page to avoid trail closures and problem spots.
  • If the SHT is soggy and saturated, stay off to avoid further damage. If the Trail is mostly dry but you hit a mud pit, go right through it (not around it) to avoid widening the tread and damaging vegetation.
  • Visit our calendar to find opportunities to volunteer for trail maintenance and construction projects.
  • Donate to support our trail renewal efforts, and consider becoming a Monthly Sustainer to power the SHT throughout the year.