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The area is known for recreation and a rural lifestyle

The Northern Itasca Hospital District is a largely rural area deep in the pines and lakes area of northern Minnesota. Main industries are tourism and logging, but for the visitor, recreational opportunities range from horseback rides on trails through the Chippewa National Forest to lazy days fishing for walleye and crappie on quiet tree-ringed lakes. Miles of snowmobile trails can be accessed from Bigfork during the winter, and for those following summer canoe trails, the Big Fork and the Rice rivers meet near the hospital campus.

Bigfork, pop. 446

Bigfork is located in northwestern Itasca County where Highway 38, the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway, meets Highway 7, long called The Scenic. The city is at the center of a thriving arts community, and there are local clubs for gardeners, book lovers, quilters, sewers, artisans and more. The city includes the Bigfork Valley campus, a K-12 school, bank, post office, senior center, grocery store, restaurants and retail stores.

Big Falls, pop. 236

Big Falls, located in southern Koochiching County, lies along the Big Fork River and hosts a scenic area of whitewater. There is a municipal campground and horse camp maintained by the city.

Bigfork City Hall and Wanigan

The Bigfork City Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 after a group of local citizens banded together as a nonprofit Bigfork Improvement Group to rescue and restore it. Built in 1930, it is a stone building with a 2-story wood statue of a River Driver lumberjack commemorating the log drives on the local rivers that ended in 1932. The River Driver by Ray Reitan was put in place in 1990.

At the north end of town, local artist Gene Madsen recreated a Wanigan, the cookshack that accompanied the lumberjacks who drove the logs down the rivers.

Edge Center for the Arts

The Edge Center, a 250+ seat performing arts center, was built with the enthusiasm and dedication of area residents who raised over $2 million to build it adjacent to Bigfork School. The center provides opportunities to enjoy fine productions as well as to develop performance talents. An attached art gallery offers monthly exhibits of regional artists during the summer as well as serving as a backdrop for a permanent collection. The Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

EOW Discovery Center/Chippewa National Forest information

The Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center, just north of Marcell on Highway 38, is a place to obtain information on the Chippewa National Forest, attend a naturalist workshop or browse the interpretive displays. A gift shop features locally made items. It also includes a fishing/wildlife watching pier; kayaks can be rented and the historic ranger's home is also available for rental. Call 218.832.3161 for more information.

Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway

The Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway was one of the early designated scenic byways in the country, selected in 1996. Stretching 47 miles from Grand Rapids to Effie, it travels through wooded hills known as braided eskers, formed when the glaciers retreated. At 14 sites along the road are interpretive panels describing the natural and human history of the area.

Marcell Family Center

The Marcell Family Center is a 15,000-square-foot facility designed to meet a wide variety of social, educational and recreational needs for the residents of Marcell and surrounding communities. The building includes a gymnasium, multi-purpose hall, commons area, class/meeting rooms, fitness center, computer room, nursery and a food preparation/meeting room. Call 218.832.3444 for more information.

Scenic State Park

Scenic State Park is a recreational destination with a campground, hookups and a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It has a large swimming beach, gift shop, open interpretive lodge and many trails. Located on Highway 7 about 7 miles south of Bigfork. Call 218.743.3362 for more information.

Yearly events

  • Second Saturday in June: Wilderness Days
  • Fourth Saturday in June: Summerfest in Wirt
  • July 4 celebration in Big Falls
  • Third Saturday in July: Bigfork Valley Health Expo
  • Fourth weekend in July: North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie
  • Second Saturday in September: Bigfork Valley Challenge certified half marathon, 10k and 5k run/walk
  • Third Saturday and Sunday in September:  Highway 38 47 mile long garage sale