Mention International Falls and one immediately gets a chill! Officially it is the Icebox of the Nation and after a struggle with Fraser, Colorado over the title it’s legal and it,s trademarked. They earned that title by having 109.4 days a year with a high temperature below 32 degrees. So much emphasis is put on their temperature that many people don’t include it on their “bucket” list. They are missing the beauty, the history and the many sightseeing and sports activities in the area.
One question you will be asking when you visit what is commonly known as “The Falls” is “Where are the falls?” The falls are beneath the International Bridge. In 1909 a dam was built to harness the power of the falls for the paper mills. In the picture below you can see the dam.
First inhabited by explorers, missionaries and voyageurs the town was eventually built on the lumber and paper industry. The dam was built by Edward Wellington Backus to power the paper mills he founded. He also built mills across the river in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. Originally MANDO (Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company). Today it is known as Boise Paper. The Boise mill tours are conducted during June – August. Call: 218-285-5011 for dates and times.
Some people wonder why a 26 ft tall statute of Smokey the Bear towers over a park called, of course, Smokey Bear Park. Well, International Falls thrives on lumber and it is located in a heavily forested area. It is also an area where campers, sportsmen and fishermen flock to fish and hike in the area. Smokey the Bear is a huge reminder that a careless match or an unattended camp fire could be devastating to the town and to the entire area.
While driving through International Falls you will see many buildings with painted murals depicting International Falls — past and present. These murals were painted by Bruce Trask, artist and former art teacher in The Falls.
CELEBRATIONS: Canada and the United States in addition to being each other’s largest trading partners share the longest undefended border in the world. They celebrate this on International Peaceful Borders Day during the first week in July. International Falls and Fort Frances celebrate by holding a PEACE PULL. A 1500 rope is stretched between Pat Roche Landing in International Falls and Sorting Gap Marina in Fort Frances and the Tug-O-War begins! (Unfortunately the Peace Pull was not held this year, but plans are being made for 2016.)
If you’re a football fan you will be interested in going to the Koochiching Historical and Bronko Nagurski Museum. The Legendary Nagurski, a native of International Falls, became the highest played player in the NFL in 1930 with an annual salary of $5,000. He was also a “world champion” wrestler.
International Falls is one of the gateways to Voyageur National Park, Minnesota’s only National Park. It is also the largest community for a hundred miles and is somewhat isolated with the largest cities being over a hundred miles away. Hibbing, MN is a 101 miles away and Duluth is 162 miles from International Falls. Eleven miles from International Falls is Ranier and that seems to be where most of the “action” is in the area.
The next two posts will take you to Ranier and Voyageur National Park.