The Old Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station is located 17 miles northwest of Deer River, Minnesota off Highway 46. Turn east on the Old Hatchery Road (just north of the Cut Foot Sioux bridge) and follow the gravel road to the Old Ranger Station sign. Park in the area provided and walk a short distance to the site.
Access: Visitors can hike, boat or drive to the Old Ranger Station throughout the year. The road is plowed in the winter, and visitors can access the parking area. The snow is not shoveled around the Ranger Station so bring your boots!
History: The Old Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station is the first Forest Service Ranger Station east of the Mississippi River. It was built at the end of a portage which ran from Bowstring Lake to Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake. The Station is located in an area used by travelers for hundreds of years. This small unassuming cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Minnesota Forest Reserve (now known as the Chippewa National Forest) was set aside in 1902 to conserve the land from non-sustainable logging practices. In 1908, the Minnesota Forest Reserve became the Minnesota National Forest. The Forest Supervisor at the time decided more supervision of loggers was needed in the Cut Foot Sioux area. Two men, Sewell Tibbetts and Billy McKinnon, were sent from Cass Lake to build a station at Cut Foot. They travelled by boat with tools, hardware and some lumber.
The Ranger Station was built on a traditional use campsite that was part of a historic portage trail.
The rangers originally slept on the floor of the Station. Horace Lydick became the first ranger to occupy the one-room cabin. By 1911, it was clear more permanent family residence was needed and a two-story log home was built nearby, turning the old Station into a tool shed and Model-T garage.
In the 1930’s, it was used as a small museum with relics from the old portage, Native American and fur trade artifacts. To protect the Old Ranger Station from further deterioration, a protective shell building was constructed over the station in 1969. The outer shell was removed and restoration work on the Old Ranger Station was completed in 1996.
Events: Watch for naturalist led tours of the Old Cut Foot Ranger Station from the Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Center summer program schedule.
Winter Recreation: The Cut Foot Sioux area has many opportunities for snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Old Ranger Station is located close to the Cut Foot and Simpson Creek Trails. Stop and have a winter picnic next to the old cabin.
Visitor Center: Visitors can get a key to the Old Ranger Station by asking at the Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Center on Highway 46. (Summer months only.) Visitor Center is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Related Sites: Hike the eastern section of the Cut Foot Sioux Trail to follow a portion of the historic portage. Take in the Simpson Creek trail system from the Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Center.