Meet Kawishiwi Field Laboratory
The Kawishiwi Field Laboratory (K-Lab) is situated adjacent to the South Kawishiwi River just 13 miles south of Ely, MN on Highway 1. It has water access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, tall white pines, and 12 standing buildings and structures including seven buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the oldest remaining building on the Superior National Forest.
Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps is working with the Northern Research Station and the State Historic Preservation Office to rehabilitate the Kawishiwi Field Laboratory site. K-Lab offers the potential to serve as a site to host training and programming in a wilderness setting for Northern Bedrock.
The Northern Research Station accepted Northern Bedrock’s proposal and feasibility study for the adaptive reuse of K-Lab May 2013. We continue to work together to establish an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both organizations.
Kawishiwi Field Laboratory, historically known as Halfway Ranger Station, was designated as a historic district by The National Register of Historic Places in January 2012. The nomination was made possible by the Northern Research Station (NRS) with support from a National Trust for Historic Preservation grant.
The historical significance of the buildings relates to the quality and workmanship of their construction, and the representation of various styles of log and framed construction characteristic of an historical era. Seven of the historic structures are Rustic/Adirondack Style log cabins built in 1934 and 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Field Lab also includes a stand-alone underground concrete cellar poured by the CCC at the site, and a balloon framed residence built in 1931 with funds from Herbert Hoover’s Public Works Administration.
Research on the Kawishiwi Experimental Forest conducted by NRS, explored methods of converting jack pine, quaking aspen and birch forests to white and black spruce forests, and ended more than 20 years ago. Although NRS has not used the site for research, K-Lab has been the destination of many world renown wolf, bear and fire researchers and active wolf research was being conducted by U.S. Geologic Survey until this summer.
In 2010, the Northern Research Station released an environmental assessment that evaluated several alternatives for K-Lab’s future. The proposed action identified in the draft environmental assessment was to demolish the buildings after complete historic documentation of the site.
Public comment on the environmental assessment was strongly in favor of preserving the structures. Northern Bedrock is doing our part to save these historic structures and provide the opportunity for young adults to connect with the conservation corps legacy through re-use of the site.
More information on the environmental assessment and associated documents can be
found at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/projects/kawishiwi/
On-Going Legacy of Research
Part of the legacy of the Kawishiwi Field Laboratory involves the numerous researchers who started their careers at this facility. Here is a list of some of those organizations:
- Wildlife Research Institute (www.bearstudy.org)
- The North American Bear Center (www.bear.org)
- The International Wolf Center (www.wolf.org)