Misquah Hills

Misquah Hills

The Misquah Hills are a range of large hills or small mountains in northeastern Minnesota, in the United States. They are located in or near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness within Superior National Forest.


The Misquah Hills are oriented east-to-west, south of Cross Lake and Winchell Lake. Their peaks are all within four miles east and seven miles west of Misquah Lake, and include several of the highest points in Minnesota, including Eagle Mountain, Lima Mountain (2238 ft), Gaskin Mountain (2245 ft), Brule Mountain (2226 ft), Pine Mountain (2194 ft), and Peak 2266.


The composition of the Misquah Hills is of red granitic rock of the Duluth Complex, part of the larger Precambrian rock formations of the Canadian Shield, making them among the oldest ranges on earth. Their total elevation above the surrounding plateau does not exceed 600 feet, although they reach roughly 1700 feet above nearby Lake Superior at Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota at 2301 feet above sea level. Still, at this elevation they are the highest points for nearly a thousand miles in any direction, as well as the second-highest range of the Canadian Shield in the US, after the Adirondack Mountains. The Misquahs are geological cousins of the Adirondacks and the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec; they bear some visual resemblance to these ranges, though on a smaller scale.


The Misquah Hills are thickly forested, though there are granite outcrops and bare summit rocks in some places. The forest cover consists largely of balsam fir and varieties of spruce; eastern white pine, red pine, quaking aspen, paper birch, and northern white cedar are also common in the area. The Misquahs are part of the Northern Boreal Forest.


The Misquah Hills were surveyed by Newton H. Winchell, Minnesota state geologist, and Ulysses S. Grant II in the 1890s, who, using an aneroid barometer mistakenly gave the title of highest peak in Minnesota to an unnamed 2230-foot summit near what is now called Winchell Lake. A United States Department of the Interior survey team remeasured several summits in the Misquahs in 1961, using aerial photographs and benchmarking (geolocating), resulting in the current set of height measurements.


Hiking in the Misquah Hills has long been overshadowed by the vast amount of excellent canoeing in the lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Many of the peaks remain unnamed, most are only accessible by water, and only Eagle Mountain, Lima Mountain, and Pine Mountain have summit trails.


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