By Joey Bunch | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post
Fall for the far north
International Falls has two famous residents: Smokey Bear, who has a namesake park and 26-foot statue here, and Bronko Nagurski, the Hall of Fame football player and native son whose museum is in Big Smokey Bear Park, across the street from a massive Boise paper mill on the Canadian border.
South of this fading blue-collar milltown is Voyageurs National Park, a hub for all the best outdoor splendor that northern Minnesota offers, including opportunities to drive down a creaking ice-covered river.
Minnesota is a winter bird-watching wonderland with more than 300 species that can be found here, including the rare-to-the-lower-48 snowy owls, a large raptor with catlike yellow eyes that can turn up as far south as the Twin Cities. Winter also brings Minnesota a parliament of great gray, boreal and hawk owls.
Nearly 160 species nest in the vast forests and largest peat bogs near Voyageurs National Park, including 23 types of wood warblers. Winter visitors also include red or white-winged crossbills, pine and evening grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings.
For fans of mind-blowing questions about human existence, schedule a tour at the NOvA Neutrino Lab along Ash River, 30 miles southeast of International Falls.
There, government physicists have a constructed a 14,000-ton detector to study subatomic particles called neutrinos. Produced by the sun, nuclear decay, cosmic rays and supernovae, neutrinos pass otherwise undetected through the planet and people. Researchers hope the detector will help explain the origins of the universe and why matter, including humans, exists...
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top 10 icebox days events - international falls, mn
A typical January day in International Falls, MN ordinarily goes a little something like this: Upon waking, we see that the current temperature outside reads 32 degrees below zero and we smile, realizing this is four degrees warmer than the previous morning. We continue with our daily morning routines, ensuring we leave at least 20-30 minutes for our vehicles to warm up and 5-10 minutes to scrape the frost, ice, and snow from the windows. Despite the cold weather, our trek through town on our way to work is nothing short of magical. With glistening snow softly falling and the smell of wood burning stoves and coffee roasting in the air, the true beauty of this area emerges like a scene from a fairytale. Of course it may hold true that not everything was built to withstand the effects of extreme subzero temperatures...but here in International Falls, we’re getting pretty good at it.
2. Moonlight Snowshoe Hike
A moonlight snowshoe hike in Voyageurs National Park will be sure to enlighten you of the true beauty this area has to offer. Throw on a few extra layers and meet us at the Rainy Lake Visitors Center at 6:00 PM on Friday, January 19th to take part in a hike guided by local park rangers. Afterwards, cozy up around a campfire with a cup of hot cocoa!
3. Frozen Turkey Bowling
We warned you that we do things a little differently around here. You likely have tried your hand at traditional bowling, but have you tried swapping out the ball with Thanksgiving’s main entree? Join us outside of the Backus Community Center at 1:00 PM on Saturday, January 20th to put your skills to the test.
4. Canoe Races
If you’re looking for another unique event, gather at Loony’s Brew from 1:00 to 3:00 PM for the newly introduced and positively hilarious canoe races! The lake may be frozen, but that doesn’t stop us from boat races! Teams of 2-3 battle against each other amongst snow and ice to see who can avoid tipping the canoe and crossing the finish line.
5. Boot Hockey Tournament
It’s impossible to think of winter in Minnesota without hockey coming to mind. Here in International Falls, we’re okay with leaving the skates behind. Boot hockey is a tried and true winter favorite. Athletes of every skill level will join together at Rainer Rink on Saturday, January 20th at 10:00 AM for the Icebox Boot Hockey Tournament. Gather a team of 10 friends and an entry fee of $75 for a chance to win Chamber Dollars, bragging rights, and a newfound love for the sport.
6. Smoosh Races
If hockey’s not your sport, put your "skiing" skills to the test by participating in the smoosh races! Round up a group of 4 friends at 2:30 PM outside of Viking Bar on Saturday, January 20th to take part in this fun and memorable event where contestants will nail shoes to 2x4's and see who can cross the finish line first. Children’s smoosh races (14 years old and under) begin at 2:00 PM.
7. Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run
Runners from all over the country visit International Falls every January to participate in the Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run. Whatever the weather, contestants brave the cold temperatures and frosty eyelashes and beards to walk, jog, or run across the 5K or 10K finish line.
8. Toilet Seat Toss
Just in case frozen turkey bowling isn’t quite eccentric enough for you, Icebox Days also hosts a toilet seat tossing event. Like we’ve said before, this celebration is unlike any other. Try your hand at toilet seat toss by gathering outside Viking Bar on Saturday, January 20th at 1:00 PM.
9. Frostbite Falls Open
Whether it’s summer or winter, Rainy Lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth...but then again, we could be a little biased. We’ll let you be the judge by attending the Frostbite Falls Open Golf Tournament at Thunderbird Lodge on Saturday, January 20th at 1:00 PM. Gather up a four person team to participate in this nine hole ice golf course. Tennis balls will be supplied, but don't forget your putter of choice! Popular favorites for contestants include hockey sticks, golf clubs, and tennis racquets. The best part? This is a non profit event, with all proceeds going to the local food shelf.
When we said this event had something for everyone, we weren’t kidding. If you’re not the competitive type, don’t worry. While the rest of the family is participating in different games, we encourage you to browse through some of our great downtown shops. Many local businesses participate in Icebox Days by hosting great promotions during this 5-day celebration. This means there’s a chance for everyone to score big, even without participating in any games!
The Icebox Days celebration in International Falls has been broadcasted on networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC and many others. People travel from all around the country to participate in the different events, and local residents look forward to this celebration all year long. Join us for this year’s event beginning Thursday, January 18th to see for yourself what Icebox Days is all about.
Have you participated in this celebration before? Let us know in the comments below what are your favorite events!
Ice Fishing is on, Walleye are biting
Frigid weather brings thicker ice, and people are getting out on Rainy Lake around the usual hot-spots. Walleye are being caught in 20 to 25 feet of water in Sand Bay and also around Black Bay. Black Bay is also yielding some good sized northern pike. For walleye word is a glow jig tipped with a minnow will work.
Well-known Rainy Lake guide William "Billy" Dougherty will be inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame this coming March. Billy started guiding in 1965, and knows the lake and multiple species that roam the waters very well. Billy has been featured on most all of your favorite fishing shows. Congratulations are in order.
Meanwhile, the snowmobile trail from Black Bay to Kabetogama and Ash River has been staked and is open. The overland trails have been groomed and are in good shape. If you're more into skiing or snowshoeing, the Rainy Lake Visitor Center has skis and snowshoes available. The center is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Starting January 3rd, they will be open until 4:30 pm.