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The Family Ski Trek, set for Sunday, Feb. 9, entails a two-mile trek around the Tamarac loop. An extended six-mile trail called the Pine Lake Loop is also available for a longer expedition. (Photo courtesy of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge)

It’s a wildlife winter: Tamarac hosts family-friendly events

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Sure, hibernating is always an option for Minnesotans, but folks at the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge are instead hoping people get out and enjoy the wintery outdoor landscape.

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“Winter is my favorite time on the refuge because it is just so peaceful,” said Kelly Blackledge, park ranger at Tamarac. “The snow after it covers the ground makes the woods quiet like no other time of the year, and the sounds that you do hear when you’re skiing or walking through that snow are just beautiful,” she added.

There are a couple of upcoming events at the refuge that Blackledge says are definitely worth checking out.

Family Snow Shoe Hike

Pack up the kids or the spouses and head on out to Tamarac on Sunday, Jan. 26, for the refuge’s annual Family Snow Shoe Hike.

The event starts at 1 p.m. at the Visitor’s Center. There will be children’s snow shoes for loan, but limited adult shoes.

The one and a half hour family-friendly hike will include a little trek out onto the lake for a peek at an active beaver lodge.

“We’ll also be identifying winter wildlife tracks as we make our own tracks,” said Blackledge, who says despite the winter conditions, Minnesota forests can be a busy place to be if you’re a furry creature.

“There are actually very few true hibernators,” said Blackledge, “so we’ll see all kinds of footprints out there — otters, squirrels, rabbits, fox. My favorite is the porcupine. Sometimes we’ll see them up in a tree or something, and they’re so funny to see waddling through the snow.”

The Family Snow Shoe Hike is free and open to the public.

Family Ski Trek

For the curious nature lovers who also love the ski trails, Tamarac officials will also be holding a Family Ski-Trek on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 1 p.m.

The cross-country event begins at the Pine Lake parking lot on Highway 29 and stretches out two miles across the Pine Lake Ski Trail.

This event is designed to be leisurely and family friendly, as skiers are encouraged to dawdle and explore the nature surrounding those groomed trails.

“We’ll also be looking for tracks to identify during this event as well,” said Blackledge, who says there will be no skis available, so participants should dress for the weather and bring their own ski equipment.

But even if skiing enthusiasts can’t make this event, the trails are always open and ready for visitors.

Ski Trails

Although the Family Ski Trek will be a guided event around the two-mile Tamarac loop, the eight miles of ski trails are always groomed and open for the public.

There is a six-mile Pine Lake loop for those ready to take a more extended trip around the refuge, which also starts at the Pine Lake parking lot.

Ice Fishing

There are four lakes on the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge open to ice fishing — Tamarac, Waboose, Pine and Two Island lakes.

There is no charge to fish out on the lake, but the refuge does not allow overnight houses, only portables.

“And we don’t allow vehicles (or ATVs) on the lake either, but I think that also makes for a neat, solitary experience,” said Blackledge.

For more information on the events or winter opportunities on the refuge, call 218-847-2641 ext. 23.

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