The Lady Slipper Scenic Byway, Beltrami County Highway 39 and Cass County Highway 10, was designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1999. In 2003 a formal byway board was organized, which became a 501(c)3, and a Corridor Management Plan was developed. In 2005 the name “Lady Slipper Scenic Byway” was formally adopted, so named because of the abundance of the showy orchids that grow along the roadside. The highway takes travelers through the Chippewa National Forest, and in addition to the namesake orchids, features lakes, fishing piers, woods, resorts and campgrounds. Historic CCC Camp Rabideau, a National Historic Landmark which is located 7 miles south of Blackduck on this byway, is another major attraction. A portion of the highway is also the route of the Great River Road.
In 2007 Beltrami County Highway Department started planning a major reconstruction project for Highway 39, to be completed in five separate stages. Working with the Highway Department, the all-volunteer group undertook a rescue/restoration project to prevent the namesake orchids from being destroyed by highway reconstruction. Because it takes about 15 years for a Showy Lady's Slipper seed to become a flowering plant, the group felt that intervention was needed. This project is still ongoing with orchids being transplanted to a holding area ahead of the construction and returned to the roadway after each section of construction is complete.
The byway board and partners, Beltrami County Highway Department and Chippewa National Forest, have established two interpretive sites along the route. One site is at the Mississippi River and features the history and geology of the area. The Lady's Slipper site is in Pennington and features the regional orchids and the transplant project. This site has an accessible boardwalk allowing those with limited mobility or using assistive devices to wander through groupings of lady's slippers and arrive at a scenic bog view.
Other projects underway or under consideration are: a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Mississippi River adjacent to the Mississippi River Interpretive Site, a walking trail at the same site through the woods to a grouping of lady's slippers along the road edge, and an extension of the MiGiZi bike trail through Norway Beach to the Mississippi River bridge and Pennington.
This active, all-volunteer board seeks funding through grant applications, but needs donations for activities and equipment supporting our goal of making this rural area a desirable destination for tourists as well as area residents. A donation of any amount is appreciated.