Cook County Lifestyle

Cook County, Minnesota: The Power of Place

The People

CanoeRegardless if they were born here or arrived later in life, the characteristic that most defines Cook County residents is independence. They value privacy and open space, choosing to live in the forest or along the lakeshore.  Those who live in town often have another place, away from civilization, to which they can escape at will.


The North Shore is Minnesota’s premiere tourist destination. Cook County’s population quadruples during the summer with the influx of vacationers and summer home owners. Skiers and snowmobilers keep the county busy during the winter.

Most visitors hail from the Twin Cities, with others coming from across Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Another source of visitors is Canada, because the city of Thunder Bay only 35 miles north of the border. Tourism demographics profile the average visitor as educated and with above average income. Many visit Cook County more than once per year.

Cook County Visitor’s Bureau

An Outdoor Paradise

Cook County offers a year-round menu of outdoor recreation unrivaled in the Upper Midwest. From wilderness canoing to sailing on Lake Superior to exploring the network of groomed snowmobile trails, you’ll find fun things to do throughout the year.

Recreational amenities include:

  • The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
  • The Superior Hiking Trail
  • Lutsen Mountains Ski Area
  • Five State Parks
  • Lake Superior
  • Over 400 Fishing Lakes
  • Dozens of Trout Streams
  • North Shore State Snowmobile Trail
  • Rock and Ice Climbing
  • Largest system of groomed X-C ski trails in the U.S

The Arts

People who choose to live in Cook County believe it’s better than living anywhere else. Natural beauty, unmatched recreational opportunities, a vibrant local arts scene and a strong sense of community make Cook County an excellent place to live, work and do business.In Cook County, it may seem that everyone is an artist. We’ve potters of every stripe; painters specializing in every medium and mix; fiber artists; mosacists and fused glass specialists; sculptors; basketry wizards; woodcrafters; folklorists and storytellers and paper makers and poets and book makers. Whether cause or effect of this artistic rendezvous, Cook County offers an incredible array of artistic opportunities.

The internationally recognized North House Folk School  ( ) offers training in “timber frames to wooden boats, basketry to woodcarving, fiber arts to woodworking – celebrating traditional northern crafts and the joy of learning….” North House is where the community gathers for seasonal celebrations, traditional dances and to hear nationally known songwriters at the annual “Unplugged” music festival.

Begun in 1947, the Grand Marais Art Colony ( ) is housed in a converted church within walking distance of the picturesque harbor. A new Studio Building contains glass, ceramics, and print studios, a multi-purpose room and loft space for visual artists. The Art Colony provides hands-on art classes for beginners to professionals, independent studio rental for artists, events and exhibits in the visual arts, ceramics, printmaking, glass and more. Grand Marais Arts Festival

The Cook County Northwoods’ Fiber Guild, Grand Marais Playhouse and North Shore Music Association are active, community organizations. Local art is displayed at the Johnson Heritage Post and available at several galleries.

Sustaining the Future

In Cook County, sustainability is not a buzzword. Indeed, a core principle of the EDA mission is to seek sustainable economic development. That means economic development which not only is “green,” but also compliments the existing Cook County economy and lifestyle.

The Cook County Local Energy Project ( is developing a local plan to source energy within the county and thus keep energy dollars working in the local economy. CCLEP is investigating the potential for using forest biomass to generate hot water for heating public buildings in Grand Marais.


Parents have educational options for their children. The Cook County Independent school District operates Sawtooth Elementary and Cook County Hign School on a Grand Marais campus. The Great Expectations Charter Schools offers K-12 education in Grand Marais as well. In the county’s West End, the Birch Grove Charter School in Tofte has a K-5 elementary program. Oshki Ogimaag Charter School in Grand Portage has a K-6 program.

Workforce Development

Cook County Higher Education works with local employers to meet existing workforce needs, including nursing training and classes for the hospitality industry.

High school students can take college courses through CCHE. Adults can learn further their education, receive job training and gain new career skills through CCHE programs. An active Community Education program offers year-round classes on evenings and weekends.


State Highway 61 is the North Shore’s primary transportation corridor, linking the Lake Superior port cities of Duluth and Thunder Bay, Ont. County roads extend inland and service most residential areas. Summer and winter, quality road maintenance and prompt snow removal are priorities for Cook County. The U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota DNR maintain an extensive network of forest roads across the county’s interior.Canada Border CrossingThe Pigeon River Border Crossing on Highway 61 is the only land crossing between International Falls, Minnesota and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The crossing is heavily used for commercial transport between Minnesota and northwestern Ontario. The Thunder Bay metropolitan area, population 125,000, is 30 miles north of the border. Some Cook County businesses take advantage of their proximity to Canada to offer services and products targeted to Canadian customers.

UPS Deliveries

The Cook County Airport and Seaplane Base has a 4,200-foot paved runway and heated hanger space. It is a U.S. Customs Landing Rights Airport May 15- Oct. 15.

Taconite Harbor Dock is a United States port facility that specializes in the shipment of iron ore pellets and receipt of coal for plant consumption. It has a berthing distance of 1710 meters, which is 228.4% longer than the average for all port facilities, wharfs and docks. The harbor is serviced by a rail line from Hoyt Lakes, MN.




  • Cook County Historial Society