Courtesy Hartley Nature Center
Hartley Park’s Urban Wilderness
At Hartley Park, there’s fishing and canoeing at Hartley Pond.
At Duluth’s Hartley Park, if you go hiking or running or hit the multiuse trails on your bike, chances are pretty good that you’ll run into few other people. It is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, but this urban park still allows you to forget that you’re in the city while enjoying a quiet walk with your dog (leashed, of course).
Here you can cast a line for pumpkinseed sunfish, largemouth bass, suckers, perch and bullheads in Hartley Pond (where Tischer Creek flows) or canoe on that lovely artificial pond, where you’ll get a close-up look at a real beaver dam.
Within the park boundaries, birders enjoy tracking a variety of species, such as the cedar waxwing, American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee and red-breasted nuthatch.
The park is named after the farmer who once owned this land and is now home to Hartley Nature Center, a wood-and-stone-sided building with an exhibit hall, classrooms, restrooms, office space and a library/meeting room. Visitors might be surprised to find critters inside – snapping and painted turtles, snakes, salamanders and fish. Check out the educational displays about the park’s human and natural histories.
The city park is special because it’s a largely undeveloped space within the city, says Tom O’Rourke, Hartley Nature Center’s executive director. Its 660 acres are traversed with multiuse trails for walking, biking and running, a section of the Superior Hiking Trail and, in winter, trails groomed for classic cross-country skiing.
“Beyond that, it’s a beautiful place and a varied landscape: rock outcroppings with views of Lake Superior, cathedral-like pine stands, a pond, a wet meadow.”
First-time visitors might want to stop at the nature center to get a map and get oriented. Among not-to-miss spots, Tom recommends spending time at Hartley Pond and Rock Knob, an elevated area with great views. Both are within a half-mile of the nature center building. Families with young children should visit the nature “playscape” in the fenced enclosure.
The non-traditional playground has pathways, sand and open areas for outdoor play. It’s open during regular center hours.
Throughout the year, the nature center offers programs that serve more than 24,000 people annually. They range from wildflower walks in spring and summer to candlelight ski, skate and snowshoe events in winter.