Looking down on the Laurentian Divide

The Laurentian Divide north of Virginia, Minnesota, as seen from aerial footage in YouTube video by "Above the Range."

The Laurentian Divide north of Virginia, Minnesota, as seen from aerial footage in a YouTube video by “Above the Range.”

As we see the autumn leaves of the Iron Range reach peak colors, already beginning to fall in my corner of Itasca County, enjoy this recent video by Above the Range, a YouTube channel dedicated to aerial footage of Northern Minnesota scenery.

See it here:

The Laurentian Divide is the geographical “rock” (no pun intended) of the Iron Range. “Mesabi” stands for “Giant,” an Ojibwa word referring to this seemingly endless ridge along the old white pine forests of old. The divide not only dictates whether water flows south to Lake Superior or North to Hudson Bay, its geological origin story is part of the reason iron was exposed, forever changing the path of humans and nature in this region.

Further, the Laurentian terminates at a point near Hibbing where it creates a rare three-way watershed, what the Ojibwa called Hill of Three Waters — a spot sacred to Dakota centuries before, and ancient peoples before that. Here water flows north and south, but also west into the watershed of the Mississippi River. In 2012, I wrote about my experience at the Hill of Three Waters.

In looking at this video, in which a drone launches from the roadside park north of Virginia, you see the geological formation of the Laurentian Divide. Of course, here we see a lovely display of fall colors. What blows my mind, and continues to haunt my imagination, is how different this landscape would have looked 100-150 years ago. This was a great, windswept dark forest of ancient white pine. All of it was clearcut for logging. The white pines have not returned in the same number — partly because of blight, partly because of changing climate.

But people we know had grandparents who might have known the old forest. How quickly it all changes. Everything.


  1. Nice.

  2. Help! I would love to see this video, but get the message “this video does not exist.”

    • Shoot. It would appear that “Above the Range” took down his YouTube channel. The videos are all gone. It was his video, I just shared it through the YouTube embed.

  3. Open minded skeptic says

    I like how you blindly suggest that the white pines have not come back because of the changing climate. The fact is, you have NO idea why the white pines aren’t coming back and to imply it’s because of the climate with zero science to back it up pretty much suggests you’re an alarmist hack.

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