Viewing Showy Lady's Slipper orchids during road construction.
The Lady's Slipper Scenic Byway (Beltrami County Highway 39) is undergoing major reconstruction. The project will be done in five phases. The first phase, which includes the portion of road from the Beltrami/Cass County line, north to the intersection of County Highway 20, was completed in Spring 2012. The last phase of the project, near the city of Blackduck, may not be completed until the year 2018 or beyond.
A major effort is underway to rescue and restore the state flower during the construction. The Lady Slipper Scenic Byway Board is leading this effort, in partnership with Beltrami County Highway Department, Chippewa National Forest (CNF), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Beltrami Electric Cooperative. The board works with various groups such as the Rabideau Conservation Academy and Learning Center, Conservation Corps of Minnesota and the CNF Youth Conservation Corps. These groups have been and will be rescuing the lady's slippers prior to the construction of each phase, transplanting them to a temporary nursery, and restoring them to the roadway when that area's construction is completed. See "Adopt a Lady's Slipper".
During the active phase of construction that section of the highway will be closed to all but local traffic. During clearing of right-of-way and other minor work the road will be open but under "road work" conditions. The orchids will have been transplanted to the nursery holding site in advance of any clearing or construction. In order to help people navigate around the construction and view existing Showy Lady's Slippers along the byway, this downloadable illustration/map will be updated as the work progresses. Use extreme caution when driving the open sections of Highway 39 and be alert to traffic around you. Pulling off onto the side of the road on the sections of highway that have not been reconstructed is not advisable because of the narrow shoulders and limited visibility due to curves in the road. There will be areas to find the orchids on side roads, which will be indicated on the map.
As part of the reconstruction there are two interpretive sites with adequate parking. These sites will allow for viewing of Showy Lady's Slippers and document the history of the byway. The Mississippi River Interpretive Site and the Lady's Slipper Interpretive site were completed in 2013.
You can download this illustration/map for current construction and for a general idea of locations of Lady's Slipper. If navigating on side roads, please check an official county map or Chippewa National Forest map.
Showy Lady's Slipper peak blooming on the byway is late June to early July. Be safe!