Thursday, July 30, 2020

Oxymorons on the River

“I need a mental break,” my friend Jamie told me. She’s an essential worker in a small city. Living in an apartment, feeling nervous to visit crowded city parks, dealing with rude customers, and being an extrovert in isolation, have all taken a toll on her mental health. I’ve been realizing how privileged I am to have abundant access to uncrowded nature. 

So, we hatched a plan for a socially distanced canoe trip on the Namekagon River. 

The urge to give Jamie a hug as I pulled into the river landing was overwhelming, but our masks provided a constant reminder not to get too close. Unloading boats and organizing gear all took place as kind of an orbital dance. When we finally pushed off from shore, we got some odd looks. 

Jamie, in my yellow kayak, looked as normal as she can ever look (yes, that’s a poke at my very…unique…friend). But then there as me, with my 16 foot canoe turned backwards so I could sit closer to the middle on what usually is the bow seat. This is a pretty common way for people to solo paddle a two person canoe. All of our camping gear nestled—not touching—in among the thwarts, with plenty of weight toward the front to balance me. At the last minute, I’d thought to grab the paddle from my sea kayak, so I used its wooden blades to maneuver my loaded beast. It felt like I was paddling a tank…or perhaps it could be better described as a party barge. 

My loaded canoe.

Hooting and hollering with joy, we swung out to the middle of the river and headed downstream.

Social distancing can seem like a pretty ludicrous oxymoron. Being social didn’t use to mean keeping our distance. It’s odd to feel anxious about getting together. It’s odd to leave so much space between friends when we have conversations outdoors. It’s odd to talk through a mask and leave half of our facial expressions covered when we (rarely) talk indoors at the office, coffee shop, or grocery store. Despite the incongruity, keeping our distance and wearing a mask are now the most caring ways we can be social. 

Paddling side by side, instead of having Jamie breathing clouds of aerosols ahead of me in the canoe, is better for talking anyway. And for some reason, she was better at spotting wildlife from the kayak. “Turtle!” she shouted, and pointed across my bow (or was it my stern?) to a sunny rock. There, basking in the sun, was a very odd-looking reptile. 

The tiny head, with a super pointy nose, faced upstream. The corners of the turtle’s wide mouth turned down at the corners like a grumpy Muppet. Her golden eye with a horizontal pupil gave the appearance of a perpetual squint. I could tell this turtle was female because of her large size and blotchy shell. Males are smaller, with spots. Her wide, flat body, like a lumpy old pillow with legs, was covered by an almost flat, brown shell, as if last Sunday’s burned pancake had been commandeered for use as a blanket. 

And still, as you all knew I would, I squealed with delight, dug in my paddle to aim my course, and searched furiously for my camera. If only Jamie HAD been in the bow of my canoe to keep paddling while I photographed…

Spiny softshell turtles are another foray into oxymorons. Who ever heard of a turtle having a soft shell? Isn’t a hard shell kind of the point? And yet, there it was. Unlike the domed shelters of snapping turtles and painted turtles—with their grid of protective, bony scutes—softshell turtles have a leathery carapace. The flexible shell offers added maneuverability in open water, muddy lake bottoms, and on land, where they can move much faster than most turtles. 

That pointy nose? It’s a built-in snorkel on the end of a disproportionately long neck. It allows the turtles to breathe while the rest of their body is submerged in mud, sand, or water, a foot or more below the surface. In fact, they can exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide through many parts of their body, more than most turtles. That comes in handy as the lie in wait for prey—like fish, frogs, and invertebrates—to swim past. The same quick reflexes and powerful bite that help them catch prey can turn defensive in an instant—so watch your fingers!

In a move that’s odd for turtles, but common in other vertebrates, softshell turtles don’t leave the sex of their babies up to the variation in nest temperature during egg development. Instead, males and females are determined by genetics. 

As my canoe floated by and I snapped as many photos as I could, I finally saw the source of spiny softshell’s name. A fringe of pointy spines lined the edge of her carapace, just behind her head. From the other side of the river, Jamie admired her, too. I guess a softshell turtle can be spiny. And being social can be done from a distance. So much for oxymorons on the river. Our canoe trip was weirdly normal as we tried to act naturally and face the bittersweet new reality of traveling alone together. 

Emily’s second book, Natural Connections: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, is now available to purchase at Or order it from our friends at to receive free shipping!

For more than 50 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. The Museum reopening on August 4 with our brand-new Mysteries of the Night exhibit. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and to see what we are up to.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Patterns on the Water

Blue sky arched high. Trees shimmered in the heat. Glassy water reflected it all. Mesmerized, I lowered the paddle and just let the kayak glide. Graceful green streamers undulated all around while I rode out a pontoon’s wake in this little patch of weeds. There were shades of life, shadows of depth, and the polished wooden hull of my boat in the center of it all. 

Paddling among the graceful green streamers of floating bur-reed has enchanted me for many years. Photo by Emily Stone. 

I’ve loved paddling through patches of floating bur-reed ever since I spent my first summer in the Boundary Waters volunteering as a wilderness ranger. On meandering rivers who snaked through expanses of beaver meadow and bog, the ribbons of leaves revealed the direction of otherwise imperceptible current. On marshy lakes, it was the wind who either combed the strands out straight or tousled them into a gusty mess. After canoeing over monotonous miles of dark waves on deep lakes, entering a patch of bur-reed felt like leaving a busy city street and entering the esthetic sanctuary of an art museum. 

But for some reason, the plant’s name would not stick in my head. I had to ask my fellow rangers to repeat its name several times each trip. Luckily, my most frequent paddling partner was a patient botanist, and she answered my steady stream of plant questions without complaint.

Later, when I did wetland surveys during graduate school, I came to know the green streamers as Sparganium flucutans. My boss and I spent a glorious day on the Mercer Bog less than an hour north of our offices in Augusta, Maine. Floating in my trusty Old Town canoe, we pulled bur-reed leaves up from the inky water and—trying not to drip on the tissue-thin paper—we keyed them out in our botany manuals. 

Andy Cutko was my boss at the Maine Natural Areas Program in 2009 and 2010. He's an excellent botanist and we explored lots of amazing natural areas for "work."

The leaves of S. flucutans flow with the water, but other bur-reeds have leaves that emerge rigidly, their creased backbones helping them to stand ramrod straight. The text in our book read, “emergent and submerged leaves with numerous cross veins between the parallel veins, forming squarish cells.” Translated into life, that meant the translucent leaves glowed like stained glass when I held them up to the sky; that “squarish” grid of veins creating one more pattern in this plant. 

Squarish venation of Sparganium natans

While bur-reed leaves present an image that’s all lines and order, the flowers look like something Dr. Seuss might have drawn to populate a fanciful new world. Round, white pom-poms zig zag up a sturdy stem that emerges only inches above the water. Those are the female flowers. At the tip of the stem are the male flowers—dense, yellow-green balls that wait their turn before also exploding into comical spheres of wiggling anthers tipped with yellow pollen. 

The comical flowers of floating bur-reed are a delightful summer discovery. Photo by Emily Stone.

I felt lucky to see them, gliding silently in my kayak. Most summers I’m too busy to get on the water in July, and I only race by on my bicycle. At that speed, just the yellow globes and frilly, white blossoms of water lilies are identifiable. They’re pretty. But their symmetrical beauty seems common, and overdone, next to the unique and less-conspicuous flowers of bur-reed. 

As the soft pom-poms of bur-reed flowers mature, they transform into spikey green “burrs.” They remind me of the medieval weapon innocuously called the “morning star” which is a spiked ball mounted on a shaft. But, if you’d prefer not to think of bloody historical warfare, those burs also look kind of like large marbles covered in tiny, green Hershey’s kisses. Unwrap those Kisses later in the summer, and you’ll find small, hard seeds that are food for ducks. 

Bur-reeds get their name from the spikey seed heads that develop later in the summer. 
Photo by Emily Stone.

I floated for many minutes among those bur-reed leaves. The longer I sat, the more I saw. Small flies crawled over the blossoms. Shimmering dragonflies landed and took off from lily pads. Black beetles crawled on the water lily buds. An eagle flew by. Cars rumbled over the bridge. 

At the speed of driving, nature is simply wallpaper. The many patterns of bur-reed blur quickly in a landscape view. Sky. Trees. Water. Those elements dominate. During that first summer in the Boundary Waters, when I fell in love with bur-reed, I packed along a small set of watercolor paints to amuse myself on the long evenings in wilderness campsites. Sky. Trees. Water. I painted those layers, thrilled at how easy it felt to capture the scene with broad bands of color accented with just a few tree trunks or the V of a soaring bird. 

At the speed of a drifting kayak, it’s obvious how little of the scene I used to capture. In between those broad layers of sky, trees, and water, nature is messy, buggy, imperfect, and often ridiculous-looking. It is also far more interesting. Over repeated encounters, certain plants have changed from wallpaper, to acquaintances, to friends. And finally, I remember floating bur-reed’s name without help.

Emily’s second book, Natural Connections: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, is now available to purchase at Or order it from our friends at to receive free shipping!

For more than 50 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. The Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but we're still building our new exhibit and bringing you educational content. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and to see what we are up to.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Life on Top of Life

The kayak rocked gently as I lowered myself in. With a few paddle strokes I was gliding away from shore, but mosquitoes still buzzed around the netting of my bug jacket. On this calm, humid morning, the bug jacket was a sanity saver. 

I don’t usually get out on the water this early, but today I was on a mission. This summer is the Loon Population Survey that LoonWatch at Northland College runs every 5 years. During the last survey, in 2015, I counted loons on a single lake on my way to work. This year, with many of the regular survey volunteers reluctant to travel to their lake homes, I’ve added two new lakes to my list. The official survey will take place between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 18.  But will I really have time to do all of that driving, loading and unloading the kayak, and still spend quality time on each lake? This trial run would help me figure that out. 

On the glassy lake, which reflected an overcast sky, I noticed a thick sprinkling of tiny insects. They parted for my bow, and we both created ripples as we moved. As I nosed through a patch of water lily leaves, though, I was startled to see that some of the leaves bristled with clusters of these black critters. With a gangly pair of legs splaying out from their midsection, and a more streamlined pair of legs trailing behind, I could barely discern their short front legs from the rest of their body. Curved antennae arched like sheep horns away from the heads. Some water lily leaves only sported a fringe of these leggy critters, while other, smaller, water shield leaves were completely hidden beneath the invertebrate stubble. 

Water lilies fringed with leggy critters, more on the water behind the leaves.

Later, I would discover that these are young water strider nymphs. Unlike butterflies, who transform from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, and then adult, water striders go through incomplete metamorphosis. Basically, they shed their exoskeleton five times over about two months as they grow, and look more like an adult each time. In all stages, water striders are excellent predators on mosquito larvae. The baby mosquitoes must breathe at the surface through a snorkel. Water striders can grab that snorkel, pull them up, and suck their juices. That’s poetic justice, don’t you think?

Young water striders crowd on to a water shield leaf. I wonder, are they taking a break to be warmer, and drier, and hide from underwater predators just like the loon chicks? Photo by Emily Stone.

And while, from the perspective of a giant human, all those water strider legs looked like hair on the leaves, a closer look at those legs would reveal actual hairs. At a nanoscale, these microscopic hairs are covered with spiraling grooves that collect and remove water droplets. This prevents the water strider from getting soggy despite skating on surfaces with liquid below and high humidity above. Scientists hope to use this design to create water repellent surfaces through biomimicry.

Water strider leg hair, from

I can’t zoom in to the level of those hairs, but I do love zooming in on my photos once I get them home. When I did, four tiny, red specks appeared in a cluster of striders on a water shield leaf. It took me a minute, but I finally connected the dots (so to speak) and realized that these were nymphs themselves—this time of water mites. 

Can you "spot" the bright red water mite nymphs?

As tiny as adult water mites are, these spider relatives are straight-up predators. Their young, though, are parasites who attach like ticks to their hosts and sip bodily juices until they drop off and join their parents as predators. I’ve photographed dragonflies carrying the water mite nymphs around, and now these water striders, too. Before you start saying ew, or judging the mites’ lifestyle, please know that they also attach to mosquitoes. If a female mosquito has enough mites, they’ll prevent her from laying eggs. Does that change your opinion of them?

Here were mites on top of nymphs on top of leaves, with mosquitoes still buzzing around my head. But we’re not done yet. The leaves themselves held evidence of more life, in the form of squiqqly lines that looked black against the dark water. These are channels created by midge larvae as they feed. With weak mouthparts, they cut off a strip of the epidermis, scrape it clean of nutritious green cells, and then use silk to fasten the strip into a roof above their channel. This setup allows water to continuously flood the channel. The larvae breathe through gills and will die if they dry out. 

Midge larvae channels in a water shield leaf look like stained glass when held against the sky.  Photo by Emily Stone.

When I finally looked up from that lively patch of weeds, I quickly spotted the loon I’d come for. At first it looked like a single adult, but as I coasted closer and zoomed farther, the hump on its back resolved into two fuzzy chicks. While I watched, the chicks wiggled and preened. I smiled, remembering the many times I climbed into my mom’s lap, only to be called a wiggle worm as I fidgeted between the desire to be cozy or to be active. Finally, one chick sprawled all the way across their parent’s back to take a nap, while the other chick floated nearby. These chicks must be almost two weeks old, which is the age they lose access to their private raft. 
Captions: Loon chicks ride on their parents back during their first two weeks of life. It’s warm, it’s safe, and it’s dry. Can you spot the second chick swimming on the left? Photo by Emily Stone. 

Here again, on this summer morning in the Northwoods, was life on top of life. 

I found the loons. I found much more. 

(And yes, even with distractions, I had plenty of time to survey all three lakes.)

Emily’s second book, Natural Connections: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, is now available to purchase at Or order it from our friends at to receive free shipping!

For more than 50 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. The Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but we're still building our new exhibit and bringing you educational content. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and to see what we are up to.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Chickadees Nesting

My tires crunched on gravel as I turned into the parking area along the Namekagon River. Right on cue, a black-capped chickadee darted across the clearing and dove into a boundary post with a ragged top. Seconds later, it emerged and vanished. 

A friend had tipped me off to the location of this nest, and I’d finally stolen a moment to check it out. Chickadees are my favorite birds! I parked away from the nest, at a distance that I thought would work for taking photos without interfering. But I couldn’t resist a sneak peek first. As long as the young aren’t so old that they’ll fledge prematurely, a quick look at a nest does not usually cause harm, but I didn’t take this invasion of their personal space lightly. 

Peering down the tube of rotten wood, topped with mosses and red-tipped lichens, I found five orange mouths with yellow rims aiming up at me. No parent could miss seeing those targets, even in a dark cavity. A smattering of scraggly feathers were visible, as well as a rim of grassy-looking nest material. Having gathered that data, I quickly backed away.

5 baby chickadee mouths open wide to receive caterpillars. The bright colors around their mouths ar no accident. That provides a target for their parents to hit with food. 

A loud chickadee-dee call stopped me in my tracks, and I scanned the nearby shrubs. Chick-a-dee-DEE it called again, and this time I spotted the adult bird perched among the leaves. Its mouth was full. I quickly snapped a few photos before retreating to my car—the official wildlife blind for birders. 

Baby food for black-capped chickadees includes spiders to support brain development, and several thousand caterpillars over the course of a summer.  Photo by Emily Stone.

As I settled in, my phone chimed. It was a text from my sister-in-law, inviting me to a party to celebrate my oldest nephew’s high school graduation. My how time flies!

Turning back to my camera, I zoomed in on the photos I’d just taken. One green caterpillar, one brown larva, and a leggy spider were crammed into the chickadee’s little beak. The caterpillar dangled like a piece of wayward spaghetti. This is typical baby food for chickadees. In fact, Doug Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants,” has calculated that a single family of chickadees will eat between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars in a single summer. That’s a lot of free pest control! While the seeds in your feeder are fine for adult chickadees, the growing chicks need higher quality food. Caterpillars contain more protein than beef. 

During the first five days of a chickadee’s life, spiders are an especially important baby food, because they contain high levels of the amino acid known as taurine. Essential for brain development, taurine promotes visual acuity, overall intelligence, and resistance to anxiety in mammals. Initial experiments with chickadees’ European cousins demonstrated a connection to bold behavior and good problem solving skills—which are integral parts of chickadee personality. 

It only took a few minutes of my social distancing before the parent with the beak full swooped in to the nest. Slow to click the shutter, all I caught was a blurred tail as the bird dove stealthily into the post. 

For the next three days I popped in on my way home from work to watch the parents in action—never leaving my car. I brought a tripod, and even took some videos. I began to notice patterns in their behavior. First there would be movement in the closest tree, and then a call. If I heard their chick-a-dee-dee alarm call, it might be several minutes before the parent would deliver their mouthful to the nest. But their “hey sweetie” song, also used for attracting mates, seemed to be the all-clear. 

Within seconds of singing that song, the parent would swoop in to the nest. Usually they dove like the underdog in an action movie, with a recklessness that made me cringe. A few times, though, the busy parent perched on the edge of the post to look around, and possibly to show off the impressive bouquet of colorful bugs clamped tightly in their beak. 

Their exit from the nest was a little less rushed, and often the parent would perch for a few seconds as if catching their breath. Often on the way out they’d have a little brown and white blob in their beak. This membrane-wrapped fecal sac is a natural end to all the bugs that went in, conveniently packaged by the chick’s own digestive tract for easy removal.

Baby chickadees poop immediately after being fed, but happily it’s packaged neatly in a fecal sac that makes waste removal an easy process for Mom and Dad. Photo by Emily Stone. 

If that sounds like a brilliant idea to you, well, it is. Chickadees rate high on the scale of bird IQ. You know that large, adorable head that makes them so cute? It holds a brain twice the size of other birds in the same weight range. 

After leaving town for the weekend, I was eager to return and check on “my” chicks. Pulling in, I immediately noticed new splinters peeling away from the post. Did something get them? I rushed over to peek in. The tops of five, sleek, black-and-white heads were outlined in the dark. I left as quickly and quietly as I’d come, and never figured out who attacked the post. Once chicks are almost ready to fledge, they may leave the nest prematurely when disturbed, and face an even more dismal survival rate than normal. Luckily, they stuck tight. But, four days later, they were gone. Hopefully they fledged and are now hidden in the bushes, still begging for food. 

Anyone who’s watched a nest full of baby birds knows how thrilling it is to see them develop quickly from squawking, scraggly things into fluffy fledglings and then sleek young adults. 

Humans aren’t so different. The 18 years I’ve spent watching my nephew become an adult now seem just as short as my ten days of chickadees. Both birds and boys have big heads with big brains, and lots of curiosity. Despite those similarities, the differences are many. For one, my sister-in-law hates spiders and will be glad to learn that she escaped using them as baby food. On the other hand, chickadees might really be on to something with the way those spiders come out the other end. 

Emily’s second book, Natural Connections: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, is now available to purchase at Or order it from our friends at to receive free shipping!

For more than 50 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. The Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but we're still building our new exhibit and bringing you educational content. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and to see what we are up to.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fishing for Knowledge -- Award Winner!

(This article from last summer recently earned First Place in the Newspaper/Family Participation-Youth Outdoor Education category of the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s 2020 Excellence in Craft Contest! Emily’s book, Natural Connections 2: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, also won second place in the book category!)

The last time I felt like a serious angler I was 5 years old, and my brother and I were pulling crappies out from under a bridge one after another. I’m not sure my dad ever got a line in the water, because he was so busy removing our fish and replacing our worms from the stern of the canoe. That was an epic evening, and it became one of our most lovingly worn family stories. 

That was the peak of my fishing career. Fish are a murky mystery in my repertoire of natural history knowledge, but I’ve been trying to remedy that. A few weeks ago my learning came in the form of electroshocking trout with the DNR on the Namekagon River. More recently I joined a DNR crew to tag both sturgeon and smallmouth bass on the Couderay River. They’re monitoring the fish’s return after a dam removal downstream. Combining science with fishing on beautiful rivers is a treat, and I’ll tell you more about that later.

In between those two Museum programs, I rushed off to Yellowstone National Park for a quick trip with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and their four kids. It was the reunion tour of a 1989 family vacation when I was 7 and my brother Andy was 11. Like the evening of crappies, that trip to Yellowstone was an epic vacation we measured all others against. We watched a grizzly bear eating a fish in Hayden Valley, marveled at Old Faithful, and ate countless meals of pie-iron pizzas around various campfires. 

I wasn’t planning to make this vacation into another fish field trip, but my middle nephew, 15-year-old Derek, had his own plans. The rest of us were focused on seeing the geysers, mud pots, and hot springs; spotting the wildlife; and doing a little hiking. Derek only wanted to fish. The compromise: we made a point to find picnic areas near streams when we stopped for lunch and dinner. Derek fished while we ate.

The first evening we hit a jackpot. Our route from the Lamar Valley back down to West Yellowstone took us right past the Sheepeater Cliff picnic area just when our stomachs were starting to growl. Named after a small tribe of Native Americans who specialized in hunting bighorn sheep, the Sheepeater Cliffs are spectacular walls of columnar jointed basalt. That’s the same type of rock I’ve visited at Devil’s Postpile National Monument in California, and that many of us have seen at Gooseberry Falls State Park on Minnesota’s North Shore. 

The picnic area sits just beyond the jumble of rocks at the base of one cliff. It’s close enough that we kids (the 10-year-old twins and I) could scramble around while brats heated on our portable grill, and we all could watch marmots scurry through the talus while we ate. 

The Gardner River that exposed those cliffs just happens to be one of the few streams in Yellowstone where kids are allowed to fish with worms. Derek was in heaven. He caught his first fish within minutes. I was thrilled to recognize the little guy with light spots on a dark background as a brook trout—the favored son of the Namekagon River and its spring-fed tributaries that I’d helped catch while electrofishing. Derek soon squashed my excitement though, when he informed me that brook trout were introduced here, and that they are one of the culprits in the decline of the native cutthroat trout. 

I’ve known for several years that lake trout in Yellowstone Lake are a serious threat to cutthroats, since my friend Kris Millgate wrote about the gillnetting operations to remove non-native lakers. But I hadn’t paid attention to the less extreme fish competition and management happening in Yellowstone’s streams, until now. 

Later in the week, we found ourselves lighting charcoal at a different picnic area, and setting up an assembly line to make pie-iron pizzas. This would be the kids’ first experience with Andy’s and my favorite camping meal. Of course, Derek disappeared up the stream, and soon returned with a tiny little rainbow trout, less than 6 inches long. 

In some areas of the park, designated as “Nonnative Trout Tolerance Areas” even the introduced fish are so important to wildlife that anglers must release all rainbows and brown trout, and keep only a limit of 5 brookies. This evening’s creek was in a “Native Trout Conservation Area,” though, and the regulations require anglers to catch and release all native fish, but put no possession limit on nonnative fish. Soon that little rainbow—minus its head and guts—was steaming merrily in a foil packet on top of the coals. 

Later—with his pizza sitting nearby getting cold—Derek expertly removed the fish’s spine and ribs in one elegant piece. Chewing thoughtfully, he announced that he could taste the sulfur from the hot springs that flowed into this creek, and offered me a bite. I accepted the flaky white chunk of perfectly cooked meat, and decided that whatever sulfur I sensed was through my nose not my tongue: Yellowstone’s own terroir. 

Rainbow trout are non-native species in Yellowstone National Park, and eating them benefits the survival of the native cutthroat trout. My nephew Derek was happy to do his part for conservation. Photo by Emily Stone. 

I’ll probably never be a more serious angler than that evening when I was 5, but I’m happy to report that by hanging out with the experts, I’m slowly filling in some gaps in my natural history knowledge. Derek’s obsession with fishing gave us all a better understanding of the conservation happening in America’s first national park, and those experiences are now part of a new generation of family stories. 

Emily’s second book, Natural Connections: Dreaming of an Elfin Skimmer, is now available to purchase at Or order it from our friends at to receive free shipping!

For more than 50 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. The Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but we're still building our new exhibit and bringing you educational content. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and to see what we are up to.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Natural Connections 2 Wins Award!

I'm thrilled to announce that I earned three awards in the 
2020 Excellence in Craft Contest for the 
Outdoor Writers Association of America!

Second Place, Book Category

First Place, Newspaper/
Family Participation-Youth Outdoor Education 

Second Place, Newspaper/
Family Participation-Youth Outdoor Education,