North Shore Community Climate Readiness

Nature-based recreation and tourism is a driving force of Lake Superior's North Shore economy. Tourists engage in many seasonally dependent activities including hiking, camping, biking, scenic driving, fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling. The North Shore is also a gateway to important nature tourism areas including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and multiple state parks and forests. And it is homeland to the Ojibwe people and part of the 1854 Treaty-ceded Territory by which three bands of Lake Superior Chippewa have reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather. Altered climatic conditions could drastically impact North Shore tourism, tourism-dependent businesses, and the health and well-being of Indigenous communities that depend directly on healthy natural ecosystems for cultural survival and sovereignty.

The North Shore Community Climate Readiness project was a multi-methods research and outreach project, conducted from 2014-2019, which focused on exploring how projected hydroclimatic conditions will affect the behaviors of recreationists and tourists and impact local economies. The project combines hydroclimatic modeling with social science methodologies to estimate shifts in a demand for recreation and tourism under alternative future emissions scenarios. The project team consisted of biophysical and social science researchers from the UMN, North Carolina State University, and Carleton College. The project was funded by the Minnesota Sea Grant. 

The overarching research goals were:

  • To assess the capacity of local communities to adapt to changing climatic conditions using stakeholder interviews, workshops, and a content analysis of local management plans.
  • To determine the risks to nature-based recreation resources and tourism destinations using hydroclimatic modeling, past visitation data and on-site visitor surveys.

Together the findings from the adaptive capacity and destination risk assessments will allow researchers to work with local communities to

  • Identify scientifically grounded planning and management recommendations to be used by local community planners, natural resource managers and elected officials. 


Lake Superior shoreline scene
North shore ski trail sign
North shore winter scene