Faces of Duluth tells the stories of the people behind Duluth’s iconic attractions, hidden gems and everything in between. Traveling to Duluth? Learn the locals’ tips and tricks for seeing all the city has to offer.
Situated on Great Lake Superior, Duluth is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with more than 6,800 acres of city parkland and 178 miles of wooded trail all within the city limits, there’s hiking, biking, birding and so much more, right outside the door. It’s no wonder that a place this special would be the perfect destination for a nature photographer and writer to call home.
Dudley Edmondson has done just that, making his home in Duluth while working as a photographer, filmmaker, writer and public speaker. His work – which often focuses on conservation and inclusion in the outdoors – has taken him from the Arctic Circle of Alaska to the Bahamas, and many places in between. Yet, he continues to return to Duluth to embrace the natural wonders of this unique place.
What’s your Duluth story?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in 1989, I moved to Duluth to pursue a career as a professional nature photographer. While I’ve certainly had my share of travels, I have always loved wilderness and nature, and Duluth seemed like a nice balance, with the man-made world and access to wild places right out my front door.
What do you love about Duluth?
It’s like a city built inside a national park. It has such great access to remote, wild places. I can hop on my gravel bike in the Lakeside neighborhood and ride city streets that eventually transition into county roads, and in about 30 minutes, I can be immersed in forests and farmland having never pushed a car accelerator. I love that! I also really enjoy watching birds and pollinators, along with cycling, fly fishing, camping and so much more.
What are some of your favorite things to do with guests from out of town?
When I have guests in town, I take them to some of my favorite hiking spots, like Hawk Ridge Nature Preserve, Minnesota Point or the Brighton Beach area.
What draws you to highlight nature, conservation and inclusion in your work?
My love of nature goes back to my childhood. I grew up in a household with loving parents, but they both had issues with alcohol. It was very traumatizing for me and my siblings, and nature was my escape. I found when I connected with nature that stress and trauma could be managed. It’s why I try to get people to find their way out into the natural world, particularly people of color who are under higher levels of daily stress for just not being white in a white-dominated country. Nature is a healing place – it helped me, and it can help others, too.
What are some recommendations to help visitors fully take in their natural surroundings while in Duluth, and why is it important to spend time outside?
Duluth has lots of great parks to enjoy that make it easy to be immersed in nature, including Lester Park, Lincoln Park, Hawk Ridge Nature Preserve and so many others. They offer great trails, amazing views of our natural landscape and a chance to get away from the daily pressures of life. Being out in nature is a great way to release stress and unwind – it’s a reminder that there is more to life than the man-made world and human constructs and concepts. Most of those things mean nothing to plants and animals. You can forget about all of that for a while when you’re outside.
How can those who use Duluth’s parks and trails do so responsibly to avoid damaging resources and ensure they are here for all to enjoy for years to come?
Be responsible. Some people go outdoors and think it’s a giant personal playground they can have fun in and trash – that is not the right way to recreate. Treat it as if you were a guest in someone else’s home. Be respectful of both the plants and animals that live there, and of the other visitors. These are shared spaces that belong to everyone, and we all need to do our part to protect them.
What can visitors expect to see while they’re enjoying Duluth’s parks and trails?
As I mentioned, Duluth is like a city inside a national park. There are interesting birds, mammals, plants and animals that are associated with Northern boreal and mixed forest habitats that can be found everywhere. Spring and fall are the best times to visit for those who particularly enjoy the flora and fauna, as there is lots of activity, including bird migrations, spring wildflowers and beautiful fall colors. If you are a nature lover, Duluth can be a paradise.
Dudley Edmondson’s two books, “Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places” and “What’s That Flower” (a beginner’s flower field guide) can be purchased through his website, DudleyEdmondson.com.