Geocaching app allows glimpse into Cloquet’s past

Cloquet resident Erin Bates built an Adventure Lab tour highlighting significant spots in the city’s history from the 1918 fires to the Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station.

The Duluth & Northeastern Railroad Engine No. 16 is one of five stops on a walking history tour of Cloquet developed by resident Erin Bates using the geocaching app Adventure Lab. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Cloquet’s Dunlap Island, in the middle of the St. Louis River, contains most of the oldest buildings in the city, and now resident Erin Bates has created an activity to allow people young and old to experience the history.

Bates is a geocacher — a hobby where people use GPS to hide and locate “geocaches” at specific locations all over the world.

While home over the past few weeks from her job with Duluth Public Schools Community Education, Bates developed a walking history tour of Cloquet using geocaching in the app Adventure Lab.

The tour takes users through five stops from Dunlap Island to the Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station at the corner of Cloquet Avenue and Highway 33 and provides a walking tour of the oldest parts of Cloquet.

The tour starts with a stop on Dunlap Island highlighting the rough, changing waters of the St. Louis River as the reason Cloquet developed as a stopping point for lumber coming down the river instead of much larger Duluth. The app sends a notification when the user is within 100 feet of the site. After a short video, users can answer a trivia question about how far the river drops between Cloquet and the mouth of the St. Louis River that created an opportunity for the city to grow.


“If it wasn’t for that, Cloquet wouldn’t be here,” Bates said. “Duluth would be the big lumber town.”

Bates started developing the tour a few months ago, but posted it on social media when schools closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Parents and kids can walk to all the places on the tour and learn a little about the history of the town they live in, all while continuing to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The tour proceeds to the Northeastern Hotel — one of the only buildings in Cloquet to survive the 1918 fires — with stops by the USG facility, the Duluth & Northeastern Railroad Engine No. 16 and ends at the Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station.

There are other Adventure Lab tours in Duluth and the Twin Cities, but there was nothing in Cloquet, so Bates took it upon herself to provide an activity for local residents who are spending increasing amounts of time in their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s a good opportunity to learn a little about Cloquet’s history,” Bates said. “It’s a nice activity and you can kind of go off and do it on your own and avoid big crowds.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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