Parks & Recreation

Chester Park History


From Zenith: A Postcard Perspective of Historic Duluth, copyright © 2005, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota

Many Duluthians believe that Chester Park was named for Chester Congdon, the iron mining lawyer who, along with his wife, Clara, built Glensheen, Duluth’s most famous mansion. Not true. The park takes its name from Charles Chester, who homesteaded a property along the creek near what is now Fifth Street, just east of Thirteenth Avenue East, on May 31, 1856. (The park was originally called Garfield Park for President James Garfield; the name was changed in 1903.)

One of Duluth’s first four parks, Chester Park lies roughly between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Avenues East and stretches from Kenwood Avenue to Fourth Street, where the creek runs under the street and, a few blocks later, disappears beneath the city before it emerges near Leif Erikson Park and empties into Lake Superior. When the first leg of Skyline Parkway was completed, it stretched from Lincoln Park’s Miller Creek to Chester Creek. The park became both a launching point and destination for Tally-ho excursions along the parkway. Later, bus tours operated out of the park.

The park’s 108 acres include 2.5 miles of hiking trail, much of it on either side of the creek in Lower Chester (the area from just below Skyline Parkway to Fourth Street); parts of the trail run high above a gorge created by erosion while at other points the path follows the creek just a few feet from the water’s edge. Lower Chester is home to a pair of footbridges, several waterfalls, and a cauldron known as Devil’s Hole. Stone retaining walls constructed by the Work Projects Administration in the 1930s still hold back the sloping hillside. Upper Chester, also known as Chester Bowl, sits above Skyline Parkway. It holds four miles of cross-country ski and hiking trails as well as soccer fields (flooded in the winter for ice skating), a small ski hill, and three old and famous ski jumps . Behind the ski jumps the terrain flattens out for several acres, providing visitors with one of Duluth’s best views of the lake from a natural setting.

The image above is of the rustic bridge over the “Big Ten” waterfall, which forms a couldrum directly under the footbridge. During the dog days of summer kids can be found cooling themselves in the cauldron’s waters, some of them jumping from the ledge just below the bridge on the east side of the gorge. The wooden bridge has long since been replaced.

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