Togo, Minnesota is a remote outpost in Itasca County, about thirty five miles northwest of Hibbing. Located in George Washington State Forest, a wilderness covering more than three hundred thousand acres, Togo is an outdoor paradise in warm and cold weather. This part of Minnesota is characterized by numerous marshes and bogs, punctuated with tamarack and black spruce trees, thousands of which are dead in the wet, low-lying areas. The result is acres of bare tree trunks, devoid of foliage — just stalks pointing to the sky like a scene from a post-apocalyptic disaster movie. In truth, it’s just a stage, a momentary snapshot in the natural renewal of the forest.
Togo’s motto is “Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins,” and it’s a motto that couldn’t be more exact. There are a number of campgrounds in the area for anyone who wants to sleep under the stars among the pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees, and Togo is one of few places where there might be even more recreation in the winter. Snowmobiles are as common as automobiles in the cold months, and Togo is something of a mushing mecca where you can get sled dog training.
Togo had a post office, founded in 1905, and the town was reportedly named for Admiral Togo by Miles Nelson, the first Postmaster. An unsourced history of Togo states the original post office (not shown) is now a residence.
The building shown here is the former Togo Public School which reportedly became a residence after the students were gone, although it did not appear to be occupied when these photos were taken.
There are a few inhabited homes and some buildings in Togo which are obviously still in use, but the only business appears to be Junction Bar & Grill, where they have a Fourth of July parade, and they keep track of the hottest and coldest days of the year on a blackboard. At the time of this writing, the coldest day of 2015 was -35 on January 5th, and the warmest was a July day when the mercury reached 95.
Since 1955, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has operated a juvenile correctional facility near Togo known as Thistledew Camp, which focuses on wilderness training. There is also a boot camp for women in the Minnesota penal system.
If you’re looking for a scenic drive, a pure forest experience without truck stops or convenience stores or rest areas, the drive west from Togo to Effie, Minnesota on State Highway 1 is a trip you will never forget.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media