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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Overview
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA), is a 1090000 acre (4,411.1 km²) wilderness area within the Superior National Forest
Superior National Forest
Superior National Forest, part of the United States National Forest system, is located in the Arrowhead Region of the state of Minnesota between the Canada – United States border and the north shore of Lake Superior...

 in northeastern Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 (USA) under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

. The BWCAW is renowned as a destination for both canoeing
Canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

 and fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 on its many lakes and is the most visited wilderness in the United States.

The BWCAW is located on the U.S.-Canadian border in the Arrowhead Region
Arrowhead Region
The Arrowhead Region is located in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Minnesota, so called because of its pointed shape. The predominantly rural region encompasses of land area and comprises Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis Counties. Its population at the 2000 census was 248,425 residents...

 of Minnesota.
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Encyclopedia
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA), is a 1090000 acre (4,411.1 km²) wilderness area within the Superior National Forest
Superior National Forest
Superior National Forest, part of the United States National Forest system, is located in the Arrowhead Region of the state of Minnesota between the Canada – United States border and the north shore of Lake Superior...

 in northeastern Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 (USA) under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

. The BWCAW is renowned as a destination for both canoeing
Canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

 and fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 on its many lakes and is the most visited wilderness in the United States.

Geography


The BWCAW is located on the U.S.-Canadian border in the Arrowhead Region
Arrowhead Region
The Arrowhead Region is located in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Minnesota, so called because of its pointed shape. The predominantly rural region encompasses of land area and comprises Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis Counties. Its population at the 2000 census was 248,425 residents...

 of Minnesota. Along with Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is a United States National Park in northern Minnesota near the town of International Falls. It was established in 1975. The park's name commemorates the voyageurs, French-Canadian fur traders who were the first European settlers to frequently travel through the area...

 to the west and the Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 Quetico
Quetico Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park is a large wilderness park in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, renowned for its excellent canoeing and fishing. This park shares its southern border with Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is part of the larger Superior National Forest...

 and La Verendrye
La Verendrye Provincial Park
La Verendrye Provincial Park is a waterway provincial park located in Ontario, Canada, on the border of Minnesota, USA. The park stretches from Quetico Provincial Park through Lake Saganaga, up the Pine River, across the Height of Land Portage, then down the Pigeon River to Pigeon River Provincial...

 Provincial Parks to the north, they make up a large area of contiguous wilderness lakes and forests called the "Quetico-Superior country", or simply the Boundary Waters
Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters — also called the Quetico-Superior country — is a region of wilderness straddling the Canada–United States border between Ontario and Minnesota, in the region just west of Lake Superior. This region is part of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, and in Canada...

. Lake Superior
Lake Superior
Lake Superior is the largest of the five traditionally-demarcated Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is the largest freshwater lake in the...

 lies to the east of the Boundary Waters.

The continental divide
Continental divide
A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea...

 between the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

 and Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

 watershed
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

s runs northeast–southwest through the east side of the BWCAW, following the crest of the Superior Upland and Gunflint Range
Gunflint Range
The Gunflint Range is an iron ore deposit in northern Minnesota in the United States and Northwestern Ontario, Canada. The range extends from the extreme northern portion of Cook County, Minnesota into Canada....

. The crossing of the divide at Height of Land Portage
Height of Land Portage
Height of Land Portage is a portage along the historic Boundary Waters route between Canada and the United States. Located at the border of the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S...

 was the occasion for ceremony and initiation rites for the fur-trading
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

 Voyageurs of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The wilderness also includes the highest peak in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain
Eagle Mountain (Minnesota)
Eagle Mountain is the highest natural point in Minnesota, at . It is located in northern Cook County and is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest in the Misquah Hills, northwest of the community of Grand Marais. It is a Minnesota State Historic Site.Eagle...

 (2,301 feet / 701 m), part of the Misquah Hills
Misquah Hills
The Misquah Hills are a range of large hills or small mountains in northeastern Minnesota, in the United States. They are located in or near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness within Superior National Forest...

.

The two main communities with visitor services near the BWCAW are Ely
Ely, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,724 people, 1,912 households, and 916 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,369.5 people per square mile . There were 1,912 housing units at an average density of 703.2 per square mile...

 and Grand Marais, Minnesota
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Grand Marais is a city in Cook County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 1,351 at the 2010 census. It is also the county seat of Cook County...

. The smaller town of Tofte
Tofte Township, Minnesota
Tofte Township is one of the three townships of Cook County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 226 at the 2000 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 162.6 square miles , of which, 154.6 square miles of it is land and...

 is another gateway community. Several historic roads, such as the Gunflint Trail
Gunflint Trail
Cook County Road 12, also known as the Gunflint Trail, is a paved roadway that begins in Grand Marais, Minnesota and ends at Saganaga Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , near the US border with Ontario, Canada.-Route description:...

, the Echo Trail, and Fernberg Road allow access to the many wilderness entry points.

Natural history



Geology


The lakes of the BWCAW are located in depressions formed by differential erosion of the tilted layers of the Canadian Shield
Canadian Shield
The Canadian Shield, also called the Laurentian Plateau, or Bouclier Canadien , is a vast geological shield covered by a thin layer of soil that forms the nucleus of the North American or Laurentia craton. It is an area mostly composed of igneous rock which relates to its long volcanic history...

. For the past two million years
Quaternary glaciation
Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, the current ice age or simply the ice age, refers to the period of the last few million years in which permanent ice sheets were established in Antarctica and perhaps Greenland, and fluctuating ice sheets have occurred elsewhere...

, massive sheets of ice
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

 have repeatedly scoured the landscape; the last glacial period ended with the retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet
Laurentide ice sheet
The Laurentide Ice Sheet was a massive sheet of ice that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles, including most of Canada and a large portion of the northern United States, multiple times during Quaternary glacial epochs. It last covered most of northern North America between c. 95,000 and...

 from the Boundary Waters about 17,000 years ago. The resulting depressions in the landscape later filled with water, becoming the lakes of today.

Many varieties of Precambrian
Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 bedrock are exposed, including granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

, basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

, greenstone
Greenstone belt
Greenstone belts are zones of variably metamorphosed mafic to ultramafic volcanic sequences with associated sedimentary rocks that occur within Archaean and Proterozoic cratons between granite and gneiss bodies....

, gneiss
Gneiss
Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of rock formed by high-grade regional metamorphic processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous or sedimentary rocks.-Etymology:...

, as well as metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

s derived from volcanic
Volcanic rock
Volcanic rock is a rock formed from magma erupted from a volcano. In other words, it is an igneous rock of volcanic origin...

 and sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

s. Greenstone of the Superior craton
Superior craton
The Superior craton forms the core of the Canadian Shield at the heart of the North American continent. It extends from Quebec in the east to eastern Manitoba in the west...

 located near Ely, Minnesota is up to 2.7 billion years old, some of the oldest exposed rock in the United States. Igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

s of the Duluth Complex
Duluth Complex
The Duluth Complex, the related Beaver Bay Complex , and the associated North Shore Volcanic Group are rock formations which comprise much of the basement bedrock of the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Minnesota...

 comprise the bedrock of the eastern Boundary Waters. Ancient microfossils have been found in the banded iron formation
Banded iron formation
Banded iron formations are distinctive units of sedimentary rock that are almost always of Precambrian age. A typical BIF consists of repeated, thin layers of iron oxides, either magnetite or hematite , alternating with bands of iron-poor shale and chert...

s of the Gunflint Chert
Gunflint Chert
The Gunflint chert is a sequence of banded iron formation rocks that are exposed in the Gunflint Range of northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Superior. The black layers in the sequence contain microfossils that are 1.9 to 2.3 billion years in age. Stromatolite...

.

Forest ecology


The Boundary Waters area contains both the boreal forest (taiga
Taiga
Taiga , also known as the boreal forest, is a biome characterized by coniferous forests.Taiga is the world's largest terrestrial biome. In North America it covers most of inland Canada and Alaska as well as parts of the extreme northern continental United States and is known as the Northwoods...

) and a mixed conifer-hardwood forest known as the North Woods
North Woods
The Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, also known as the North Woods, is a forested ecoregion in Canada and the United States. In Canada it is found in Ontario around the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River through Quebec to Quebec City...

, which is a transition province between the northern boreal forest and deciduous forests to the south. The ranges of the plants and animals continue north into southern Canada and south into the rest of the upper Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

 region. Trees found within the wilderness area include conifers such as red pine
Red Pine
Pinus resinosa, commonly known as the red pine or Norway pine, is pine native to North America. The Red Pine occurs from Newfoundland west to Manitoba, and south to Pennsylvania, with several smaller, disjunct populations occurring in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia, as well...

, eastern white pine
Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus, commonly known as the eastern white pine, is a large pine native to eastern North America, occurring from Newfoundland west to Minnesota and southeastern Manitoba, and south along the Appalachian Mountains to the northern edge of Georgia.It is occasionally known as simply white pine,...

, jack pine
Jack Pine
Jack pine is a North American pine with its native range in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains from Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia, and the northeast of the United States from Minnesota to Maine, with the southernmost part of the range just into northwest Indiana...

, balsam fir, white spruce, black spruce, and white-cedar
Thuja occidentalis
Thuja occidentalis is an evergreen coniferous tree, in the cypress family Cupressaceae, which is widely cultivated for use as an ornamental plant known as American Arbor Vitae. The endemic occurrence of this species is a northeastern distribution in North America...

, as well as deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

  birch, aspen
Populus tremuloides
Populus tremuloides is a deciduous tree native to cooler areas of North America, commonly called quaking aspen, trembling aspen, American aspen, and Quakies,. The trees have tall trunks, up to 25 metres, with smooth pale bark, scarred with black. The glossy green leaves, dull beneath, become golden...

, ash, and maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

. Blueberries are common in many parts of the BWCAW, as are raspberries
Rubus strigosus
Rubus strigosus, the American Red Raspberry or American Raspberry, is a species of Rubus native to much of North America. It has often been treated as a variety or subspecies of the closely related Eurasian Rubus idaeus , but currently is more commonly treated as a distinct...

. The BWCAW is estimated to contain some 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of old growth forest
Old growth forest
An old-growth forest is a forest that has attained great age , and thereby exhibits unique ecological features. An old growth forest has also usually reached a climax community...

, woods which may have burned but which have never been logged. Forest fires
Wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

 were a natural part of the Boundary Waters ecosystem before fire suppression efforts during the 20th century, with recurrence intervals of 30 – 300 years in most areas.

On July 4, 1999, a powerful wind storm, or derecho
Derecho
A derecho is a widespread and long-lived, violent convectively induced straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms in the form of a squall line usually taking the form of a bow echo...

, swept across Minnesota and southern Canada, knocking down millions of trees and affecting about 370,000 acres (1,500 km2) within the BWCAW. This event became known officially as the Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho
Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho
The Boundary Waters – Canadian Derecho, , was an international derecho that occurred during the afternoon and evening hours of July 4 and the early morning hours of July 5, 1999. It traveled and lasted 22 hours.-North Dakota:In the pre-dawn hours of July 4, a band of thunderstorms developed...

, commonly referred to as "the Boundary Waters blowdown". Although campsite
Campsite
A campsite or camping pitch is a place used for overnight stay in the outdoors. In British English a campsite is an area, usually divided into a number of pitches, where people can camp overnight using tents or camper vans or caravans; this British English use of the word is synonymous with the...

s and portages were quickly cleared after the storm, an increased risk of wildfire continues to remain a concern due to the large number of downed trees. The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a schedule of prescribed burns
Controlled burn
Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or Swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for...

 to reduce the forest fuel load in the event of a wildfire.

The first major wildfire within the blowdown occurred in August 2005, burning approximately 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) north of Seagull Lake in the northeastern BWCAW. In July 2006 the Cavity Lake fire burned over 30,000 acres (120 km2), while the Turtle Lake Fire burned 2,000 acres (8 km2). In May 2007, there was another wildfire that originated around Ham Lake, just to the east of the Cavity Lake fire. The Ham Lake Fire was the most extensive wildfire in Minnesota in 90 years. It burned from May 5 to May 20, and eventually covered 76000 acres (307.6 km²) in Minnesota and Ontario.

Pagami Creek fire


A 2011 wildfire sparked by lightning grew, as of September 13, to over 100,000 acres, spreading beyond the Wildnerness boundaries to threaten homes and businesses. Smoke from the fires was drifting east and south as far as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan. It is commonly referred to as the Upper Peninsula, the U.P., or Upper Michigan. It is also known as the land "above the Bridge" linking the two peninsulas. The peninsula is bounded...

, Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

.

Fauna



Animals native to the region include moose
Moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

, beaver
American Beaver
The North American Beaver is the only species of beaver in the Americas, native to North America and introduced to South America. In the United States and Canada, where no other species of beaver occurs, it is usually simply referred to as "beaver"...

, bears
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

, bobcat
Bobcat
The bobcat is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae, appearing during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago . With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including most of the continental United States...

s, bald eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

s, peregrine falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

s and loons
Great Northern Diver
The Great Northern Loon, Great Northern Diver, or Common Loon , is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds...

. The Boundary Waters is within the range of the largest population of wolves in the contiguous United States
Contiguous United States
The contiguous United States are the 48 U.S. states on the continent of North America that are south of Canada and north of Mexico, plus the District of Columbia....

, as well as an unknown number of Canada lynx. Woodland caribou
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

 once inhabited the region but have disappeared due to loss of habitat, encroachment by deer
White-tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer , also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States , Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru...

, and the brainworm parasite
Parelaphostrongylus tenuis
Parelaphostrongylus tenuis is a small parasitic nematode that infects the brain of many ungulates. Its natural host, the white-tailed deer, is unaffected by its presence; other species, however, suffer severe neurologic damage that eventually leads to death...

 carried by deer which is harmful to caribou and moose populations. Increasing deer numbers may also affect the future of vegetation in this region as they favor some species over others, such as white-cedar.

Native peoples


Within the BWCAW are hundreds of prehistoric pictographs and petroglyph
Petroglyph
Petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images...

s on rock ledges and cliffs. The BWCAW is part of the historic homeland of the Ojibwe
Ojibwa
The Ojibwe or Chippewa are among the largest groups of Native Americans–First Nations north of Mexico. They are divided between Canada and the United States. In Canada, they are the third-largest population among First Nations, surpassed only by Cree and Inuit...

 people, who traveled the waterways in canoe
Canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

s made of birch
Birch
Birch is a tree or shrub of the genus Betula , in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae. The Betula genus contains 30–60 known taxa...

 bark
Bark
Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside of the vascular cambium and is a nontechnical term. It overlays the wood and consists of the inner bark and the outer bark. The inner...

. Prior to Ojibwe settlement, the area was sparsely populated by the Sioux
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 who dispersed westward following the arrival of the Ojibwe. The Grand Portage Indian Reservation
Grand Portage Indian Reservation
The Grand Portage Indian Reservation is located in Cook County near the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead Region in the extreme northeast part of the state. The community was considered part of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa, but is not a party to the treaties that group signed...

, just east of the BWCAW at the settlement of Grand Portage, is home to a number of Ojibwe to this day.

Fur trade



In 1688, the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 explorer Jacques de Noyon
Jacques de Noyon
Jacques de Noyon was a French Canadian explorer and coureur des bois. He is the first known European to visit the Boundary Waters region west of Lake Superior.Jacques de Noyon was born on February 12, 1668, in Trois-Rivières, New France...

 became the first European known to have traveled through the Boundary Waters. Later during the 1730s, La Vérendrye and others opened the region to trade, mainly in beaver pelts. By the end of the 18th century, the fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

 had been organized into groups of canoe-paddling Voyageurs
Voyageurs
The Voyageurs were the persons who engaged in the transportation of furs by canoe during the fur trade era. Voyageur is a French word which literally translates to "traveler"...

 working for the competing North West
North West Company
The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson's Bay Company in what was to become Western Canada...

 and Hudson's Bay
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

 Companies, with a North West Company fort located at Grand Portage
Grand Portage, Minnesota
Grand Portage is an unorganized territory in Cook County, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, at the northeast corner of the state near the border with northwestern Ontario. The population was 557 at the 2000 census...

 on Lake Superior. The US-Canadian border, the northern border of most of the BWCAW follows one of the primary voyageur routes.

Development and protection


In the 1920s Edward Backus
Edward Wellington Backus
Edward Wellington Backus was a timber baron, dam builder, mill owner, financier, developer of the northern reaches of Minnesota, and president of the Ontario & Minnesota Power Company and Minnesota and Ontario Paper Company...

, a local industrialist, proposed building several dams in the region, which was successfully opposed by Ernest Oberholtzer
Ernest Oberholtzer
Ernest Carl Oberholtzer was an American explorer, author and conservationist.Nicknamed "Ober", he was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, but he lived most of his adult life in Minnesota. Oberholtzer attended Harvard University and received a bachelor of arts degree, but left after one year of...

. By 1926, the Superior Roadless Area had been designated by the U.S. Forest Service, offering some protection from mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, logging
Logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, and hydroelectric
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 projects, although logging would not cease completely until 1979. The Wilderness Act
Wilderness Act
The Wilderness Act of 1964 was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society. It created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, and protected some 9 million acres of federal land. The result of a long effort to protect federal wilderness, the Wilderness Act was signed...

 of 1964 made the BWCAW legal wilderness as a unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System
National Wilderness Preservation System
The National Wilderness Preservation System of the United States protects federally managed land areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. It was established by the Wilderness Act upon the signature of President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964...

, while the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act
The BWCA Wilderness Act of 1978 created the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , which was previously known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The bill was introduced in October 1975 by United States Congressman Jim Oberstar and was a source of major controversy and debate...

 established the Boundary Waters regulations much as they are today with motors allowed only on a few large entry point lakes.

Several aspects of the management of the BWCAW remain controversial today, including the use of motorboat
Motorboat
A motorboat is a boat which is powered by an engine. Some motorboats are fitted with inboard engines, others have an outboard motor installed on the rear, containing the internal combustion engine, the gearbox and the propeller in one portable unit.An inboard/outboard contains a hybrid of a...

s, snowmobile
Snowmobile
A snowmobile, also known in some places as a snowmachine, or sled,is a land vehicle for winter travel on snow. Designed to be operated on snow and ice, they require no road or trail. Design variations enable some machines to operate in deep snow or forests; most are used on open terrain, including...

s, motorized portage
Portage
Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying watercraft or cargo over land to avoid river obstacles, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage; a person doing the carrying is called a porter.The English word portage is derived from the...

s, permit availability and allocation, as well as suggestions to expand the wilderness area.

Many groups, such as the Boy Scout
Boy Scout
A Scout is a boy or a girl, usually 11 to 18 years of age, participating in the worldwide Scouting movement. Because of the large age and development span, many Scouting associations have split this age group into a junior and a senior section...

s and other service organizations, volunteer in the area to maintain the portage trails.

Recreation



The BWCAW contains over a thousand lakes and attracts visitors with its reputation for canoeing
Canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

, canoe touring
Canoe camping
Canoe camping is a combination of canoeing and camping. It is similar to backpacking, but canoe campers travel by canoes or kayaks...

, fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

, backpacking
Backpacking (wilderness)
Backpacking combines the activities of hiking and camping for an overnight stay in backcountry wilderness...

, dog sledding
Mushing
Mushing is a general term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs, and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow or a rig on dry land...

, and remote wilderness
Wilderness
Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with...

 character. The BWCAW has nearly 2,200 backcountry campsites. The BWCAW is one of Minnesota's top tourist attractions, drawing visitors from all over the United States as well as abroad. Permits are required for all overnight visits to the wilderness area. Quota permits are required for groups taking an overnight paddle, motor, or hiking trip, or a motorized day-use trip into the BWCAW from May 1 through September 30. These permits must be reserved in advance. From October 1 through April 30, permit reservations are not necessary, but a permit must be filled out at the permit stations located at each entry point.

Canoeing



Although there are numerous drive-in campgrounds surrounding the wilderness, most campsite
Campsite
A campsite or camping pitch is a place used for overnight stay in the outdoors. In British English a campsite is an area, usually divided into a number of pitches, where people can camp overnight using tents or camper vans or caravans; this British English use of the word is synonymous with the...

s in the BWCAW are accessible only by water. As of 1999, about 75% of the BWCAW's water area was reserved for non-motorized boat travel. Most lakes and rivers are interconnected by portage
Portage
Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying watercraft or cargo over land to avoid river obstacles, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage; a person doing the carrying is called a porter.The English word portage is derived from the...

 trails, resulting in over 1000 miles (1,609.3 km) of canoe
Canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

 routes. Chains of lakes and portages of various lengths and difficulties can be combined to create either linear or circular routes. Some of the most popular entry points include Lake One, Trout Lake, Mudro Lake, Moose Lake, and Snowbank Lake near Ely, Saganaga Lake and Seagull Lake at the end of the Gunflint Trail
Gunflint Trail
Cook County Road 12, also known as the Gunflint Trail, is a paved roadway that begins in Grand Marais, Minnesota and ends at Saganaga Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , near the US border with Ontario, Canada.-Route description:...

, and Sawbill Lake
Sawbill Lake
Sawbill Lake is a lake in Cook County, Minnesota. It is a popular entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest. Sawbill is a nickname of a Common Merganser Duck. There is a United States Forest Service cabin, a canoe outfitter, and a campground...

 near Tofte.

Canoe campers often use Duluth pack
Duluth pack
A Duluth pack, or portage pack, is a traditional piece of luggage used in canoe travel, particularly in the Boundary Waters region of northern Minnesota and Ontario. A specialized type of backpack, Duluth packs are made of either heavy canvas or nylon, and are approximately square in order to fit...

s, designed for easy portaging and loading in canoes, to carry their gear.

Fishing


Fishing is a popular activity in the BWCAW. Game species include northern pike
Northern Pike
The northern pike , is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox...

, walleye
Walleye
Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish native to most of Canada and to the northern United States. It is a North American close relative of the European pikeperch...

, largemouth
Largemouth bass
The largemouth bass is a species of black bass in the sunfish family native to North America . It is also known as widemouth bass, bigmouth, black bass, bucketmouth, Potter's fish, Florida bass, Florida largemouth, green bass, green trout, linesides, Oswego bass, southern largemouth...

 and smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass
The smallmouth bass is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family of the order Perciformes. It is the type species of its genus...

, yellow perch
Yellow perch
The yellow perch is a species of perch found in the United States and Canada, where it is often referred to by the shortform perch. Yellow perch look similar to the European perch, but are paler and more yellowish, with less red in the fins. They have six to eight dark, vertical bars on their sides...

, whitefish
Common whitefish
Coregonus lavaretus is a species of freshwater whitefish, in the family Salmonidae. It is the type species of its genus Coregonus.There are widely different concepts about the number of species in the genus Coregonus and the delimitation of the species Coregonus lavaretus.-Lavaret:In a narrow...

, and lake trout
Lake trout
Lake trout is a freshwater char living mainly in lakes in northern North America. Other names for it include mackinaw, lake char , touladi, togue, and grey trout. In Lake Superior, they can also be variously known as siscowet, paperbellies and leans...

, among others. A small number of lakes are stocked with brook trout
Brook trout
The brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, is a species of fish in the salmon family of order Salmoniformes. In many parts of its range, it is known as the speckled trout or squaretail. A potamodromous population in Lake Superior are known as coaster trout or, simply, as coasters...

 as well. Popular lure
Fishing lure
A fishing lure is an object attached to the end of a fishing line which is designed to resemble and move like the prey of a fish. The purpose of the lure is to use movement, vibration, and colour to catch the fish's attention so it bites the hook...

s include rapala
Rapala
Rapala is the world's largest manufacturer of fishing lures and other fishing related products. It was founded in Finland in the 1930s by Lauri Rapala. Their most popular product is a balsa wood minnow imitation lure called the Original Floater....

s, jig
Jig (fishing)
Jigging is the practice of fishing with a jig, a type of fishing lure. A jig consists of a lead sinker with a hook molded into it and usually covered by a soft body to attract fish. Jigs are intended to create a jerky, vertical motion, as opposed to spinnerbaits which move through the water...

s, and spoon
Spoon lure
A spoon lure, in sport fishing, is an oblong, concave lure, usually of metal or shell, shaped like the bowl of a spoon. The spoon lure is mainly used to attract fish by reflecting light and moving randomly.The spoon lure was invented by Julio T...

s, while live bait such as leech
Leech
Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea. Like other oligochaetes such as earthworms, leeches share a clitellum and are hermaphrodites. Nevertheless, they differ from other oligochaetes in significant ways...

es are also used. Multi-sectioned or collapsible fishing rod
Fishing rod
A fishing rod or a fishing pole is a tool used to catch fish, usually in conjunction with the pastime of angling, and can also be used in competition casting. . A length of fishing line is attached to a long, flexible rod or pole: one end terminates in a hook for catching the fish...

s are often used for ease in carrying while portaging.

Hiking



In addition to shorter trails to Eagle Mountain
Eagle Mountain (Minnesota)
Eagle Mountain is the highest natural point in Minnesota, at . It is located in northern Cook County and is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest in the Misquah Hills, northwest of the community of Grand Marais. It is a Minnesota State Historic Site.Eagle...

, Magnetic Rock, and Angleworm Lake, the Boundary Waters has several long-distance
Long-distance trail
Long-distance trails are the longer recreational trails mainly through rural areas, used for non-motorised recreational travelling ....

 trails. The Border Route Trail
Border Route Trail
The Border Route Trail is a long hiking trail that crosses the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the far northeast corner of Minnesota and follows the international border between Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. It connects with the Superior Hiking Trail on its eastern terminus and with...

 runs east-west for over 60 miles (96.6 km) through the eastern BWCAW, following the ridges between the long border lakes such as Loon, South, and Rose. Eventually, a connection is planned from the eastern end of the Border Route Trail to the northern end of the Superior Hiking Trail
Superior Hiking Trail
The Superior Hiking Trail, also known as The “SHT,” is a 275-mile long footpath in Northeastern Minnesota, which for most of its length follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. The path is 18-inches wide and is set in the middle of a 4 foot clearing. The footpath travels through forests of...

. The Kekekabic Trail
Kekekabic Trail
The Kekekabic Trail, commonly referred to as 'The Kek', is a hiking trail that runs about 41 miles from Snowbank Road near Ely, Minnesota to the western terminus of the Gunflint Trail in northwestern Cook County. The Gunflint then proceeds southeastward, with its terminus at Grand Marais, Minnesota...

 traverses the Boundary Waters from the Gunflint Trail on the east to Snowbank Lake on the west and is the only footpath through the center of the wilderness. Both the Border Route and the Kekekabic Trail are unofficially part of the longer North Country National Scenic Trail. Legislation in Congress is pending to make this designation official. There are also three longer loop trails in the Boundary Waters: the Pow Wow Trail, the Snowbank Trail
Snowbank Trail
The Snowbank Trail is a hiking trail in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. The trail runs the perimeter of Snowbank Lake and crosses the Kekekabic Trail at the south side of Snowbank Lake. The entire trail comprises a loop, numerous campsites are available...

, and the Sioux-Hustler Trail
Sioux-Hustler Trail
The Sioux–Hustler Trail is a hiking trail in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northeastern Minnesota. The trail is approximately a one hour drive from Ely, Minnesota along the Echo Trail...

. These longer trails see a variable amount of maintenance; current conditions should be determined locally before use.

Notable people associated with the BWCAW

  • Sigurd Olson, Minnesota author and conservationist
    Conservationist
    Conservationists are proponents or advocates of conservation. They advocate for the protection of all the species in an ecosystem with a strong focus on the natural environment...

    , wrote extensively about the Boundary Waters and worked to ensure preservation of the wilderness.
  • Dorothy Molter
    Dorothy Molter
    Dorothy Louise Molter , lived for 56 years on Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota...

    , known as the "Rootbeer Lady," lived in the BWCAW for 56 years (alone starting in 1948) until her death in 1986.
  • Benny Ambrose lived alone on Ottertrack Lake until his death in 1982, leaving Dorothy Molter as the last remaining full time resident.

See also

  • List of U.S. Wilderness Areas
  • Superior National Forest
    Superior National Forest
    Superior National Forest, part of the United States National Forest system, is located in the Arrowhead Region of the state of Minnesota between the Canada – United States border and the north shore of Lake Superior...

  • Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho
    Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho
    The Boundary Waters – Canadian Derecho, , was an international derecho that occurred during the afternoon and evening hours of July 4 and the early morning hours of July 5, 1999. It traveled and lasted 22 hours.-North Dakota:In the pre-dawn hours of July 4, a band of thunderstorms developed...

  • Hegman Lake Pictograph
    Hegman Lake Pictograph
    The Hegman Lake Pictographs are a well-preserved example of a Native American pictograph, located on North Hegman Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, USA. The rock wall overlooking the lake has a panel of images as described below....

  • The Boundary Waters
    Boundary Waters
    The Boundary Waters — also called the Quetico-Superior country — is a region of wilderness straddling the Canada–United States border between Ontario and Minnesota, in the region just west of Lake Superior. This region is part of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, and in Canada...

     region
    • Voyageurs National Park
      Voyageurs National Park
      Voyageurs National Park is a United States National Park in northern Minnesota near the town of International Falls. It was established in 1975. The park's name commemorates the voyageurs, French-Canadian fur traders who were the first European settlers to frequently travel through the area...

    • Quetico Provincial Park
      Quetico Provincial Park
      Quetico Provincial Park is a large wilderness park in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, renowned for its excellent canoeing and fishing. This park shares its southern border with Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is part of the larger Superior National Forest...

    • La Verendrye Provincial Park
      La Verendrye Provincial Park
      La Verendrye Provincial Park is a waterway provincial park located in Ontario, Canada, on the border of Minnesota, USA. The park stretches from Quetico Provincial Park through Lake Saganaga, up the Pine River, across the Height of Land Portage, then down the Pigeon River to Pigeon River Provincial...

  • North Shore (Lake Superior)
    North Shore (Lake Superior)
    The North Shore of Lake Superior runs from Duluth, Minnesota, United States, at the southwestern end of the lake, to Thunder Bay and Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, in the north to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in the east...

    • Grand Portage National Monument
      Grand Portage National Monument
      Grand Portage National Monument is a United States National Monument located on the north shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota that preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage....


External links