Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
BWCAW - Minnesota
At over a million acres in size, the Boundary Waters Canoe
Area contains 1200 miles of canoe routes, 15 hiking trails and approximately
2000 designated campsites. Its 150 miles of wilderness (running adjacent
to the international boundary with Canada - Quetico) endears itself
to nearly 250,000 visitors annually making it the most popular wilderness
area in the US.
Boundary Waters is only a part of the Superior National Forest established
in 1909. The US Forest
Service began using the name "The Boundary Waters
Canoe Area" in place of "The Superior Roadless Areas"
in 1958. The "W" in BWCAW
came along in 1978 when Jimmy Carter signed P.L. 95-495
into law. Battles over that pesky "W" (wilderness status)
for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area continue to this day. In practice,
few actually call it the BWCAW. Usually it's the Boundary Waters or
the BWCA. Perhaps that's out of simplicity, but most choose to forget
that "W" at the end even though that "W" is what
most who visit this site are seeking. Around here its simply simply
known as the BW as in BW/Q.
those willing to portage their canoe, supplies and other camping gear;
latrines, campfire grates and the BWCAW's close proximity to life's
modern conveniences can make all the difference in the world. Those
looking for solitude need only consider the Boundary Waters sees five
times as many visitors as Quetico in a given year. That ratio is surprising,
considering each covers a roughly similar 1 million acres of beautiful
lake studded boreal forest. Then again, it might be the simple fact
that using minnows is allowed when fishing in the BW or the fact there
are thunder boxes (latrines) at every official campsite.
I've been asked not to sell the Boundary Waters short on its wilderness
qualities. There are many places where one can go and not see folks,
or see very few. PMAs are left totally alone. Those willing to work
a little harder than the average BWCAW paddler can still find Quetico
style solitude in the Boundary Waters with a little extra effort.
1999 - A major windstorm, with wind speeds up to 100 miles/hour, swept
across northern Minnesota on July 4, 1999, impacting approximately 370,000
acres inside the Boundary Waters.
2006 - The Cavity Lake Fire burns 31,830 acres in the Boundary Waters.
2007 - The Ham Lake fire burned more than 75,000 acres of forest in
the Boundary Waters. and into Canada. The May wildfire destroyed more
than 130 structures and cost $11 million to contain. It's only unfortunate
human casualty, the 64-year-old charged with starting it, albeit from
suicide in 2008.
A Beginners guide to canoeing
Boundary Waters portage conditions
Boundary Waters portage descriptions from paddlers just like you.
Boundary Waters Reservations
Advanced reservations and lottery application for BWCAW permits
with entry dates between May 1, and Sep. 30.
Waters web cams
Live views from around Ely and nearby edges of the BWCAW.
Superior National Forest fire activity, closures & restrictions,
of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Boundary Waters Chronology
What happen when for the Boundary Waters
Detailed and updated through 2007 including the infamous "Ely
Six" incident on Basswood Lake.