The BWCA in Minnesota
Part of the Quetico Superior Wilderness
At over a million acres in size, the BWCA 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.
BWCA 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 BWCA
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 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 BWCA's close proximity to life's modern
conveniences can make all the difference in the world. Those looking
for solitude need only consider the BWCA 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 BWCA or the fact there are thunder boxes
(latrines) at every official campsite.
I've been asked not to sell the BWCA 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 BWCA paddler can still find Quetico style solitude
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 BWCA.
2006 - The Cavity Lake Fire burns 31,830 acres in the BWCA.
2007 - The Ham Lake fire burned more than 75,000 acres of forest in
the BWCA. 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
A Beginners guide to canoeing
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness permit video (24:03 version
- for les experienced canoeists.)
Past BWCA portage conditions
Boundary Waters portage descriptions from paddlers just like you.
Advanced reservations and lottery application for BWCAW permits
with entry dates between May 1, and Sep. 30..
Trip Planning Guide
PDFs from the US Forest Service Superior National