How to Chase the Northern Lights – A Short Story

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Leave it to Beaver – How Beavers Change the BWCA

By Riley Smith | August 16, 2022

When I study nature, I love to learn about the superlatives. I appreciate how the tallest mountains, the biggest trees, or the oldest animals have a way to serve as ambassadors, helping people to appreciate the natural world even if they don’t understand the “nitty-gritty” science of everything. It’s with this mindset that I set…

Three Generations of BWCAW Rules Videos – Side by Side

By Riley Smith | December 13, 2023

It’s as ubiquitous of an experience as one can find tied to a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters, and the memories of it are deeply rooted in my childhood as they are for many who make the annual pilgrimage north to paddle the border waters of canoe country. Even now, I can close my…

Footsteps of the Past – Tracing Minnesota’s Historic Portages

By Riley Smith | July 14, 2023

. In 1992, a report was concluded as portages of historical significance were surveyed in order to be included in a bid for the National Register of Historic Places. As part of this survey, archeologists looked for signs of the past and recorded the conditions of the trails and how time had changed them. The results were varied. Some trails had vanished completely or become so overgrown that they were nearly impossible to follow. In a few places in Minnesota though, there are still opportunities to trod in the tread of voyageurs and native peoples alike with a canoe on your shoulders and a sense of adventure in your heart. The spirit of the portage is still very much alive in the land of 10,000 lakes. Here are some of the most historic portages in the state.

How to Name Over 1000 Different Lakes: Part 2

By Riley Smith | October 27, 2023

Last year, we published an article about Boundary Waters lake names, their inspirations, their backgrounds, and which themes and names are common or often repeated. Among 1100 different lakes in the BWCAW alone, there are quite a variety of names! In this sequel article, we are visiting the BWCAW, Quetico, and Voyageurs National Park to…

Map Mondays – Week 6 – Duncan to Duncan

By Riley Smith | August 14, 2023

As part of our continuing series on the “route planning game,” we are creating routes using randomly selected entry points, exit points, and number of days to create unique and fun BWCA routes. This week is a nice sightseeing and exploring kind of route entering at Duncan Lake east of the Gunflint Trail. Total Mileage:…

Map Mondays – Week 3 – Crab Lake/Cummings Lake to Big Lake

By Riley Smith | July 10, 2023

As part of our continuing series on the “route planning game,” we are creating routes using randomly selected entry points, exit points, and number of days to create unique and fun BWCA routes. This week is an arduous 6 night trip through the far western reaches of the BWCA. This area of the BWCA can…

Wildlife in Wildlands – A History of BWCA Wildlife

By Riley Smith | February 28, 2023

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Superior National Forest, and Voyageurs National Park make up the largest wild landscape in Minnesota as well as being one of the largest wild spaces east of the Mississippi in the US. Combine that with wildlands directly across the border in Quetico Provincial Park and the surrounding crownlands, and…

How to Name Over 1000 Different Lakes – The BWCA

By Riley Smith | October 14, 2022

The Boundary Waters have seemingly endless lakes bearing names from Ojibwe, French, English, or English mistranslations, misspellings, or honest translations of the Ojibwe. Many have fascinating backstories of how they came by their names. Some lakes have seemingly had the same name as long as time can remember while others have switched multiple times. This…

The 12 Longest Portages in Canoe Country

By Riley Smith | September 22, 2023

The act of portaging between two waterways is usually, understandably, an intentionally short affair. Paddle to the closest point between two water bodies and then portage. This doesn’t make it easy or “type 1 fun” every time, but it’s the burden we bear for wilderness travel. Some portages stick with us whether they are steep…

Map Mondays – Week 7 – Larch Creek to Brule Lake

By Riley Smith | August 21, 2023

As part of our continuing series on the “route planning game,” we are creating routes using randomly selected entry points, exit points, and number of days to create unique and fun BWCA routes. Let’s check it out! Total Mileage: 52.5 milesNights: 6Paddle Distance: 42.8 milesPortage Distance: 9.7 miles Day 1: Miles: 13.6Target Campsite: Saganaga Lake,…

Author Bio:

Riley Smith

Riley is the Director of Community Engagement and Public Relations for Portage North and Sundog Sport. He comes from a background in wilderness programing and environmental education with four years of BWCA outfitting and guiding before taking this role. In his free time, he can be found out canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing, capturing photography, and writing.

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