How Trees Tell the Story of the BWCA

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The Magic of a Winter Wilderness

By Riley Smith | January 25, 2023

The Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota are special. There’s no denying that. Every year, hundreds of thousands flock to this northern wilderness area to experience a landscape where canoes outnumber the cars and a wild landscape is, in some ways, locked in time. But every winter as the canoes are tucked away, the summer tents…

The BWCAW Permit and Visitor Use Report

By Riley Smith | August 30, 2023

At the end of July, last year’s visitor use report was published by the USFS. It notes current statistics and trends in visitor numbers and activities. It also provides a unique benchmark which, along with past visitor surveys (and more major studies from 2007, 1992, and 1969) gives a glimpse into the people utilizing the…

Map Mondays – Week 9 – Trout to Moose River South

By Riley Smith | August 30, 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 route highlights a route across the rugged western section of the BWCA. Check it out: Total Mileage: 35.2 milesNights: 5Paddle Distance:…

10 Tips and Tricks for Nightime Canoe Travel

By Riley Smith | July 21, 2023

The vast majority of BWCA visitors paddle and hike during daylight hours and for good reason. It’s safer, there’s more to see, and daylight travel aligns with normal sleep cycles. Night travel, on the other hand, provides a higher risk of getting lost while paddling; it’s also easier to fall and get hurt while portaging.…

Trail Stories: Why I Love to Share the Wilderness

By Riley Smith | June 28, 2022

  In my time in the Boundary Waters, I have come to love sharing the experience with people who are completely new to it all, yet there is so much potential for things to be frustrating when introducing people for the first time. Perhaps you won’t be able to travel as quickly as you normally…

In the Context of Wilderness

By Riley Smith | September 7, 2023

Earlier this week, September 3rd, was the 59th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act which established the BWCAW and 53 other areas as newly defined wilderness. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has since gone on to become one of the most well-known and widely-beloved wilderness areas in the country. In examining the BWCAW today,…

5 Guide Tricks for Finding Great BWCAW (or Quetico) Campsites

By mlarson | June 2, 2019

Finding a great campsite can be one of the great joys of a canoe trip. Waking up in a stand of majestic pines, enjoying a cool breeze rolling off the lake on a midsummer afternoon, and cooking over a campfire without worrying about bugs can make a campsite that much more memorable. Occasionally, these sites…

The Twenty Greatest Rivers and Streams of the BWCA

By Riley Smith | May 17, 2023

What makes something great is often a subjective matter, one formed of comparisons and perspectives. Is it the large size? How about the incredible strength, power, or position? Is it the beauty or some other awe-inspiring attribute which draws admiration and respect. Take the Great Lakes as an example of many of these definitions. West…

10 Lost Routes in the BWCA

By Riley Smith | February 22, 2023

Warm weather in February is a dangerous thing. If it’s too warm, the mind starts wandering ahead to summer canoe adventures. Warm weather only intensifies the time spent pouring over maps both in remembering treasured trips past and scheming the ones to come. And for me, one of the things I’m looking for on the…

Emergency Communication in the Wilderness – 4 Things To Know Before Your Canoe Trip

By kodev | February 20, 2020

If you’ve never been on a wilderness trip before, the idea of traveling beyond cell service, seemingly out of touch with the rest of the world, can seem daunting. The questions are many: How do we let concerned family members know where we are? Will there be any cell service? What if we need to…

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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