In the Context of Wilderness

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about new articles, great deals, and information about the activities you love and the gear that makes them possible:


Have You Read Our Other Content?

An Expert’s Perspective on BWCA Forests

By Riley Smith | September 15, 2023

Lee Frelich, Director of The University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology, is one of the foremost experts on the forests of the BWCAW and the fire ecology that dictates its composition. We interviewed him to gain his invaluable insight into this incredible ecosystem, its history, and a glimpse into its future. Question 1. For…

A Few Tips for Faster Portaging

By mlarson | June 3, 2019

“Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy,” said Bill Mason, the legendary Canadian paddler and environmentalist, in his 1984 film Waterwalker.  While there’s a gritty sense of satisfaction in carrying your entire camp over rocks, roots, and trees, for most paddlers portages are something to be completed rather than savored. And…

The Comprehensive Guide to Portaging Like a Pro

By Riley Smith | June 14, 2023

We all took our first portage somewhere. From those first tender rods on wobbly legs, we each struggled to carry all our gear from lake to lake. For many of us, this was also a time of questions: “Why did I bring so much gear?”, “Why is my canoe so heavy?”, “Am I in good…

What’s Old is New Again on Chapman St. – Ely, MN

By Riley Smith | May 25, 2022

Summer is nearly upon us and the streets of Ely are bustling with canoeists, campers, and fishermen eager to enjoy their trips to the BWCA. Hopefully we’ll talk with many of them at Portage North and Sundog Sports in our new and improved retail space which we look to reopen sometime this June. And as…

BWCA Superlatives – Setting the Facts Straight

By Riley Smith | February 16, 2023

It all goes back to a BWCA trivia contest. That’s when it sank it anyways. I consider myself a BWCA nerd, down to the root, so maybe these things are more obvious to me. In any case, an organization that should have been experts in the topic were incorrect in the answers they provided for…

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…

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…

Upward, upward: Which portage is the tip top?

By Riley Smith | September 20, 2022

What is the most difficult portage in the BWCA? This is an impossible question to answer. Is it the steepest? How about the longest? How about the one that has the most mud, the most bugs, the slipperiest rocks, or the worst landing? In truth, the most difficult portage is an entirely subjective question bent…

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…

How to See the BWCA in One Trip

By Riley Smith | August 9, 2022

  When it comes to planning trips, I can be a bit of a dreamer, and if you’re anything like me, you spend a great deal of time thinking about what could be possible. I may not have the days lined up or the permits pulled yet. I may not even know which friends will…

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.

Leave a Comment