Is it Possible to Circumnavigate Minnesota by Canoe?

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Map Mondays – Week 5 – Baker to Magnetic

By Riley Smith | August 7, 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 highlights a route across some of the busier routes on the eastern BWCA but, in using some creative strategy, allows…

Is it Spring in Canoe Country Yet?

By Riley Smith | April 28, 2023

This winter has felt like a long one. The final weeks before opening water always do, but this year has felt extra drawn out. Numerous cities in Minnesota have broken their snowfall records and ice is still firmly on the lakes around Ely. To the Boundary Waters enthusiast, this is a painful time of year…

Let’s Break the Ice on a BWCA November Canoe Trip!

By Riley Smith | November 18, 2022

  It’s been snowing all week here in Ely which points to a winter season fast approaching. In the meantime, this is one of the more challenging seasons for wilderness travel with many big lakes still open, smaller lakes starting to freeze, and trails and forests covered in fresh, wet snow. To the majority of…

How to Chase the Northern Lights – A Short Story

By Riley Smith | March 28, 2023

Article writing can be a process for me. I usually have five or six partial articles in the queue and sometimes take long breaks from one before coming back to it again. Sometimes there are complicated graphics or illustrations to put together or lots of research to be done. Very rarely is an article reactionary…

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…

A Fire Perspective: 200 Years of Wildfires

By Riley Smith | November 11, 2022

Few natural processes inspire the fear and awe that wildfires do. In nature, fire is a seeming paradox of death and new life. Gigantic, swirling infernos that engulf the landscape in an unheeding wall of flame become landscape-level scars healed by green shoots and wildflowers. And here on the southern edge of the boreal forest,…

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.…

The Lost BWCA Entry Points

By Riley Smith | November 4, 2022

The Boundary Waters have always been steeped in discussions of how to manage the number of people who visit it. Unlike western wildernesses, there is no natural filter which prevents large numbers of visitors from enjoying it. Many wilderness areas are remote, buffered by dozens of miles of existing land that one must travel through…

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…

The Ten Most Challenging BWCA Lakes to Visit

By Riley Smith | May 16, 2023

The Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness encompasses over a million acres and 1100 named lakes interconnected by portages and streams, but sometimes that vast expanse can feel a little cramped, especially along entries where larger numbers of groups congregate. For the cynic who feels the BWCA is lacking some inherent quality of wilderness in this…

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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