The Tail of the Thunderbox

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Have You Read Our Other Content?

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 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…

A Week in January – A Winter Trip Report

By Riley Smith | February 7, 2023

  The week we had looked forward to had come around again: the Week of Winter annual BWCA trip. This tradition is relatively new, last year was our first, but it seems poised to be a trip that continues annually. January is a fascinating time to take a week long BWCA trip both because winter…

Six Rules for BWCAW Portage Etiquette

By Riley Smith | May 15, 2024

If you are new to wilderness canoe camping, especially in a heavily used wilderness area like the BWCAW, then the group traffic at some of the busier portages in Canoe Country may come as a shock. Here are six [written and unwritten] rules you should apply the next time you portage on a well-congested portage trail.…

A Bird’s Eye of the BW – Telling the Story from Above

By Riley Smith | April 13, 2023

It started as a funny game of sorts. As I was scrolling past google satellite imagery dreaming of future canoe country routes and trip plans, I would begin noticing the occasional canoe group on the photos. I soon began looking for them. It was a game of “I spy,” picking out small floating canoes and…

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…

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:…

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…

Map Mondays – Week 12 – Little Indian North to Moose River North

By Riley Smith | September 26, 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 works through parts of the BWCAW’s far western end from the furthest west EP of the BWCA through big lakes…

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…

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.

3 Comments

  1. Emily Stone on November 9, 2023 at 6:58 pm

    Good stuff! But I feel like you missed an important point with the newest design – they are intended to increase accessibility for people with limited mobility by providing edges to grip for support. And the lids keep flies from bringing poop germs into the camp kitchen. And rangers often portage in a new latrine with the hole over their head!

  2. Debe Kortness on November 12, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Old enough to have experienced the original! Great article.

  3. Eric Romilly on November 13, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    In each of my 15 BWCA adventures I conclude by making a video entitled “Walk to the crapper”. A simple video that starts at the campsite with a walking tour to the latrine. It’s often my favorite video of the trip.

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