Trail Stories: Why I Love to Share the 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?

Five Ways to Make the Most of BWCA Permit Day

By Riley Smith | January 20, 2023

With BWCA permit day just around the corner, plenty of people are waiting in eager anticipation of how opening day will set the trajectory of their summer trips. Some people will log on the moment that permits open to try to reserve a premium entry point on the dates that they are available to go.…

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…

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…

Map Mondays – Week 1 – Hog Creek to Skipper/Portage

By Riley Smith | June 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 week is a big trip of nine nights from Hog Creek to Skipper/Portage. It’s certainly a big and challenging route, but…

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…

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…

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…

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…

The Evolving Food Pack – How Gear Improves Over Time

By Riley Smith | March 6, 2023

Every spring as outfitters begin gearing up for the busy summer season ahead, production begins to turn from winter dogsports back to portage packs. Alongside the new gear, a reunion of sorts takes place as old packs come back to us through the fall and into the spring as outfitters send in old gear for…

Smoke On the Horizon – How Fire Towers Changed BWCA History

By Riley Smith | July 19, 2022

A drive out from Ely today, and you won’t see many fire towers. They’ve vanished as antiquated methods of dutiful rangers past. But less people remember how those fire towers have shaped our wilderness experiences.

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