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

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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…

Echoes of ’93 – Managing a Complicated Wilderness

By Riley Smith | February 3, 2023

“There is currently too much visitor use in some areas of the BWCAW on some days. Excessive use results in the following impacts: Off-site camping on non-designated sites which impacts vegetation, soils, and heritage resources. Some designated campsites and portages are too heavily impacted based upon our LAC inventory data. Approximately 85% of all existing…

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…

Map Mondays – Week 6 – Duncan to Duncan

By Riley Smith | August 14, 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 nice sightseeing and exploring kind of route entering at Duncan Lake east of the Gunflint Trail. Total Mileage:…

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,…

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…

The Route Planning Game

By Riley Smith | June 15, 2023

“Probably the best remedy for the canoe freak is map watching. Pouring over maps can often get you through the canoeless season when nothing else can. I recommend it highly. If you coat the maps with plastic, you can even use them as tablecloths, curtains, and all sorts of things. However, no matter what you…

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…

How to Make the Most of High Water in the BWCA: A Trip Report

By Riley Smith | June 1, 2022

Open water season is well upon us and this year has been extraordinary so far. A decent snowpack and a late melt combined for a high water spring. As a result, there have been numerous stories of capsized watercraft and perilous experiences. High water can be a challenge and a hazard that should not be…

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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