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Lake of the Week: Jasper Lake

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Posted by
Cooper Silburn

Acres: 270.4

Campsites: 6

Jasper Lake is located just west of Seagull and Alpine lakes. Depending on wind, Jasper is a great destination for a trip from Seagull Lake and has awesome scenic views of recently burned forest to the South. Paddlers can connect Jasper to Alpine or Seagull with ease, and then head north towards Saganaga Lake and the Canadian Border. Check in at the ranger station in Cache Bay to take a day trip into the Quetico and see Silver Falls!

For those looking to enjoy just a little more seclusion, Jasper offers some privacy and quiet and might be a great place to stay one more night. Seagull and Saganaga can be busy during the more popular months in the BWCA, but the multiple portages from entry points to Jasper can be all that you need to get away from other travellers. Pack a book and something to sit on to enjoy an epic view. Careful getting up to the campsite on the north side of the lake, as it was shut down during the fall of 2017 to control erosion. Be kind to that campsite, and remember to always practice Leave No Trace Ethics.

Lake of the Week: Ima Lake

Thursday, February 8, 2018
Posted by
Cooper Silburn

Ima Lake was named for the daughter of Newton Horace Winchell, a Minnesotan geologist whose namesake is also attributed to Winchell Lake. Neighboring Hatchet Lake, Alworth Lake and Jordan Lake, Ima is the crossroads for many memorable BWCA expeditions for travelers of all ages. Connecting Ima to the north with Ensign Lake or to the south with Thomas Lake is a great way to extend a weekend getaway to a longer loop of lakes in the BWCA.

Ima is approximately 116 feet deep which makes it a great lake for fisherman pining for a BWCA Lake Trout or Walleye. Jigging along steep underwater drop-offs is toward the deepest parts of Ima is sure to get a bite! Do you have any fishing stories or wildlife sightings on Ima Lake?

Science and Policy Update: U.S. Forest Service Study

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Posted by
Becky Rom

The Boundary Waters has never needed us more than it needs us now. The wild, natural heart and soul of Minnesota are at stake.  Do we want the Boundary Waters and the rest of our beautiful, healthy Arrowhead forests, lakes, and rivers to continue to be the magnet that draws scores of thousands of visitors from around the country and the world every year, with the resulting enrichment of lives and of the economies of Ely, Grand Marais, Tofte, and other Wilderness-edge communities - indeed, of the economy of Minnesota as a whole? Or would we rather have a Chilean mining company, Antofagasta/Twin Metals, begin the development of a vast industrial sulfide-ore mining district in the heart of the Superior National Forest on the doorstep of our priceless Wilderness?

The Trump Administration has taken two actions recently that make the job of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters harder. The Administration decided (i) to create justification for the reissuance of mining leases that were denied by the Obama Administration and (ii) to downgrade the U.S. Forest Service environmental review for the proposed twenty-year withdrawal of 234,328 acres of the public’s land in the Superior National Forest from the federal mineral leasing program. The Campaign intends to prevail over these setbacks with the help of Campaign partners and their millions of supporters.

First, the Trump Administration Department of the Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, issued a legal opinion on December 22, 2017 that reverses earlier opinions that held that Twin Metals had no right to have old mining leases automatically renewed. If the mining leases were automatically renewable, Twin Metals would be able to avoid legally-required scientific study of the environmental effect of issuing leases for mining in the areas covered by the leases on the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake in the Boundary Waters watershed. The Campaign and its pro bono legal counsel believe that the Trump decision is clearly wrong, and we will file a lawsuit in federal court seeking to have the decision overturned. The language of the leases themselves, the federal laws that govern mineral leasing, and statements in the mining company’s own documents prove that Twin Metals has no automatic right of renewal.  

Second, the U.S. Forest Service’s request in January 2017 that the Secretary of the Interior withdraw from the federal leasing program all federally-owned minerals in the Rainy River Drainage Basin, which includes the watershed of the Boundary Waters, triggered a legal requirement for environmental review of the environmental, social, and economic effects if sulfide-ore mining were permitted on federally-owned minerals in the Basin.  Recognizing that the Boundary Waters is priceless and vulnerable, and fully cognizant of the poisonous water pollution and landscape destruction that always accompany sulfide-ore copper mining, the Forest Service began the process of developing a full environmental impact statement. An EIS provides for a thorough analysis (i) of relevant scientific studies of the impact that sulfide-ore mining would have on the ecology of the Boundary Waters and (ii) of the economic and social impacts of the destruction of a large part of the Superior National Forest and the pollution of Boundary Waters lakes and rivers. An EIS also provides for multiple opportunities for the public to comment during the process.

In another misguided decision, on January 26, 2018 the Trump Administration downgraded the legally-mandated environmental review of the proposed minerals withdrawal from a full EIS to a less-rigorous “environmental assessment.” One of the many negative results of the downgrade is a reduced opportunity for public comment. The Superior National Forest lands at issue belong to all the people of the United States, not to a Chilean mining company with a history of environmental violations and multiple alleged instances of corruption, its allied politicians, and the tiny handful of people who would benefit economically from a Boundary Waters mine. 

A second negative result is that an EA may be a less rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the unique ecology of the Boundary Waters region – those very qualities that make the watershed both valuable as the world’s greatest canoe country wilderness and vulnerable to the inevitable and irreparable damage of sulfide-ore copper mining. An EA may not fully document the harm to Wilderness-edge communities, the State of Minnesota, and all people that would result if a large swath of Superior National Forest lands, now ecologically healthy and available for a variety of uses, were converted to a massive industrial mining district. An EA may not fully document the failure of project-specific environmental reviews to accurately predict water pollution generated by hardrock mines near surface and ground waters; those studies are wrong 90% of the time. And an EA may not fully document that all copper mines, including modern copper mines in the United States, pollute water. A full EIS, on the other hand, would document that the only way to protect the Boundary Waters from the ravages of sulfide-ore copper mining is to ban mining on public lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

The Campaign is determined to prevent sulfide-ore copper mining on federal lands in the Boundary Waters watershed. With your help, the Campaign will succeed. Together, this is what we must do:

  • Urge the Forest Service to prepare a rigorous and comprehensive environmental study that thoroughly analyzes the devastating impacts of sulfide-ore copper mining on Superior National Forest lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin; that provides the scientific, economic, and social basis for the protection of 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands; that documents why only a ban on mining can protect the Boundary Waters.
  • Urge the Forest Service to submit a strong recommendation to Interior Secretary Zinke asking that he order a 20-year ban on mining on 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands.
  • Urge Secretary Zinke to ban mining on 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands for twenty years, the maximum allowed by law.
  • Urge every elected official and candidate for office to support the protection of the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining by banning mining in the watershed. Tell them your support of them depends on their commitment to take all actions necessary to achieve this goal.
  • Celebrate the Boundary Waters in 2018, the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act. Established as a national Wilderness Area in 1964, the Boundary Waters received stronger Wilderness protection by virtue of the 1978 Act, including a ban on mining in the Wilderness and along 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands in entry corridors.

Together we must fight every effort to damage the Boundary Waters. And together we will prevail.

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Lake of the Week: Snowbank

Monday, January 22, 2018
Posted by
Cooper Silburn


Photo taken by Josh McNicholl

Acres: 4667
Campsites: 10

Snowbank Lake is one of the larger lakes in the Boundary Waters and one of the first points of access to many of the beloved loops in the northernmost sections of the Boundary Waters. The lake itself is a breeze to access at just under 23 miles Northeast of Ely. Boasting a handful of campsites with excellent views of sunrises and sunsets, it is no wonder why Snowbank has also become home to several permanent cabins and lodges that sit on the edge of the Wilderness.

Although longer trips are often undertaken through Snowbank, it’s also an excellent destination for those looking to get maybe no more than a quick day-trip into the Boundary Waters. Snowbank offers ample space to explore and even hosts a few islands. Smallmouth bass, some walleye and the occasional lake trout also make the lake a worthy destination for any fisherman looking to add some remote and for the most part solitary fishing to their summers.

Snowbank is a great lake anyone looking to discover a new entry point or return to a classic Boundary Waters location. Do you have a favorite memory of Snowbank?

Lake of the Week: Gunflint Lake

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Posted by
Matt McIntosh, BWCA guide


Campers watch the sun go down over Gunflint Lake

Scanning a map of the eastern Boundary Waters, some names stand out because of the sheer size of the lake. Gunflint Lake, on the Canadian border, may not be as massive as Saganaga or Sea Gull, but the variety of opportunities available there put it in the same class of timeless, massive Boundary Waters lakes. 

The easy and stunning ninety minute drive from Grand Marais to Gunflint Lake makes it accessible to all. Once there, travelers can stay in one of several different lakeside lodges — a Northwoods tradition and staple of the region’s economy. Day permits can be acquired for entry into the Boundary Waters Wilderness itself, just a short paddle away. The Granite River is a terrific day trip where anglers can fish below rocky swifts and swimmers can find rushing water and boulders to relax on. 

Looking for a backcountry adventure deep into the Boundary Waters, or even the Quetico? Gunflint Lake is also a terrific launching point for trips on the Granite River to Saganaga, to the north and west. From Saganaga, the deep wilderness of the Quetico and the central Boundary Waters stretch out before you. Alternatively, begin your trip by paddling the east down Gunflint, taking nearly a day to fully experience Gunflint’s size before dipping your paddle into some of the Boundary Waters’ most impressive lakes like Rose, Mountain, and Watap. 

Paddling and portaging can take you to incredible places from Gunflint. But some anglers know that it’s just as good to stay on the huge lake’s friendly waters. The walleye opener — May 12th in 2018 — brings anglers flocking each year to this world-class lake trout and walleye lake. 

Whether you’ve spent years enjoying the Boundary Waters, or you’ve always day-dreamed about exploring its clear waters, rocky shores and deep forests, Gunflint Lake is a perfect place to base, begin or end your trip. 

The Stairway to Canada: Rose Lake

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Posted by
Spencer Shaver


Travellers look across Rose Lake from a glacial ridge on it's southern shore


Rose Falls frozen in the winter.

Rose Lake is a breathtaking Boundary Waters lake between the Gunflint Trail and the Canadian Border. It is most easily accessed through the Duncan Lake entry point and if you’re up for a longer portage, take the Daniels Lake entry point. From Duncan Lake, paddlers will descend the Stairway Portage, a rare Boundary Waters portage with wooden stairs next to Rose Falls. Along the portage are multiple hiking trails where visitors can hike up the glacial ridges south of Rose and look out across the lake into Canada. A short hike up those ridges offers some of the most expansive views of the Boundary Waters along the Gunflint Trail. Definitely worth the trip.

The end of the Stairway Portage will put paddlers at the mouth of Rose Falls, which makes for a great fishing spot before paddling further onto the lake. Heading northwest leads to South Lake via Rat Lake and a long winding channel in the western edge of Rose. Keep your eyes peeled in that channel for silver pylons that mark the border between the U.S. and Canada!

Whether for a day paddle or a weekend trip, Rose Lake is a classic stop for newcomers and seasoned BWCA travelers alike. On your next trip up the Gunflint Trail stop by Rose Lake for an unforgettable Boundary Waters experience.

Boundary Waters Legends: All About Amy

Friday, December 15, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

Amy Freeman has been a champion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for years, even going so far as to spend 366 consecutive days living in the Wilderness for the sake of saving the clean waters and boreal forests that she and her husband, Dave Freeman, so love. Amy is a living legend for many reasons, and today we celebrate them all. Alright, so maybe we can’t celebrate them all in one short post, but we can celebrate three of her major accomplishments.

One of her most noteworthy achievements is her leadership through the Wilderness Classroom. This nonprofit organization has led to over 100,000 students and 3,200 teachers experiencing the joys of the outdoors in new ways. Amy utilizes tools such as the internet and presentations in schools to transport the Wilderness into the classroom and teach kids about the environment. As a passionate explorer, Amy strives to encourage the next generation to roam as many wild places as possible.

Beyond this, in 2014, Amy set out with her husband on their Paddle to D.C. journey. This expedition sent them paddling and sailing for 101 days (August 24-December 2) across a span of 2,000 miles, all in the name of raising awareness about the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters. They visited numerous communities along the way and participated in a variety of events to spread the word about the environmental dilemma facing the Boundary Waters. People signed their canoe along the way in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and it is because of dedicated people like Amy Freeman that so many are informed about what’s at stake for the Boundary Waters today.

Finally, Amy Freeman’s most recent feat was spending 366 days in the Wilderness to bring more attention to the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining in the region through ‘witness activism’. During their time in the Boundary Waters, Amy and Dave traveled to over 500 bodies of water, stayed at 120 different camp sites and ventured over 2,000 miles of the Wilderness via dog team, foot, canoe, and more. This adventure went on to be captured forever in the pages of the Freeman’s book, A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing witness in the Boundary Waters. There are many people who want to see the Boundary Waters saved, but there are few dedicated and talented enough to live in its Wilderness for an entire year, and this is what sets Amy Freeman apart.

Amy Freeman has demonstrated time and time again what it means to be a Wilderness Warrior and is relentless in her efforts to save the Boundary Waters. It is difficult to imagine this campaign without Amy, and we are so grateful to have her as a part of our Save the Boundary Waters team. She inspires all of us to work a little harder and to never underestimate the impact a single individual can have. Thank you Amy, you will forever be a Boundary Waters Legend.

Lake of the Week: Clove Lake

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Posted by
Spencer Shaver

Clove Lake: A great stop on the way to Gunflint or Sag!

Clove Lake, a remote stop on the Border Route between Saganaga and Gunflint lakes, is a popular fishing spot and has a few beautiful campsites a day’s paddle away from popular entry points. The easternmost campsite has excellent views of the sunset and the rest of Clove Lake, with an exposed rock jetty that visitors can land canoes on. The portage east into the Pine River lies directly south of that campsite, and can be reached on foot making for a quick and easy portage the morning after camping there, or a relaxed end to a paddle down the Pine River.

Clove Lake makes for a great overnight trip from Gunflint or Saganaga Lake. Sparse camping between Devil’s Elbow Lake and Clove Lake makes for a long day from Saganaga, but a two or three day trip from Gunflint Lake to Saganaga is very doable. The Pine and Granite Rivers have a slight current near portages and will push travelers gently north, toward Saganaga.

On some maps, Clove Lake is marked as Granite Lake, or even just a section of the Granite River. On our Fischer Maps it’s marked as Clove, but what do you call it? Have you ever been, and what was it like? 

Boundary Waters Legends: The Verdict on Judge Miles Lord

Thursday, December 7, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

Having grown up on the Iron Range, Judge Miles Lord was always well-aware of the issues facing Northeastern Minnesota. He grew up as the eighth of nine children in an incredibly poor family. Later in his life, he became known as a Judge who most often ruled in favor of the underdog. Reflecting on his upbringing it is easy to see why he may have felt it was his duty to ensure justice for those with less power. It was this sense of responsibility that kept him passionate about doing what's right, even if it made him unpopular. Judge Miles Lord understood the importance of speaking for those without a voice, and it was this action that made him known to all and a hero to many.

Two of Judge Miles Lord’s most notable rulings were in regard to clean water in Northeastern Minnesota. The first case occurred in 1974 when he ruled against the Reserve Mining Company due to its dumping large amounts of taconite tailings into Lake Superior, which polluted this great lake and was associated with several health risks. This ruling would prove controversial as Judge Miles Lord was removed from the case by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals as a result. However, he stood by his ruling despite the backlash believing that his ruling was critical to keeping Lake Superior clean.

Judge Miles Lord proved himself as an environmental advocate yet again in 1980 when he ruled for motorized boats to remain forbidden in the Boundary Waters. Again, he acted in the best interest of the environment to ensure that the Boundary Waters would remain a peaceful place and that its waters would continue to be fresh and pristine. It is because of people like Judge Miles Lord that today we are able to dip our water bottles into any Boundary Waters lake and drink it with little concern. In fact, the BWCA is one of the few places left in the world that can boast of its pure water, an extraordinary feat in a world where contamination is no longer shocking but commonplace.

While Judge Miles Lord had many rulings worthy of headlines, it is these two environmental rulings that most inspire us. Judge Miles Lord once wrote, “I am not anti-corporation, but I am anti-hoodlum, anti-thug, anti-bank robber and anti-wrongdoers. Some of these wolves wear corporate clothing.” This statement resonates with us as we fight to protect the Boundary Waters from the foreign-mining conglomerate, Antofagasta. Judge Miles Lord made waves because he ruled in favor of what was right, not what was popular or who had more money. It is this example of ironclad resolve that encourages all of us to continue fighting for what is right and makes Judge Miles Lord a Boundary Waters Legend.

Community Stories: Will Lyman

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Posted by
Will Lyman

Since 2014, I’ve visited the Boundary Waters annually. The most impactful experience I’ve had in the BWCA was a two-week trip I took in 2015. I spent those two weeks with total strangers, paddling and portaging from lake to lake. During each nighttime talk and every mid-day lunch stop, I fell in love with the way the undisturbed waters can humble you and can bring you closer to those around you, including yourself. I came back from the trip feeling extremely nostalgic, empowered and complete with a need to return to the waters.

Each year my passion for the natural landscape of the Boundary Waters grew. I learned that in 2014, the same year I started going to the BWCA, a Chilean mining company began efforts to build sulfide-ore copper mines on the edge of the Boundary Waters. These mines have a history of polluting surrounding waterways and the Superior National Forest holds 20 percent of the National Forest system's fresh water. Polluting what one of the natural treasures of Minnesota would devastate the water that people come from across the country to see. These people hire outfitters and rent canoes from Ely-based camps and business. I went to Ely and Grand Marais for the recreation and culture of the Boundary Waters, and I didn’t want to see this national treasure be polluted.

I found out about the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters just after I had returned from the area. I couldn’t stand to see something that I had come to love be polluted for the profits of a mining company. I and another 126,000 people made comments to the Forest Service during an ongoing two-year study to learn about the potential risks of a sulfide-ore copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters, telling them why I want to see the Boundary Waters protected. The Forest Service and our elected officials want to know what we think of this, and now is the time to speak up for this quiet place.

Sign the petition to Save the Boundary Waters here, and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters will tell your elected officials that we all want to see the Boundary Waters protected from mining on the Wilderness edge. I want to be able to keep going to a place that so many Minnesotans love, use and need to keep protected for the next generation of Americans, so let your elected officials know today.

Please join us at Dunn Brothers this Sunday, 12/10, at noon for a discussion about permanent protection for the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Will Lyman is a junior at the Blake School and a Wilderness Warrior with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Interested in volunteering on a regular basis? Sign up to be a Wilderness Warrior here!