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Give to the Max Day 2017: Stories of Support

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Posted by
Save the Boundary Waters

Today is Give to the Max Day, Minnesota's biggest day of giving. Last year, hundreds of you showed support for the protection of the Boundary Waters on Give to the Max Day and we're so grateful. Please give again today and support our efforts to protect this beloved Wilderness for future generations. Give to the Max Day offers an exciting opportunity for those far and wide to give to support the Campaign. Here are stories from longtime supporters to help inspire you.

Walter Mondale
Vice President, 1977-1981

The commitment of Minnesotans to protect the land and waters that are now part of our Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness began in 1902. Every generation of Minnesotans since has been called to this area’s defense. Today’s threat dwarfs them all.

Beginning in 2013, business owners, sportsmen and women, and other citizens presented federal agencies with overwhelming evidence of the harm that would be done to the Boundary Waters if sulfide-ore copper mining were allowed in its watershed.

So will we  allow the destruction of many thousands of acres of these beloved public lands, upstream from the Boundary Waters, by permitting a single-use industrial hard-rock mining district, with the inevitable acid mine drainage that would seriously harm aquatic ecosystems downstream? The watershed of the Boundary Waters is simply the wrong place for this kind of mining.

I hope you’ll join me in this fight by making a donation to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters today.

Paul and Sue Schurke
Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge & Wintergreen Northernwear

For 30 years, we have owned and operated Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Wintergreen Northern Wear. We offer guided dogsled vacations and camping adventures to more than 500 people each year. People come from all over the world to experience the Boundary Waters as a place "untrammeled by humans."

Our lodge is just five miles downstream from Twin Metals’ proposed mine sites. It is heartbreaking to think that if metal sulfide mining pollutes the Kawishiwi watershed as it has 40 percent of the watersheds in the western U.S., it will devastate our community and damage the Boundary Waters, our nation’s most popular and beloved wilderness area.

With every step and stroke into the Boundary Waters, you can experience the beauty and grandeur of this amazing winter wonderland with the solitude and quiet that you can only truly find in wilderness. Let’s keep it that way.

Your donation today will make a difference for this grassroots campaign.

Steve and Nancy Piragis
Piragis Northwoods Company

In 1979, as newlyweds, we founded a little wilderness shop on the main street in Ely, Minnesota. We needed a lightweight canoe to navigate our first trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, so we began the company by purchasing two canoes, one for us and one to sell.

We’ve spent days in the Boundary Waters without seeing another human being. When we’re away, we dream about the pristine beauty and solitude that has become our home.

Not only is canoe country our home, it is our livelihood. The Ely Chamber of Commerce calls our town "The Last Great Pure Experience." The continued success of our community depends on the Boundary Waters remaining pristine.

We worry often about new sulfide-ore copper mines harvesting minerals that are far more toxic to the ecosystem than the iron ores of the past century. If the Kawishiwi is turned into a mining district, our visitors will likely seek a more pristine paddling experience elsewhere. If this happens, Ely's vaunted main street of outfitters, mukluk shops and gourmet restaurants could start to look a bit more like the mining towns of the past.

Join us in the movement to protect the Boundary Waters; by donating today you’ll double your gift to protect the Boundary Waters.

Jimmy Chin
Photographer, Filmmaker, and Mountain Sports Athlete

My passion for exploration and photography has taken me on some incredible expeditions around the world, from the first ascent of the Shark’s Fin in Meru, India to the first American ski descent of Mt. Everest.

But wherever I go, the Boundary Waters will always hold a special place in my heart. The beauty of the place is in its subtleties; the call of a loon, splash of waves against the shore or the rustle of leaves on a moonlit night. The Boundary Waters is truly a national treasure and one of the most pristine Wilderness Areas in our country.

Right now the Boundary Waters is at risk from sulfide-ore copper mining proposed on the edge of the Wilderness. This type of mining would seriously harm our canoe country and the outdoor recreation economy that depends on it.

Join me in helping to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining by making a donation today.

Mike Cichanowski
Wenonah Canoe

I was born to paddle. I grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River where I cultivated my love for the water and an insatiable curiosity to explore it. I started exploring with my father’s canoe. Later, I used wood-strip canoes and fiberglass models I built as a teenager in my family’s garage.

Fifty years ago I founded Wenonah Canoe, and we’ve become the first choice for many people heading into the Boundary Waters Wilderness, one of the world’s premier canoeing destinations.

The Boundary Waters is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to keep our business in Winona, MN where we employ 100 people. We’ve grown into one of the world’s largest canoe manufacturers. We still convene shareholder meetings at the kitchen table and we visit the Boundary Waters as often as we can. Paddling has been a philosophy and way of life at Wenonah for 50 years, and we plan to keep it that way.

Join me in helping to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining with a donation today.

Amy and Dave Freeman

We’ve spent the last couple months traveling across the country to promote our new book and share stories about A Year in the Wilderness. From talking with decision-makers in Washington, D.C. to Girl Scouts in Nebraska to our neighbors in Ely, it is incredibly inspiring to see so many people rally around protecting the Boundary Waters.
While we were in Washington, D.C. a couple weeks ago, we met with Senator Al Franken and many other decision-makers to advocate for our nation's most popular Wilderness. Although we continue to have many allies in our nation’s capitol, we also have strong opposition from the hard-rock mining industry and their allies in Congress. That’s why it is so critical that we all continue to fight for our beloved canoe country.
Join us in taking a stand for the Boundary Waters by donating today. Your gift will help us continue our advocacy for the Wilderness. If you donate $500 or more, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters will send you a copy of our new book, A Year in the Wilderness!

Thank you to everyone who have given to support the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Please consider giving today!

We cannot afford to get this wrong - Walter Mondale

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Posted by
Vice President Walter Mondale

The commitment of Minnesotans to protect the land and waters that are now part of our Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness began in 1902. Every generation of Minnesotans since has been called to this area’s defense. Today’s threat dwarfs them all. 

Beginning in 2013, business owners, sportsmen and women and other citizens presented federal agencies with overwhelming evidence of the harm to the Boundary Waters if sulfide-ore copper mining were allowed in its watershed.
Minnesotans understand that we cannot afford to get this wrong. Will we continue Minnesota’s commitment that began more than a century ago and take steps to ensure that the Superior remains a healthy multiuse National Forest?
Or will we allow the destruction of thousands of acres of these beloved public lands, just upstream from the Boundary Waters, by permitting a single-use industrial hard-rock mining district, with the inevitable acid mine drainage that would seriously harm aquatic ecosystems downstream? The watershed of the Boundary Waters is simply the wrong place for this kind of mining.
We must do what Minnesotans before us have done: defend the wilderness.
We must be true to the Boundary Waters and the people who depend on it.
Vice President Walter Mondale

Paulson Lake

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Posted by
Matthew McIntosh

Acres: 125.5
Campsites: 2
Portages: 3 possible
Fish: Lake Trout

Situated just south of Seagull Lake, the southern portages leading to Paulson Lake from mostly go uphill between wetland lakes and rivers like the Chub River and Bingshick Lake. There are no hills visible beyond the immediate shoreline when paddling on it. Paulson feels suspended above the rest of the Quetico-Superior region, even more isolated than the rest of the Boundary Waters. There are two campsites, the most sought after being an island campsite on an eruption of rock, brush and pine. Trips to Paulson are often with a specific portage in mind -- the 515 rods to Seagull Lake through wetlands and swamps all situated above the rest of the lakes and rivers surrounding it. Paulson is a final stop to gather confidence and calm in the wilds before making the arduous trek over the Canadian Shield to Seagull, often the end of a trip. It is a special place -- difficult to get to and from, stunning for its intimacy rather than largesse.

More information at:


Boundary Waters Legends: The Story of Sigurd Olson

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

Sigurd Olson’s passion for preservation combined with his talent for nature writing earned him icon status from environmentalists across the world. His enthusiasm for the outdoors began in childhood and only grew stronger with age. Sigurd developed a particular fondness for the Boundary Waters and found himself moving to Ely in 1923 to be closer to its wonders. His time exploring and serving as a guide provided the foundation for his beliefs that nature can yield spiritual experiences that people of contemporary society need. The Boundary Waters served as his sanctuary, and he dedicated his life to protecting it.

His conservation work began in the 1920s when he fought the building of both dams and roads in the Quetico-Superior region. He became one of the leading figures in conservation in the 1940s when he lead the crusade against airplanes flying into the Boundary Waters. Sigurd spoke with fervor about the importance of shielding the Wilderness from anything with the potential to disrupt its natural state, and his charisma would prove a valuable asset. He continued to speak for the Boundary Waters as a wilderness ecologist for the Izaak Walton League of America, president of the National Parks Association, president of the Wilderness Society and as an adviser to the Secretary of the Interior and National Park Service.

Beyond this, Sigurd aided in creating the Wilderness Act of 1964 which led to the birth of the National Wilderness Preservation System and legally established Wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” He was also a vital participant in the founding of Voyageurs National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore, which prompted prominent environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Izaak Walton League, Wilderness Society and National Wildlife Federation to each present him with their greatest awards. It is achievements such as these that set Sigurd apart as an ecological trailblazer, idolized by many environmental activists.

If these accomplishments weren’t enough, Sigurd also experienced a successful career as a writer. In total, he published nine books. His books all center around the Wilderness he so valued and include many famous quotes such as, “Joys come from simple and natural things, mists over meadows, sunlight on leaves, the path of the moon over water.” In 1974, the stunning imagery and vivid descriptions he provided eventually won him the Burroughs Medal, which is the most prominent award in nature writing. The spiritual worth of the Wilderness is reflected through his various works, and it is this philosophic approach that sets Sigurd apart from other preservation leaders.

Ultimately, Sigurd’s commitment to conservation led to long-term protection for the Boundary Waters. He inspired a movement of people over the years, including all of us. Our greatest hope is that we will be able to uphold his outstanding legacy and keep the Boundary Waters protected in its glorious, natural state. Now, I end this post with the words of Sigurd Olson that keep us believing in our mission, “Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.”

Brule Lake

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Acres: 4313.3
Campsites: 30
Portages: 8 possible
Fish: Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Tullibee, Walleye, White Sucker, Yellow Perch

Brule Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Boundary Waters and there are no shortage of entry points to reach it. The most popular entry point is in the Southeastern corner of the Boundary Waters, but you can also reach it from Sawbill Lake or from the Gunflint Trail, via the Poplar/Liz entry point through Winchell Lake. Brule Lake is  perfect for a weekend trip or a layover day on a longer trip. For those who enjoy watching the sunrise and sunset, the campsite on the island south of Cone Bay offers spectacular views of both. Besides its large size and spectacular views, the lake is also popular for  swimming, long paddles and great fishing.

More information at:

Boundary Waters Legends: The Extraordinary Efforts of Ernest Oberholtzer

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

Ernest Oberholtzer, nicknamed “Ober”, took his first canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in the summer of 1907. Like so many of us, all it took was one trip to the BWCAW for him to be sold. In fact, Ober was so enamored by the wonders of the Boundary Waters that he returned in 1909 to canoe 3,000 miles of the Rainy Lake watershed. His time spent exploring here proved useful as he discovered and provided travel times for a variety of canoe routes. These early experiences proved critical in shaping Ober’s future preservation efforts, but it wasn’t until 1925 that Ober’s simple love of the Wilderness evolved into a fierce passion to save it. 

It was at this time that a 41-year-old Ober heard of industrialist Edward Backus’ plan to construct seven dams and develop four central water storage areas in the BWCAW, Quetico Provincial Park, Voyageurs National Park and portions of the Superior National Forest. Upon hearing this news, Ober was instantly on the defensive. He viewed these plans as an attack on the area’s ecology, one that would lead him to assume the primary role in the national fight against Backus’ proposed plan.

In 1927, a group of Twin Cities business professionals contacted Ober and offered their support with his efforts to protect the Rainy Lake watershed. With newfound allies, Ober proceeded in his efforts to not only oppose Backus, but also actively counteract him by creating his own plan to have the Rainy Lake watershed region be controlled as its own bioregion. To do this, Ober came up with the idea to have both the United States and Canada sign a treaty marking the Quetico-Superior region an International Peace Memorial Forest in honor of all those who fought in WWI. These efforts by Ober led to the birth of the Quetico-Superior Council, which he headed, to lobby for the creation of the International Peace Memorial Forest.

The Quetico-Superior Council held its inaugural meeting in 1928 wherein Ober agreed to a six month presidency that ultimately lasted for over 30 years. It was also at this time that Ober spent much of his time in Congress tirelessly lobbying for the passage of the Shipstead-Newton Bill. Ober was persistent in his quest to make the consequences of Backus’ proposal public knowledge. This is evident as Ober wrote Backus’ plan would be, “not at private but at public expense.” He not only lobbied in Congress, but he also met with President Herbert Hoover to gain his support for the International Peace Memorial Forest. All of Ober’s work paid off in 1930 when President Herbert Hoover signed the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act into law. This moment was historic in that it was the first U.S. statute wherein Congress ordered land to be guarded as “wilderness,” while also eliminating the sale and homesteading of federal land in the BWCAW, preventing dams from changing natural water levels and logging from being allowed closer than 400 feet to the shore.

Ober’s fight for the conservation of this region did not go unnoticed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, in 1934, appointed Ober as first chair of the newly formed Quetico-Superior Committee, which served the same purpose as the Quetico-Superior Council but on a federal level. Ober’s service didn’t end there as he continued to fight for wilderness preservation as a part of the Wilderness Society, which he helped found to help future generations to experience the outdoors as those before them had. In 1967, Ober received the recognition he deserved from the Department of the Interior as he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his preservation efforts.

Ernest Oberholtzer dedicated his life to protecting the wilderness, making countless personal sacrifices along the way. We admire Ober for relentlessly doing that which we strive to do everyday, speaking loudly for a quiet place, and for that he is forever a Boundary Waters Legend.

We're proud to have the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation as one of our partner organizations. We are thankful for their support.

Lake of the Week: Big Moose Lake

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Posted by
Meg Emory

Acres: 1031
Campsites: 5
Portages: 3 possible
Fish: Northern Pike, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, White Sucker, Yellow Perch

Entering Big Moose Lake is a unique experience compared to other lakes. You can paddle in from Big Moose River or portage over two miles from your car. There are many large beaver ponds around the lake with active dams, so keep your eyes out for beavers hard at work. The depth is relatively shallow compared to other lakes with the deepest area being 23 feet. Big Moose Lake has historically supported a good fish population, which is one reason it is a popular destination among anglers. Practicing and encouraging catch-and-release fishing will help preserve this great resource for  future generations.

More information at:

Tales from the Trails: See What I Saw

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I was terrified. My first solo guided Boundary Waters trip was off to a great start until that day. The gentle current of water channeling into the Frost River lapped the laces of my boots, and slowly cleaned the mud off of them. A friend told me the Frost River was “fun” and that I would “love it”. The promise of beaver lodges, excellent moose habitat and flowing interconnected waterways was enough to draw me to the river found at the heart of the Boundary Waters. After hours of wrong turns, dead ends, hot rain and steep portages, my whole group was exhausted. At this point I didn’t know which bend of the Frost River we were in after looking at the map, but I knew we couldn’t have much further to go. I wasn’t quite lost, but I dreaded the feeling of not knowing exactly where I was with the campers that I was responsible for.

Sure enough, we came to a long portage into the western edge of Frost Lake. After seeing the water that marked the end of our journey, we hooted and hollered, piled into our canoes and headed toward the first campsite we could find. I didn’t notice any boats at the other four sites on the lake, saw no smoke from fires and heard nothing other than the strokes of weary paddlers and the low croon of the swan, infamous for honking at paddlers that came too close, that lived in the eastern side of the lake. With the lake to ourselves, I tried to put my mind at ease.

“What could go wrong?”

Canoes were unloaded, turned upside down on the shore and camp chores commenced. The tent was raised, campers dispersed in search of wood, bundles piled up and the campers ran back to the fire grate with fistfuls of birch bark, ready to get warm by the fire. One camper (there’s always one) was taking a few minutes longer than he should so I wandered into the woods calling his name. After a few tries, he finally called back, “I found something! Come here, fast.”

I ran toward the noise and came to a clearing where I saw the camper holding a shiny hand saw. He’d found it lying against a tree, a couple hundred feet from the campsite. I told him not to worry, that it was probably someone from the Forest Service doing campsite maintenance and that we should go back to the fire with the rest of the group. Weighting the saw in my hands, I thought about how weird it was for someone from the Forest Service to actually do that. They teach Leave No Trace ethics, and this saw was nice. I never liked to lie to the campers on my trips, but I figured he might sleep better not worrying about why a new saw would be in the middle of the Boundary Waters. The more I thought about it, I wanted to sleep better not worrying about this saw. I tried to focus on the group, and leaned the saw against the fire grate.

Later, as we slid into sleeping bags and settled in for bed, I looked out the tent screen at the fire grate, wondering what to do with the saw. Deciding there was nothing I could do about it that night, I nodded off trying to read my book, the hum of mosquitoes on the other side of the screen keeping me company.

I woke up to the first warmth of the sun, facing east toward the fire grate. Groggy, as always, I lit a corner of birch bark to start a small cook fire for coffee. I read my book by the fire until steam spilled over the top of the pot on the grate. The chaos of yesterday was finally mellowing out, the weather was better today and there was a light breeze that would push us the direction we needed to go. Things were looking up, and as my first camper walked out of the tent I had a smile on my face, ready to crack some joke to start off the day. Then I heard him say, “What happened to the saw?”

My mind started racing and I looked around frantically. The saw was gone and the plot of every horror movie that ever took place in the woods ran from start to finish in my mind. What did the characters usually do next? I had to make sure I didn’t do whatever that was. I have no idea what I said to the camper looking back, but I’m sure I gave him at least three answers. The Forest Service ranger came back and picked up his saw, a bear interested in carpentry must have taken it in the middle of the night or there was a sudden wind, that none of us felt, that blew it into the lake. To this day, I still have no idea what happened to that saw, but I do know we set the world record for quickest break down of a tent and packing into canoes. I tried to remain calm, but as I paddled out of Frost Lake I felt a strange chill run down my spine.

What happened to the saw of Frost Lake? It’s impossible to know. Was it the most well-orchestrated prank ever pulled on a guide at a YMCA camp? It could be, but whatever happened be sure to keep your eyes peeled on your next trip to the Boundary Waters. You never know what you might find!

Boundary Waters Legends: The Lasting Legacy of the Root Beer Lady

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

In the 1940s if you were to ask someone to name a hero, they would likely have named a man. This was especially true if you asked them to name a wilderness hero. However, there were many exceptional women living during this time who deserve recognition, and Dorothy Molter stands out above the rest, man or woman, as a true wilderness legend. Dorothy visited the Boundary Waters for the first time at age 23. One time was all she needed as she fell in love with the Knife Lake area and never looked back. She was determined to make the Northwoods her home, so in 1934 she began helping out at the Isle of Pines Resort, and by 1948 she was the sole proprietor.

Dorothy was not following the life trajectory that was typical of a woman in the 1940s, and that was perfectly alright with her. She had always been a fiercely independent woman with an unwavering strength, and was once quoted as saying, “If I can ever find a man who can portage heavier loads, chop more wood, or catch more fish, then I’ll marry him.” No man ever met these qualifications, which left Dorothy to live by herself sans electricity and running water, and to be solely responsible for cutting wood and performing maintenance duties on cabins and boats on the resort.

Although she lived on her own, Dorothy was never alone. Despite her isolated location, she was once visited by 7,000 people in a single year, in no small part due to the attention her homemade root beer attracted. The business of making root beer began when Dorothy discovered the plethora of empty pop bottles on her property, and like the innovative woman she was, decided to give the bottles purpose again and filled them with her homemade root beer. Her root beer was especially popular with visitors who had drank nothing but lake water after spending days in the Wilderness. In fact, Dorothy’s root beer was so sought after that she couldn’t always keep up with the demand for it and had to limit the number of root beers per person. Summer was her busiest season and in the height of her fame she was filling around 10,000 bottles per summer. Thus, the famous nickname of “The Root Beer Lady” was born.

Dorothy also holds a certain notoriety for her fight with the U.S. Forest Service. The Wilderness Act of 1964 made it so Dorothy was no longer allowed to live in the Wilderness she had come to call home. However, area residents took this up with the federal government by petitioning that Dorothy be granted the right to stay, and after much interest generated by the media and a lengthy legal conflict, she was awarded the right to stay there for the duration of her life. With that, Dorothy became the final non-indigenous resident of the Boundary Waters. To this day, Dorothy Molter inspires all of us at the Campaign with her admirable ability to live simply, and with the utmost respect for the wildlife and environment surrounding her. She was a force of nature, living peacefully within it, and for that she will always be a Boundary Waters legend.

Lake of the Week: Knife Lake

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Posted by
Meg Emory

Acres: 3756.5
Campsites: 53
Portages: 10 possible
Fish: Burbot, Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, Northern Pike, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Tullibee, Walleye, White Sucher, Yellow Perch

Knife Lake shares the border between the United States and Canada. It’s so large that the lake is broken up into sections commonly known as Northeastern Knife Lake and South Arm of Knife Lake, or SAKL. There’s also a bit of history that goes along with these waters. In 2007 the Ham Lake fire consumed 75,000 acres of forest, surrounding businesses and homes due to an unattended fire at a campsite. However, there were no fatalities. Knife Lake was also the home of the famous root beer lady, Dorothy Molter. She owned a resort in the BWCA before it became a wilderness area, and brewed root beer for paddlers coming through. You can also find an old Forest Service cabin hidden along the shore.

More information at