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The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking the Kekekabic Trail

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Posted by
Lauren Eggert

Have you ever hiked 47 miles in 4 days? I hadn’t either—in fact, I had never truly gone on a backpacking or a Boundary Waters trip without a canoe. But that’s what I did, a hike on the elusive Kekekabic Trail in Northeastern Minnesota—a trail almost all within the breathtaking Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The “Kek”, as the trail is called, stretches from Snowbank Lake in Ely, Minnesota all the way to the Gunflint Trail, near Grand Marais. And to make the longest walk of my life even more interesting, I signed up for it with a brand-new, Almost Boyfriend, of all things. (What can I say, I like to keep things interesting...)

Maybe you’re like my (now) boyfriend and are an experienced hiker who doesn’t need to look down to make sure you don’t slip or trip over every single rock on the Kekekabic Trail. Or maybe you’re like me: a walking, talking, and tripping-over-your-own-feet and every rock machine.

Lesson #1: Pack a deluxe first aid kit—you will have no cell service on the Kek and no canoe to act as your gurney in the case of a rolled ankle—more on this later.

The sun peeking through as we crossed the bridge on the Agamok River Gorge.

No matter your personal experience, you can do this hike if you truly want to. You see, the Wilderness welcomes everyone, no matter your skillset or level. You don’t have to be an extreme hiker or weathered outdoorswoman. You can come as you are with borrowed or outfitted gear. Hell, even a “How to” book is good company on a trail if you’re a novice, although I did prefer my survival-encyclopedia, Almost Boyfriend, as a resource on this trip. But I still had to do it, all the hard stuff, on my own. Just like you’ll have to. All you need is the will to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what comes your way.

Lesson #2: Trekking poles are a must if you’re as graceful as me and are prone to tripping while walking on flat surfaces.

While planning your trip, people will tell you, “oh there’s just a little bit of elevation on the Kek, you’ll be fine.” However, I’m not going to lie to you, yes you will be fine, it’s not like hiking in the mountains at 9,000 feet, but to a novice hiker, this was more than a little elevation. I remember going breathless up what felt like a mountainside, explaining to myself out loud how I was going to write so many reviews on all the group-hiking pages I researched before the trip to warn people like me that the phrase, “a little elevation,” is extremely subjective.

Lesson #3: Stop and take as many breaks as you need and consider borrowing or buying a hydration pack, but water bottles work just fine. 

The Kekekabic is described as a remote, minimally maintained trail, but we had no problem following the trail—we still brought a GPS which read 47 miles at the end of our hike and not the claimed 41 miles. 

However, instead of writing a review, I’m leaving you with my packing list and a non-sugar-coated run-down of what I encountered on my journey (which I would wholeheartedly do again) to fully prepare you for your first hike on the Kek.


*Some items are per person
50-70L backpack

Tent (lightweight if possible)

Sleeping bag (w/ stuff sack)

Sleeping pad (Must fit into backpack)

Water bottle or Reservoir

Water filter

Backpacking Stove (can cook on fire grate at campsites if wood is available.)


Cookset (lightweight if possible)

Bowl/plate and a utensil

Meals (dehydrated preferably) and snacks


Biodegradable Soap (do not use directly in lakes)

Bear bag and paracord to hang from non-existent bear-safe trees

Toilet paper


Garmin GPS (optional)

Ziplock bags or  trash bag to leave no trace

Headlamp and backup batteries

Hiking boots (Broken-in….more on the joys of this classic move later)

Camp booties to give your feet a break at camp (optional)

Trekking Poles (optional)

Insect Repellent (depending on the season)

Duct Tape (You can bring a small amount wrapped around a nalgene)

Kekekabic Trail Guide

Permit to enter the BWCAW 

Fun items that I brought:

Cribbage board and cards that you’ll be too tired to play

Journal and pen to document your travels

Deluxe first-aid kit (with extra duct tape)

.410 shotgun and ammo for hunting grouse

Flask of whiskey, for those 16 mile days (keep reading for more on this)

Two Cars—one at either end of the trail or a friend to drop you off/pick you up


Fresh socks - for every day

T-shirt (Moisture wicking, not cotton)

Longsleeve (Moisture wicking, not cotton)

Fleece or wool sweater (depending on the season) 

Quick drying pants and shorts

Rain jacket and pants

Hat (warm for cold weather or baseball cap for sunny days)

Gloves or mittens (for cold weather)  

Our furry sidekick for the entire journey on the Kekekabic Trail at a campsite at Parent Lake.


On the first day of our October trip, Almost Boyfriend and I started off late in the afternoon. With the sun sinking in the sky earlier and earlier on the rapidly decreasing Fall days, we found ourselves in camp only 6 miles East of the Snowbank Lake trailhead on Parent Lake, with less than an hour of light left. We quickly set up, ate, and crashed for the night after a swig or two of whiskey. Although we hadn’t accomplished what we set out to do day one, we were happy to finally be surrounded by the beautiful Wilderness and it’s serenity—finally we were alone in the wild.

Lesson #4: Plan your miles-a-day around the hours of daylight you have and set up camp before it’s dark. Check seasonal sunset times before you head on trail.

Stopping to soak in the scenery and admire the lakeland wilderness that is the BWCA.


Day two started off bright, early, and full of dreams of making up for our late start on day one by hiking a full sixteen miles. I’ll say it again—SIXTEEN MILES of hiking in a single day. As you can imagine, this was mentally hard for me, as a novice, to even comprehend. I don’t think I’ve even walked sixteen miles in one day on a paved road before. Nonetheless, I managed to accomplish it, even though I tripped more than a few times and even rolled an ankle. 

However, this is the day I learned that breaking in your brand-new hiking shoes is a crucial step in preparation for a biped journey such as this one. About 6 miles into day two, I had blisters the size of a silver dollar (Google “silver dollar” if you were born after 1984) on the back of each heel. By the time we reached camp, I could barely walk right because I was in so much pain.

Lesson #5: Break in your hiking shoes before you go on a hike. Moleskin blister covers aren’t a bad idea either, although I found duct tape and gauze to stay in place and work much better. Did I mention trekking poles? 


We were blessed with really great weather on this early October trip, but even the sunshine on day three couldn’t take the sting out of my now torn-up heels. However, nothing could stomp on my spirit. We were now halfway through our journey, in the middle of the wild (aka, I knew I  had to keep going unless I wanted to live in the Wilderness forever), and my heart was so happy to have this experience. That is until I discovered what people meant by, “a little elevation on the Kek.” 

LOL oh my goodness. You will go up and down and up and down more times than a kid on a perpetual sugar high while hiking the Kek. Pair this with painful, duct-taped, double-socked heels and you’re in for a real treat of a day. In all seriousness, once you do make it to the tallest point of your journey at about 1900 feet, you will love the view and the feeling of sheer accomplishment on how far you’ve physically and mentally come.
Lesson #6: Hiking is mind over matter. No matter how tired your body is or how much your feet hurt, you can push past the pain to reach something beautiful.

Almost Boyfriend taking in the Ham Lake forest fire remnants.


The last day of our hike was a bittersweet one. I knew my blistered-heels needed a break and that we needed to get back to our civilized lives, but I was lovingly lost in the wonder of the wild—I didn’t want to leave. 

You see, humans are marvelous creatures of adaptation. After three days of living amongst the beautiful Boundary Waters, the trees, forest fire remnants, even the sometimes scary sounds and winds at night, I no longer felt like a visitor there but a part of it. Like the wild was what reality should be and that my home in the suburbs was just a facade. 

In short, I didn’t want to leave this quiet place or even be separated from my now-bonded Almost Boyfriend who had shared my laughs and pain on this incredible, wild journey with me. But we had done it. There were no more steps to take and honestly, no more gauze left for my wounds. 

Lesson #7: Soak up every moment, even the bad ones. They are the stories and scars you will tell once out of the woods and you’ll be damn proud of them when you’ve officially taken your final step off trail.

Eating well on the trail thanks to Almost Boyfriend hunting grouse!

In the end, was it all worth it? Hell yes! On so many levels. 

Let me be clear: a trip into the Wilderness will show you your true self. It strips away any shred of fiction in your life and reveals what’s hiding behind your screens, social posts, and societal masks. It has the capability to force you to see yourself as you truly are. No makeup. No “cute” clothes. No lies. There is no hiding from it. From the weather, from the wildlife, from the pain and challenge of completing your first epic hiking or paddling trip. The Wilderness will find you—the real you. And I personally can’t wait to do it again.

For more information on the Kek, contact local outfitters and the Superior Hiking Trail Association for resources. 

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” -Confucius

Our last scenic look before exiting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Beginner's Guide to Paddling the Boundary Waters

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Learn more and reserve your permit here!

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited wilderness. It consists of 1.1 million acres of interconnected waterways, uninterrupted forests and diverse wildlife. It has 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes, 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails and 2,000 designated campsites. Outdoor recreationalists from around the world seek out the Boundary Waters for paddling, fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, observing wildlife and enjoying the incredible scenery.  

The Boundary Waters region are the homelands of the Anishinaabe people.*

Are you interested in planning a canoe trip but are not sure where to start?

Many outfitting businesses provide route and trip planning options as well as gear rental, guiding services, and even lodging before and after your camping trip. We recommend reaching out to an outfitter or guide service to help you plan the best possible trip. 

Here are a few questions to think about when starting to plan your trip:

When are you going?

Permit quota season goes from May 1 - September 30, so you will have to reserve an overnight permit during this timeLearn more and reserve your permit here!

Different seasons bring different delights and challenges in the Boundary Waters. In May, you’ll have fewer bugs, but the water can be cold and won’t be great for swimming. In July, there will likely be more mosquitos but you can swim! In August, It’s usually more dry, so less bugs, less muddy portages, but still warm enough for swimming. In late September, you’ll have no bugs, get to see the leaves changing, but also a small chance for snow (it happens!)

Who is coming with you?

The maximum group size is 9 people and 4 watercraft. Also take into account the fitness level, age and experience of your group when choosing your route. Depending on skill or experience levels of your trip participants you can choose an entry point that either starts off right at the water’s edge or is a portage from the parking lot to the first lake or river. Any outfitter can help you decide which entry point is the right one for your group!

Do you have specific goals or interests?

Do you want to go fishing? See waterfalls or pictographs? Want to be far away from people? Do you want to basecamp or travel a route or loop? See wildlife? An outfitter can help you pick a perfect route to fit most of your interests. 

What area do you want to explore?

There are multiple “gateways” to the Wilderness, including Ely, Tofte and Grand Marais. Depending on what permits are available you can choose whether you want to go into the Wilderness via entry points along the Gunflint Trail or Echo Trail and more. 

You can also try Paddle Planner. It’s a great route-planning tool (and many outfitters use it too!) You can see photos of a few of the campsites and see how long it will take you to paddle a certain lake and more!


What food will you bring?

You’ll need to plan ahead for your meals as you can’t just head to the grocery store if you’re hungry! You also can’t bring most cans or glass bottles - so plan accordingly. Most people bring along an assortment of dried foods: pasta, fruits, energy bars, pancake mixes, etc. Adding in tortillas for sandwich wraps, fish tacos, quesadillas, peanut butter wraps, breakfast burritos and more is a good compact source of a versatile food. Get creative and try to mix it up! Pro-tip, that first night out you’ll probably travel the most and expend the most energy - plan a good hearty meal even with some fresh foods that won’t spoil in a day. A crowd favorite can be steak (season and freeze them and they’re thawed by the time you set up your first camp) and potatoes with green beans as an example. And again, any of the outfitters mentioned below can help plan your meals and even provide pre-packed meals for you!

Northern MN Boundary Waters Business Coalition members that can help you plan & outfit your canoe trips: 

Check out more Boundary Waters Business supporters here. 


Learn more and reserve your permit here!

It is really important to follow LEAVE NO TRACE principles when in the Wilderness. 

Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare

Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces (BWCA Designated Campsites)

Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly

Principle 4: Leave What You Find

Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts (Use USFS Fire Grates)

Principle 6: Respect Wildlife

Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors

You must take out all of your trash with you, and leave campsites better than you found them. It is also illegal to cut down trees that are still alive, so try to find firewood that is dead and down, and make sure all your fires are in a fire grate. Make sure your fires are drowned out and cool to the touch before you leave them. Cans and glass bottles are not allowed. Do not bring them. 

See all the rules and regulations of the Boundary Waters here.

Dogs are allowed, just make sure they are in control. (And send your pics to @bwcadogs on Instagram!)


Packing List:

Here is a suggested list of things you should bring to the Boundary Waters. Think about the weight of your gear as you’re packing and the amount of portaging you will have to do between lakes. 

  • Canoe

  • PFD (or lifejacket, for each member of your party)

  • Paddles 

  • Canoe Seat

  • Food

  • Tent & Tarp(s)

  • Sleeping Bag

  • Sleeping Pad

  • Headlamp

  • Maps

  • Map Case

  • Compass

  • Knife

  • First Aid Kit

  • Portage Packs with Liners

  • Camp Stove with Fuel

  • Coffee Pot or Press

  • Cook Kit

  • Pot(s) and Fry Pan(s)

  • Aluminum Foil

  • Paper towels

  • Utensils for eating and cooking (e.g., spatula!) 

  • Hot Drinks Mug

  • Water Bottle

  • Water Filtration (gravity filter or pump)

  • Dish Soap (biodegradable) and Scrubbie

  • Food Hanging System or Bear Barrel

  • Pack Saw

  • Pack Towel

  • Toilet Paper

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Garbage Bags and extra Ziplocs (pack out all your waste) 

  • Matches and Lighters

  • Firestarters

  • Sunglasses with lanyard

  • Toiletries

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug Spray and Headnet

  • Dry bag or compression sack for your clothes

  • Multi-tool

  • GPS (optional)

  • NOAA Pocket Radio for weather alerts (optional)


  • Pants (quick drying is better) 

  • Shirts (Try not to wear cotton, especially in cold weather)

  • Underwear

  • Shorts (quick drying)

  • Wet boots or toe covered sandals

  • Dry boots

  • Socks (wool is best, not cotton)

  • Camp gloves

  • Good rain gear

  • Hat

  • Swim suit


We hope you can experience a trip to the Boundary Waters this year!

Learn more and reserve your permit here!

*The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Superior National Forest are within the 1854 Treaty Area where Anishinaabe people (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa) live and hunt, fish, gather and govern as sovereign people.

Boundary Waters Trip Planning 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Winter is a great time to start planning your summer 2021 Boundary Waters Wilderness trips! Visit again or for your first time, and remember why this wild place is truly worth saving.

On Wednesday, January 27, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness entry permits become available through Recreation.govThe most popular entry points and dates will fill up first and don’t forget, you will need an entry permit for any overnight/multi-day trips in the Boundary Waters between May 1 and September 30.

Are you interested in planning a canoe trip but are not sure where to start? Many outfitting businesses provide route and trip planning options as well as gear rental, guiding services, and even lodging before and after your camping trip.

Do you just need a little help with route planning maps? Try Paddle Planner. It’s a great route-planning tool (and many outfitters use it too!)

We hope you can experience a trip to the Boundary Waters this year!

Learn more and reserve your permit here!

Wintering in the Wilderness

Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Posted by
Amy Freeman

Giving a Zoom presentation about Wintering in the Wilderness on the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter felt quite appropriate to me. I had the opportunity to reflect on the year that my husband, Dave, and I spent a whole year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in an effort to help the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters call attention to the threat posed by sulfide-ore copper mining being proposed upstream from the BWCAW. That's 366 days (it was a leap year) of camping and traveling under our own power in the 1.1 million acre Wilderness Area. During that year, we traveled roughly 2,000 miles by canoe and ski with three amazing sled dogs, visiting about 500 lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the year. Although it was 5 years ago, I still find myself regularly comparing the present moment to what we were doing on the same day or time of year back then.

As the fall season progressed into winter, we learned to slow down. For all of our previous expeditions, we had to keep moving because we had a destination in mind. A Year in the Wilderness was different— it was about bearing witness to this place we were trying to save and sharing it with as many people as possible by posting photos on social media, writing blog posts, recording a podcast, making a short documentary film, etc. So, the point was not to get somewhere as quickly as we were physically able, but instead to truly experience the BWCAW.

Waiting for freeze-up tried our patience. The holidays highlighted for us the fact that there were no material things that we missed from the outside world. Instead, what we sorely missed were family and friends. Acknowledging certain holidays helped us reconnect. Even though we were physically apart, just knowing we were cooking the same sort of meal and upholding some traditions made us feel as if we were home, celebrating with family and friends.

We added three canine teammates shortly after New Years. Our friend, Frank Moe, dogsledded in to drop off Acorn, Tina, and Tank. Traveling and camping with them added much variety and joy to our days. The new year also brought with it a flood of visitors who trekked in to say hi and drop off some tasty treats. People arrived by foot, snowshoe, ski, and dogsled, helping to make the rest of the winter fly by.

One lesson that I actually didn’t share during the Zoom (but wished I had) was the way in which people have come together to share their unique talents to support this cause. That is, in a nutshell, what Dave and I did— we knew how to paddle, camp, dogsled, and document a journey, so we did just that during A Year in the Wilderness. There are so many who have contributed by using their talents for this cause— writing songs, running for the BWCAW, biking for the BWCAW, writing letters to the editor, you name it, people are doing it. Please keep it up and consider lending your talent, whatever it may be, to this cause.

The light is now returning, both literally and in terms of our efforts to protect the BWCAW. With the change of administration comes a chance for real progress in gaining permanent protection for the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Watch Amy Freeman's Zoom Presentation from December 21, 2020 plus the live Q&A about the Freemans' Year in the Wilderness expedition.

Celebrating Wenonah Canoe

Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Posted by
Save the Boundary Waters

Wenonah is an iconic and beloved canoe company that has been manufacturing canoes on the banks of the Mississippi River, in Winona, Minnesota, for more than 50 years. Founder Mike Cichanowski has been a steward of the Boundary Waters since taking his first Wilderness trips as a Boy Scout.

Wenonah was among the founding allies in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Did you know that Wenonah donated the original canoe on display in our Ely headquarters & Action Center in 2013? The canoe was signed by thousands of supporters who came through our doors and joined our cause.

When explorers Dave and Amy Freeman decided to paddle from Ely to Washington D.C. in the fall of 2014, Wenonah donated another canoe for the journey (because the Freemans needed to paddle a larger canoe with more surface area for signatures and so guests like filmmaker Nate Ptacek and the occasional journalist could hop in the middle seat to join them on the water). That canoe, a sleek cream-colored Wenonah Minnesota 3, earned the name Sig, for Ely’s famous wilderness advocate and writer Sigurd Olson and because of the signatures of thousands of people the Freemans met along their journey. The Paddle to DC helped establish the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters as a conservation issue of National importance.

Wenonah has since donated several more canoes to be used as visible symbols of support for protecting the Boundary Waters, including the canoe (nick-named “Betty Jo”) towed by 4 Outward Bound instructors who bicycled across Minnesota on the Bike Tour to Save the Boundary Waters in 2015 and the beautiful custom-made red canoe for Dave and Amy’s 2018 book tour by bicycle (“Pedal to DC”), taking the message by land from Ely, across the eastern U.S.


And what about the canoe used for the Freemans’ Year in the Wilderness in 2015-2016? The perfect canoe for that journey was already in their possession from a previous cross-continental expedition. The ultralight Wenonah Itasca that Dave and Amy paddled, portaged, and dragged across frozen Boundary Waters lakes for an entire year already had thousands of miles under its hull long before its launch from River Point Resort on the South Kawishiwi River on the Fall Equinox of 2015.

These “Adventure Advocacy” trips with Wenonah canoes have been some of the most inspiring and visible ways we’ve been able to elevate the call to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Wenonah Canoe owner Mike Cichanowski has travelled to Washington D.C. several times along with other Save the Boundary Waters advocates and business owners, meeting face-to-face with decision makers. These trips helped make possible the Obama administration’s decision to terminate Twin Metals’ mining leases next to the Boundary Waters.

The Trump Administration reversed course and reinstated and renewed the mining leases, decisions that Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (the lead organization of Save the Boundary Waters) and 9 Minnesota businesses, including Wenonah, are challenging in federal court.

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Boundary Waters Act, in 2018 Wenonah made 10 special edition Bud Heinselman canoes. Bud Heinselman was a great wilderness hero of the 1970’s whose research on the history and importance of fire in the Boundary Waters ecosystem is still the bedrock of fire ecology across North America. 

Thank you, Wenonah Canoe!

Save the Boundary Waters’ Government Relations Director Alex Falconer and his family in their twin Wenonah canoes

Saving the BWCA is key to solving the climate and extinction crisis

Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Posted by
By Becky Rom, National Campaign Chair

Banning destructive mining from the headwaters of the BWCA would deliver multiple benefits.
[Original article posted in the Minnpost here.]

We are looking for long-term partners in this effort to protect the Boundary Waters and to fight climate change. Will you protect the Boundary Waters by becoming a monthly donor today?

Millions of Americans breathed a deep sigh of relief in early November when Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States — not only because he signified a return to order and normalcy from the lawlessness of the Trump administration, but also because of his focus on tackling the climate change crisis. It is a gigantic task — as large an undertaking as any that mankind has faced. Opportunities have been missed and progress delayed because of political intransigence. One opportunity that we must not miss, which is before us right now, is the opportunity to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) from the danger posed by sulfide-ore copper mining.

Banning this destructive mining from the headwaters of the Boundary Waters would deliver multiple benefits of the kind critical to addressing the climate and extinction crisis, including preserving carbon sequestration; avoiding the massive energy demand of large sulfide-ore copper mines and thus eliminating major new greenhouse gas sources; and preserving a 4.3-million-acre ecosystem that provides a refuge for species threatened by climate change.

The Boundary Waters region is vital for carbon sequestration.

The 4.3 million-acre Quetico-Superior region is primarily boreal forest. Boreal forests store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem — almost twice as much per acre as tropical forests. Keeping carbon locked in these forests and out of the atmosphere is a vital part of the fight to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. According to a federal government report prepared for members and committees of Congress, each acre of terrestrial boreal forest stores on average about 180 tons of carbon in its vegetation and soils. Destruction of boreal forest for industrial mining is a double whammy — the release of much of that carbon into the atmosphere and the loss of the capacity of the land to take up carbon in the future. The loss is even greater if wetlands are destroyed. Soil carbon levels in wetlands are nearly double the level in the terrestrial boreal forest.

Mechanical destruction of vegetation and soil is not the only harm that would result from permitting copper mining; the carbon storage assets of the Boundary Waters region (surface vegetation, soils, wetlands, and peatlands) are incredibly vulnerable to acid mine drainage – the water pollution that inevitably results from sulfide-ore mining.

Protecting the Boundary Waters is critical for greenhouse gas emission avoidance.

A leading ally of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, which seeks to develop the Twin Metals copper mine, is Minnesota Power, a local utility that feeds a group of energy-devouring industrial customers. According to MinnPost, 74 percent of Minnesota Power’s electricity is sold to six taconite mines and four paper and pulp mills. Just one taconite mine alone needs roughly the same amount of energy as the City of Minneapolis. Minnesota Power is aggressively seeking to grow its industrial customer base with a Twin Metals copper mine next to the Boundary Waters. Although Minnesota Power has started to shift away from carbon, it has two coal-fired generators (Boswell plant), is seeking to build a $700 million gas plant, and may re-commission a coal-fired plant on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

An estimate of greenhouse gas emissions, based on a 2014 Prefeasibility Report for the proposed Twin Metals mine, is 23,444,730 metric tons of CO2 over a 20-year life of the mine. This is equal to greenhouse gas emissions from adding nearly 5 million passenger vehicles to the roads for one year.
The Boundary Waters is crucial for climate adaptation and resilience.

The Wilderness Society identified 74 places in the United States that are crucial to our ability to sustain biodiversity in the face of a changing climate. These areas have three essential characteristics: (1) an especially high degree of wildness; (2) connectivity to existing protected areas; and (3) diversity of unprotected species and ecosystem types. The analysis found that the Quetico-Superior region is one of the top places in the nation with this “Wildland Conservation Value.”

A recent study by The Nature Conservancy with similar findings underscores the necessity of keeping these areas intact and undeveloped. Consistent with this, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and The Trust for Public Land have acquired large swaths of land across northern Minnesota to keep them protected. Allowing the creation of an industrial mining zone in the watershed of the Boundary Waters would undermine the work that these and other organizations are doing to prepare us for the future.

The Boundary Waters — the heart of the Quetico-Superior region — is a vitally important regional and national asset. It is the most visited wilderness area in the United States. It is the largest wilderness area east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the Everglades. Sacrificing this unique and vital region to sulfide-ore copper mining would destroy not only an irreplaceable recreational and economic treasure, but what is also one of our best natural assets in the fight against climate change.

Becky Rom of Ely, Minnesota, is the national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Will Steger is a polar explorer, educator, author, entrepreneur, and eyewitness to the effects of climate change. He founded Climate Generation which works to empower individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.

What's next for the Boundary Waters in 2021?

Monday, December 28, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited Wilderness. A sulfide-ore copper mine at the edge of the Wilderness threatens the purity and ecosystem integrity of the Boundary Waters. This type of mining is a form of hardrock mining; the EPA lists hardrock mining as the industry that generates the largest source of toxins in the nation. This type of mining does not belong next to the Boundary Waters. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), the parent organization of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, is leading the effort to ensure permanent protection for the water, air, plants and animals of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for future generations.

The Boundary Waters is located on lands that were and are the homeland of the Anishinaabe peoples (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa).


The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is strategic in its efforts to protect America’s most visited Wilderness by implementing a multi-pronged protection approach. 

  • POLITICAL ADVOCACY: We educate elected officials and bring awareness to the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness. We also lobby and meet with lawmakers on both the state and national levels to encourage them to protect the Boundary Waters. 

  • SCIENCE & LITIGATION: We spend time and money to conduct and assemble scientific research and studies, and engage in litigation when necessary. 

  • ENGAGEMENT & AWARENESS: We reach a wide audience to raise awareness about the Wilderness and the threat of sulfide-ore mining to supporters around the world. We participate in public input processes and also have a robust outreach program that creates, educates and informs Wilderness ambassadors across the country. 

  • BROAD COALITION: Beginning in 2013, we prioritized building a credible, science-based campaign supported by a broad coalition of businesses, veterans, hunting and angling groups, youth, Indigenous people, students, conservation groups, Boundary Waters paddlers, and many more allies across the nation. Today, we’ve reached over 400 businesses and organizations.(Learn about the Boundary Waters Business Coalition. )

We do all of this and more in order to ensure the permanent protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and you make it possible. Rush a year-end gift today.


During the Obama administration, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters worked to:

  • Elevate Boundary Waters protection from a local Minnesota priority to a national issue

  • Attack the issue from a proactive, protective posture instead of defensively

In 2016, Twin Metals Minnesota, the mining company owned by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, had their expired mineral leases cancelled; a mineral leasing ban was proposed that would prevent new mineral leases and prospecting (exploration) permits.

After the 2016 elections, we found ourselves facing a hostile administration that did everything in its power to advance a Twin Metals mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Our Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters fought hard against the Trump administration to:

  • Slow down the federal leasing and review process, and incorporate science into decision making

  • Build additional political power and support

  • Elevate the issue for presidential candidates

  • Release polling by Republican and Democratic pollsters

  • Push back on political interference and untruths, and push forward science and public input

  • Engage Members of Congress to oppose the mine

Trump did everything he could to make it happen but there's still no mine.

Below is just some of the critical work we are doing at both the state and federal level, through advocacy, legal challenges, and legislation introduced by Boundary Waters champions. 




In June 2020, NMW sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), alleging that Minnesota’s laws are inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters because they allow a sulfide-ore copper mine to be built upstream of the Wilderness. 

This ground-breaking lawsuit was brought under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA).

NMW and its partner The Wilderness Society are lead plaintiffs in three federal lawsuits challenging unlawful actions to advance sulfide-ore copper mining on public lands in the Superior National Forest, just upstream of the Boundary Waters.


Throughout 2020, we worked closely to build Boundary Waters champions in the Minnesota Legislature.

In October, Minnesota House Members announced that they would be introducing a state Boundary Waters Protection Bill in 2021. This bill is complementary to H.R. 5598, a bill pending in Congress.

In January 2020, Representative Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 5598, The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act.

Through our federal advocacy and outreach program, we are generating Congressional support for this bill and working towards a Senate companion bill.

Environ. Impact Statements

And Other Reviews

Our staff of science, policy, and legal experts leads a coalition of groups and a team of two dozen scientists preparing detailed technical comments for two mine plan environmental reviews (separate state and federal reviews) scheduled to begin in 2021. 

This is the fifth federal public comment process on the Boundary Waters that our team has supported with technical comments based on high quality scientific and economic analysis.


Our outreach team is prepared to support and encourage citizens to engage in the public comment periods. More than 250,000 public comments have been submitted during past Boundary Waters comment periods.


The results of the 2020 elections made it absolutely clear that Minnesotans support protection for the Boundary Waters; they rejected politicians who would allow sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of this Wilderness. 

President-elect Biden won the state in a contest that highlighted the Boundary Waters and northeastern Minnesota, where, according to the New York Times, “residents had broadly rebuked the Trump administration’s move toward approving a mine near the Boundary Waters.”

This doesn’t come as a surprise - our polling from July 2020 showed that 68% of Minnesotans support permanent protection of the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Mining in this place is opposed by a 39-point margin. 

With an incoming federal administration that values science, the law, and public input, we can take this fight to a new level.

The coalition behind this monumental effort is led and funded by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. Without your support, the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining would not be where it is today. We bring together the collective voices of those who love the Boundary Waters.

We have an opportunity to protect the Boundary Waters for good. Help us continue our momentum into 2021 by donating today. 

Dogs for the BWCA

Saturday, December 26, 2020
Posted by
Dogs for the BWCA

We at Dogs for the BWCA want to help save this incredible Wilderness! Hear from some of our dog members about their favorite Boundary Waters stories below.

Tank Freeman

I got to live in the Boundary Waters for a long time when I joined Amy and Dave Freeman starting in the winter of their Year in the Wilderness. Amy and I skijored together until ice out when they decided to let me stay with them for paddle season! I’m a land lover, so every time we got to a new campsite, I’d be so excited I’d just run and run and run and run and run and run and run and then take a nap. Good times. 

Zoey Wind

I love tennis balls. But my mom said we couldn’t bring balls to the Wilderness in case they got lost. Leave No Trace (except peeing on trees to let the other dogs know I was at this campsite!!!) So instead I got by with finding sticks. Small sticks. Big sticks. Sticks that were supposed to be for the fire. Sticks buried in the lake. Sticks that wacked my mom in the back of the leg on portages, (almost causing her to drop the canoe. Hehehe) The great part about the Boundary Waters is that there were SO MANY STICKS. My favorite was having my mom throw it into the lake and then bringing it back to her. Ah boy, good times. Can't wait to go back. 

Coyha Lyons

My favorite thing about going to the Boundary Waters is how many different kinds of animal poop there are out there. I’m a big fan of finding it and then rolling in it. According to my mom, I shouldn’t be able to find human poop because humans are supposed to hide it… something about “leave no trace” ...  but sometimes they don’t and that’s a real treat for me.

Tano London

My first time in the Boundary Waters was when I was just four months old for a winter trip (my favorite season!) I enjoy running across the frozen lakes and smelling all of the animal tracks and diving into deep snow bluffs. I especially enjoy running ahead of my snowshoeing humans who are too heavy to walk on top of icy snow as I can! But, I never run too far from my humans because I don’t want to get lost in the Wilderness.

Buck and Gunnar Landwehr

One time we were in the Boundary Waters with our dad. He saw a bull moose across the lake and grunted at it. Later in the evening, it swam over to our campsite. We don’t know why dad was freaking out so much, but he climbed into a tree. Then he got mad at us for not being “watch dogs.” Sorry, we thought we were on vacation!

Jack Piragis

I. Love. Ice fishing. 

Author John Owens: One Summer Up North

Monday, December 21, 2020
Posted by
Save the Boundary Waters

Sign up for a chance to receive a free signed copy of the book "One Summer Up North" here!

We chatted with author and Save the Boundary Waters volunteer John Owens who recently published the picture book One Summer Up North (University of Minnesota Press) following a family's canoe trip in the Boundary Waters.

Q: Tell me about your personal connection to the Boundary Waters

A: Six years ago I took my first trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for a half-day paddle with my wife, and some old friends from college. The next year I went along on a guided trip for a week. That was my first overnight experience in the BWCAW. Since that year, I have been back at least once, if not two or three times a year. Summer, Autumn, and Winter.  

Q: How’d you get the idea for this picture book? What was your inspiration?

A: A summer trip inspired me to illustrate what would become my picture book, “One Summer Up North.” My friend Steve and I put in at entry point #16 - Moose River North, and paddled our way up through Agnes, then over into Iron Lake. We took in Rebecca Falls and Curtain Falls ( Curtain Falls inspired a spread in the book), then paddled back across Lac La Croix visiting Warrior Hill, and the pictographs along the way. Paddling west we ended up turning south into Gebeonequet, Green, Rocky, and then Oyster Lake for our last night. This was my first trip moving daily and exploring a variety of spectacular sights in a week-long trip. I told Steve at the time, “I’m going to illustrate a book!”

Q: What was the process like to create and publish the book?

A: The illustrations took a little over three years to develop and create. They started out as small thumbnail sketches, then turned into full-size sketches that were eventually transferred to Bristol board and then finalized as drawings. I then added the color digitally. It took another year for the University of Minnesota Press process to develop into publishing the final book. If you want to check out the book, go to:

Q: What are you hoping people take from the book?

A: I’d like people who have never visited the Boundary Waters to come away with an idea of what it’s like, hopefully inspiring them to visit. I think people who have visited the Boundary Waters will recognize something about their own experience in this story and the scenes portrayed. The one thing I hope stands out is the evocative nature of the images.

Q: You volunteered with Save the Boundary Waters – say more about that, and what inspired you to get involved.

A: After my first weeklong trip, I visited Save the Boundary Waters office in Ely and found out about the fight against sulfide-ore copper mining. I did more research and that’s when I started making contributions and volunteering. I have volunteered at the State Fair booth a few times, and when the book was published I donated a percentage of my advance for this cause. I hope the book in turn becomes one more way that inspires readers to get involved with Save the Boundary Waters.

Q: Do you have any advice to others wondering what they can do to help fight for something they think is important?

A: I would encourage anyone that wants to help fight for something they think is important to simply start where they can. Whether that is time, or money, or in some other way. Any contribution whether big or small can help.

Thank you Northstar Canoes

Friday, December 4, 2020
Posted by
Save the Boundary Waters

Northstar Canoes makes beautiful lightweight canoes and canoe gear at their headquarters in Princeton (central Minnesota) guided by owner and renowned canoe builder Ted Bell.

General Manager (and avid backcountry expeditioner himself!) Bear Paulsen and the whole Northstar team have also been dedicated, generous, and collaborative partners as well as a strong paddling industry voice for Save the Boundary Waters since the early days of the Campaign. 

Northstar has sponsored and participated in many of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters events -- donating items, cash, and helping publicize the efforts - including the Pedal to DC Bike/Book Tour, and auctions and fundraisers such as our Boundary Waters Gala. We can also always count on a strong showing from their employee team themselves--always showing up in person and attending many Save the Boundary Waters events!

Northstar gives generously of their time and resources to aid the effort to protect the Boundary Waters--from designing and selling their own merch with a kickback to the Campaign, dedicating their own brand ads to the cause, and providing custom Basswood Lake pint glasses for every attendee of our gala, and donating a top-of-the-line canoe and gear package for our Boundary Waters 40th Anniversary raffle.

They also routinely donate a portion of proceeds from their boat sales at the Canoecopia expo to Save the Boundary Waters. 

Northstar has been a member of the Boundary Waters Business Coalition and advocating for protection of the Boundary Waters to decision-makers for years. In addition, they are one of the 9 business co-plaintiffs alongside Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness in our federal lawsuits challenging the reinstatement and renewals of Twin Metals’ mining leases.

Support Northstar and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters this season: check out their Shop to Support items shirts and cups today!

THANK YOU Northstar Canoes!

Save the Boundary Waters staff Tom Landwehr and Sam Chadwick joined Northstar and friends for the 2019 Northstar Experience, and paddled the Zumbro River!