In 1980, my parents bought a cabin on West Bearskin Lake. Our land is on a peninsula, so we actually have docks on two lakes (Hungry Jack and West Bearskin Lakes). Both Lakes are entry points into the Boundary Waters Wilderness. From West Bearskin you can go to Duncan, Moss and Daniels Lake. From Duncan Lake in particular, you can go to Rose Falls and the famous Stairway Portage. To say that I have spent a lot of my life in the vicinity of the Boundary Waters is an understatement. A trip to Rose Falls is an ideal day trip from the cabin. I love the Boundary Waters because it is one of the few places where you can go to truly be off the grid. I love canoeing, fishing, swimming, and camping andthe Boundary Waters is an ideal place to do all those things. I love the wildlife. I love hearing nothing but bird calls and splashing water. And sometimes absolute silence. Which I am also okay with.
The most recent trip I took into the Boundary Waters was with my mom. We went snowshoeing to Rose Falls. The air temp was cold. We had to keep moving to stay warm. It has been so cold up there that Rose Falls is completely iced over, which I have never seen. Mom and I are notorious for getting a late start, which proved to be a very beautiful thing: we got to see the sunset and the moon rise over Duncan Lake.
On another trip to Rose Falls with my best friend, we got stuck in a thunderstorm going back to the cabin. As I was paddling on Duncan I could see the storm clouds gathering. The clouds looked like the horses that Arwent calls down the river in Fellowship of the Ring. The first raindrops started falling the moment we reached the Duncan/West Bearskin portage. Once we got to the West Bearskin side, the skies opened and we were soaked instantly. Thunder rumbled and lightning streaked across the side. We hunkered down until it was safe to cross the lake. We made it back in time to enjoy post journey malts at Trail Center on the Gunflint Trail.
I started volunteering for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, because I wanted to get involved with an organization that aligned with my values and this has been the best way for me to be involved. The wilderness needs advocates. I believe that the work we do is important. The Lorax said it best: “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
The long story is, I signed up to volunteer at the send off party for Amy and Dave Freeman the day I moved into my current apartment. Moving is stressful so I was emotional to start off the evening. Then I watched the video about Amy and Dave Freeman’s plan to spend a year in the Boundary Waters Wilderness and preceded to burst into tears. I followed that up by getting a really bad case of Pneumonia after running the Twin Cities Marathon for the first time. I was unable to start volunteering until mid-November of 2015, but I have not stopped since.
Volunteering for Save the Boundary Waters has allowed me to express my leadership skills. I am most proud of the brewery events that I have helped to plan. I like making connections with the owners breweries here in the cities. These connections are truly symbiotic: we bring them business, they give us space to spread the word. (Mark your calendars for Lake Monster Brewing Company of April 7th. Two local bands. The Broken Heartland String Band and The Northerly Gales are performing. Stay tuned for event details!)
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.
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?
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:
Together we must fight every effort to damage the Boundary Waters. And together we will prevail.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.