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Lake of the Week: Gunflint Lake

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


Campers watch the sun go down over Gunflint Lake

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

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

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

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

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

The Stairway to Canada: Rose Lake

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Posted by
Spencer Shaver


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


Rose Falls frozen in the winter.

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

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

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

Boundary Waters Legends: All About Amy

Friday, December 15, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

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

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

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

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

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

Lake of the Week: Clove Lake

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Posted by
Spencer Shaver

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

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

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

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

Boundary Waters Legends: The Verdict on Judge Miles Lord

Thursday, December 7, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

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

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

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

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

Community Stories: Will Lyman

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Posted by
Will Lyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saganaga Lake

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Posted by
Spencer Shaver


Englishman Island on Saganaga Lake


Travelers on the Monument Portage across Swamp Lake from Saganaga

Acres: 7000 +

Saganaga Lake is famous for being the end of the Gunflint Trail and the northernmost lake on the eastern side of the Boundary Waters. As one of the largest lakes in the Boundary Waters, Saganaga is also known for its many confusing islands. With 78 maintained campsites, there are plenty of great places to camp on “Sag” for whatever you’re looking for. Saganaga falls, in the northeastern corner of the lake, is great for fishing, and a classic end to a trip along the Granite River to the east. In the same northeastern corner, there are awesome campsites perched on granite cliffs looking into Canada. Heading west from the entry point toward American Point, you can stop at Englishman Island and then head south toward Red Rock Bay or north toward Canada. At the beginning of Quetico Provincial Park you can stop on an island in Cache Bay to register for day permits, or continue further into the park via Silver Falls. Heading further west into Saganaga takes you along the Canadian Border via Swamp Lake and the Monument Portage into Ottertrack Lake.

“Sag” is a massive lake that is often times windy, but there are plenty of outfitters who can pick you up or drop you off via motor to make the crossing less difficult. Leaving a car at the end of the Gunflint Trail then entering the Boundary Waters further towards Grand Marais makes Saganaga an ideal end to a long trip, so make sure to stop by on your next trip to the Boundary Waters!

More informationat:

Boundary Waters Legends: The Fiery Grit of Bud Heinselman

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Posted by
Paxton Alto

Miron “Bud” Heinselman developed a deep-rooted passion for fire ecology in the 1940s. Along with this, he was a man with a longtime love of the Boundary Waters and a fierce determination to preserve it. Bud’s enthusiasm for both of these causes would prove useful when he eventually found himself entwining his knowledge of the two to advocate for the Boundary Waters to be recognized as a designated Wilderness area. While he was always an ally of nature, it was in the late 1940s that Bud first began to be recognized for his research and conservation efforts.

At this time, Bud immersed himself in research about previous northeastern Minnesota wildfires with special attention to their seriousness and density. As a research scientist for the U.S. Forest Service he grew to become one of the world’s leading names in fire ecology. Due to the many days he spent paddling on the pristine waters of the Boundary Waters, Bud was especially interested in banning logging and allowing the forest to burn and die out on its own, without the Forest Service stepping in. Moreover, his time as a researcher enabled him to have a deeper understanding of the Boundary Waters’ ecosystem than most and interpret the role of fire in its development.

Beyond his work in BWCA fire ecology, Bud spent many of the later years of his life fighting for the conservation of the Boundary Waters, and he stuck to his belief that the best way to do this was by sanctioning the area as a Wilderness. While once a member of the Izaak Walton League of America, Bud was most known for his role in forming Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness alongside other environmentalists. During his time as chair of the organization Bud worked to push through legislation for protection of the Boundary Waters. He found success in 1978 when President Carter signed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act into effect, which was particularly significant in ridding the area of logging and placing restrictions on mining in the area.

Bud was a man well aware of the power of knowledge and used his intellect as his greatest weapon in the fight to preserve the BWCA. It is difficult to ascertain what the state of the Boundary Waters would be today were it not for his unwavering resolve and plentiful research. He is an excellent example of what it means to be a Wilderness warrior, and we find ourselves with a responsibility to ensure his work was not in vain and the Boundary Waters remains as beautiful and untouched as he always knew it to be. It is for leaders such as Bud who have protected the Boundary Waters for our generation that we work to conserve it for future generations, and also like Bud, we will not give up.

Wisconsin and the Dangers of Sulfide-ore Copper Mining

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Posted by
By Matt Norton, Policy Director


Flambeau Mine Flambeau Mine
Flambeau Mine


Eagle Mine  Eagle Mine
Eagle Mine
 Wisconsin legislators pass bill to repeal a Prove-it-First law, tacitly confirm that all sulfide-ore copper mines pollute.

On Tuesday November 7, Wisconsin lawmakers eager to promote sulfide-ore copper mining passed and sent a bill to repeal that state’s “Prove it First” sulfide mining moratorium law to Governor Walker’s desk. The Prove-it-First law was passed in 1998 and obligates any company seeking a Wisconsin mining permit to show first that a single sulfide-ore mine anywhere in the U.S. or Canada has operated for at least 10 years and been closed for at least 10 years without polluting surrounding water. Since the law’s passage, no new sulfide-ore copper mine has been developed in Wisconsin. 

Of course, there would be no need to repeal the law if there were a single example of a sulfide-ore copper mine that had operated and been closed for at least 10 years without polluting surrounding water. There is no such mine, all sulfide-ore copper mines pollute. Mines occasionally suggested as “clean” have, upon closer inspection of records, been shown demonstrably either to have polluted or not yet to have been operated and closed for at least 10 years (hence Tuesday's move to repeal Wisconsin’s prudent-yet-inconvenient Prove-it-First law.) 

Wisconsin would be wise to reject this push from legislators and retain their sensible requirements on environmental protection.  

Mines That Have Claimed to be Clean but Have Polluted:

  • Flambeau Mine, Wisconsin (Wisconsin DNR. April 2012. Surface Water Quality Assessment of the Flambeau Mine Site)
  • Stillwater Mine, Montana (Maest & Kuipers, 2006 at p. 222.)
  • Eagle Mine, Michigan (

Kekekabic Lake

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Posted by
Meg Emory

Acres: 1710.7
Campsites: 16
Portages: 4 possible
Fish: Lake Trout, White Sucker

Kekekabic Lake is a long, skinny lake, and a popular part of loops from Seagull to Saganaga Lakes, and vice versa. If you don’t want to canoe, but still want to see the Boundary Waters, check out the Kekekabic Trail, which runs along the edge of the lake and across much of the Boundary Waters. Usually grown over, wet and buggy the Kekekabic Trail isn’t an easy trek, but is one of the best ways to get into the interior of the Boundary Waters on foot. On the shores are an old National Forest Service cabin and a hidden fire tower that are no longer in use. Following the Kekakabic trail will lead you right by the cabin, and look upward for the tower. There’s a number of great campsites around the lake, including the campsite on a large island located in the southwest corner of the lake. (Photo Credit: Spencer Shaver)

More information at: