Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

IUCN Category Ib (Wilderness Area)


Minnesota, USA


4749?0?N 9112?0?W? / ?47.81667 91.2? / 47.81667; -91.2Coordinates: 4749?0?N 9112?0?W? / ?47.81667 91.2? / 47.81667; -91.2


1,090,000 acres (4,410 km2)



Governing body

U.S. Forest Service

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA), is a 1.09 million acre (4,410 km2) wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota (USA) under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. The BWCAW is renowned as a destination for both canoeing and fishing on its many lakes and is the most visited wilderness in the United States.


1 Geography

2 Natural history

2.1 Geology

2.2 Forest ecology

2.3 Fauna

3 Human history

3.1 Native peoples

3.2 The fur trade

3.3 Development and protection

4 Recreation

4.1 Canoeing

4.2 Fishing

4.3 Hiking

5 Notable people associated with the BWCAW

6 References

6.1 Cited references

6.2 General references

7 See also

8 External links



The BWCAW within the Superior National Forest

The BWCAW is located on the U.S.-Canadian border. Along with Voyageurs National Park to the west and the Canadian Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks to the north, they make up a large area of contiguous wilderness lakes and forests called the "Quetico-Superior country", or simply the Boundary Waters. Lake Superior lies to the east of the Boundary Waters.

The continental divide between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay watersheds runs northeast-southwest through the east side of the BWCAW, following the crest of the Superior Upland and Gunflint Range. The crossing of the divide at Height of Land Portage was the occasion for ceremony and initiation rites for the fur-trading Voyageurs of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The wilderness also includes the highest peak in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain (2,301 feet / 701 m), part of the Misquah Hills.

The two main communities with visitor services near the BWCAW are Ely and Grand Marais, Minnesota. The smaller town of Tofte is another gateway community. Several historic roads, such as the Gunflint Trail, the Echo Trail, and Fernberg Road allow access to the many wilderness entry points.

Lake-side cliffs are common throughout the BWCAW

Natural history


The lakes of the BWCAW are located in depressions formed by the differential erosion of tilted layers of bedded rock of the Canadian Shield; these depressions were given their final form by glacial scouring during recent ice ages. The resulting depressions in the landscape later filled with water, becoming the lakes of today.

Many varieties of Precambrian bedrock are exposed, including granite, basalt, greenstone, gneiss, as well as metamorphic rocks derived from volcanic and sedimentary rocks. Greenstone located near Ely, Minnesota is up to 2.7 billion years old, some of the oldest exposed rock in the United States. Igneous rocks of the Duluth Complex comprise the bedrock of the eastern Boundary Waters.

Forest ecology

A water lily near Jordan Lake

The Boundary Waters area contains both the boreal forest (taiga) and a mixed conifer-hardwood forest known as the North Woods, which is a transition province between the northern boreal forest and deciduous forests to the south. The ranges of the plants and animals continue north into southern Canada and south into the rest of the upper Great Lakes region. Trees found within the wilderness area include red pine, eastern white pine, jack pine, birch, balsam fir, white spruce, and white cedar. Blueberries are common in many parts of the BWCAW, as are raspberries. The BWCAW is estimated to contain some 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of old growth forest, woods which may have burned but which have never been logged. Forest fires were a natural part of the Boundary Waters ecosystem before fire suppression efforts during the 20th century, with recurrence intervals of 30 - 300 years in most areas.

On July 4, 1999, a powerful wind storm, or derecho, swept across Minnesota and southern Canada, knocking down millions of trees and affecting about 370,000 acres (1,500 km2) within the BWCAW. This event became known officially as the Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho, commonly referred to as "the Boundary Waters blowdown". Although campsites and portages were quickly cleared after the storm, an increased risk of wildfire continues to remain a concern due to the large number of downed trees. The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a schedule of prescribed burns to reduce the forest fuel load in the event of a wildfire.

The first major wildfire within the blowdown occurred in August...(and so on)
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