Boundary Waters Catalog Blog

Knowledge Base and Learning Center


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Partial BWCAW Closure follows Fire Ban and Spice Lake Fire

From the Forest Service, June 16th, 2023

Superior National Forest to Close area around Spice Lake Wildfire within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area WildernessA portion of lands within the BWCAW in the Superior National Forest will be closed effective June 16
Duluth, Minn., June 13, 2023—Due to the Spice Lake Wildfire on the Superior National Forest (SNF), Forest Supervisor Tom Hall is closing a portion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) with an Emergency Forest Order – effective June 16 – prohibiting visitor entry at specific campsites, portages and lakes, and Pristine Management Areas (Forest Order 09-09-23-03#). The restrictions will go into effect beginning Friday morning (12:01) a.m., June 16, 2023; see Exhibit A of the Forest Order for a map of the area. The closure may be modified or extended as conditions allow.
The Forest Order closures include:All trails, portages, rivers, and lakes within the closure area (see in Exhibit A), including but not limited to 47 locations as noted.All zones of the of the Pitfall Pristine Management Area (1 through 3), and the Mugwump Pristine Management Area (1 through 5).The Kekekabic Trail- the area from the BWCAW boundary west of the Gunflint Trail to the series of portages between Thomas Lake and Ima Lake (see Exhibit A).
The Forest Service has notified permit holders and outfitters and is encouraging permit holders to seek an alternate area of the BWCAW or consider non-wilderness areas of the SNF (see below) for similar experiences. At this time overnight paddle, day use and motorized day use is not permitted in the closure area.

We understand that this will have a significant impact on our visitors, cooperators, and communities near the SNF. This emergency closure is necessary for the safety of our visitors, our wilderness rangers and our fire-fighters. 

Northern Minnesota is facing severe to extreme drought conditions, causing active and increasing fire across the landscape. A Type 3 team is managing suppression actions on the Spice Lake Fire with additional resources on standby. Additionally, the Forest is monitoring the fires in Canada. The Forest is coordinating with Ontario counterparts.

Beyond the closures for the Spice Lake Fire, the Forest is open to the public. We do have a campfire restriction in place across the Forest– see website for details.
There are 254 backcountry campsites outside the Wilderness that offer remote paddling, camping and fishing. Here you can experience solitude without reservations, fees or permits and still have similar amenities to that of a BWCAW campsite. Many backcountry campsites are located on canoe routes outside the BWCAW. State forests and parks and county lands are also available for recreation. 

For more information on recreation alternatives outside the BWCAW, please visit: Superior National Forest – Water Activities:Boating – Non-Motorized (usda.gov) For a list of canoe routes with backcountry campsites in the Superior National Forest, visit: Canoeing 2012 rev 0415 final.pub (usda.gov)
The Superior National Forest also offers 23 developed campgrounds and 18 rustic campgrounds. Rustic campgrounds are free of charge and available first come, first served year-round. Fee campgrounds are open May – September and may be reserved at Recreation.gov. See the Forest website for more information.

Thank you for your cooperation.

For additional information regarding fire-related and/or forest closures and updates:Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for this closure can be found on the forest website homepage hotlink www.fs.usda.gov/superiorInciweb for this incident can be found at https://inciweb.wildfire.gov/incident-information/mnsuf-spice-lake-fireSNF Forest Orders are available here: https://bit.ly/SNFforestordersSee the Superior National Forest website: www.fs.usda.gov/superiorFuels and Fire Behavior Advisory
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Book Signing: White Pine by John Pastor

Piragis Northwoods Company Bookstore is sponsoring a Book Signing with author John Pastor for his book White Pine.

Tuesday, June 20th, 2023 12:00 pm to 1 pm at the Grand Ely Lodge in Ely, Minnesota during Tuesday Group. Lunch is available for purchase at the event.

Tree enthusiasts will love John Pastor’s book White Pine: The Natural and Human History of the Foundational American Tree. A small, but sturdy read that weaves together the history of the iconic white pine tree.Throughout the book, ecologist and writer John Pastor takes readers on a walk through history, connecting the white pine forests we have today to a legacy of destruction and renewal. Through this book you will grow a new understanding as to why the white pine is both important and should be protected. Learn the trials and tribulations of what scientists had to go through to keep this tree alive to this day.

From the clear cutting era to the glorious white pine forests that we have today, Pastor’s book gives us a charming, yet informational story that will interest any nature lover. White Pine tells the century long tale of naturalists, foresters, and scientists attempting to restore the great white pine forests. Through this quest to save the white pine we learn how much of  Americans’ understanding of key scientific ideas was shaped by this endeavor, from forest succession to the importance of fire, the white pine has been a strong pillar of truth and knowledge in the forest community. White Pine: The Natural and Human History of the Foundational American Tree doesn’t just highlight the past destruction of the white pine forest, but also gives us understanding of the importance and hope for the future of the pine tree.

The beauty isn’t just in the story, but also in the drawings spread throughout the book to further illustrate the importance of the white pine. This book will leave you both feeling more informed on how our knowledge of nature has been formed, but also feeling a sense of hope for the future of nature. With John Pastor’s combination of analytical and optimistic story telling, readers are sure to feel warm hearted and positive about the future of our world after reading this book. 

From the back of the book

“White pine, a cultural icon and source of riches to generations, remains an awe-inspiring and yet enigmatic species in forests across eastern North America. Through engaging history, delightful personal narrative, and wide-ranging research, all accented by his wonderfully detailed pen and ink drawings, John Pastor presents the most insightful book yet on one of America’s foundational trees.” — David Foster, Director Emeritus, Harvard Forest, author of “A Meeting of Land and Sea” and editor of “Hemlock”

“In a beautiful blend of cultural and natural history, White Pine takes us on a journey to deeply know one species. From that depth comes the surprising discovery of all the life connected to it and a hopeful guide for our shared future.” — Lauren E. Oakes, author of “In Search of the Canary Tree”

“John Pastor’s wonderfully evocative writing about this iconic American tree is rooted in a lifetime of science and scholarship. It’s as much a deep history of the relationships between humans and nature as it is the story of a tree and its environment.” — Charles Canham, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, author of “Forests Adrift”

About the Author

John Pastor is an ecologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where his teaching and research focused on the natural history and ecology of northern ecosystems. He is the author of What Should a Clever Moose Eat? and Mathematical Ecology of Populations and Ecosystems, is co-editor of Large Mammalian Herbivores, Ecosystem Dynamics, and Conservation, and has authored or coauthored 22 book chapters and over 120 papers, mostly about the North Woods. He is a past co-chair of the Natural History Section of the Ecological Society of America and founding editor of “The Scientific Naturalist” series in the journal Ecology.

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Fire Ban in Boundary Waters

Starting today, there’s a fire ban in the Boundary Waters. As of June 14, 2023.

Previously, Quetico Provencial Park in Canada had issued a Fire Ban beginning June 1st.

After a winter of record snowfall, our season has started off without rain, with higher temperatures and with plenty of wind. All of these conditions have combined to dry out the forest. In addition to obeying the rules and not having campfires, this result calls for increase diligence (defined as careful and or persistent effort) while in the forest and on its edges. As visitors we all need to be careful not to start any fires intentionally or unintentionally.

During this time it is important to make sure to pack and take enough fuel along to supply your camp stove for the duration of your canoe trip. Having a good stove is important in the wilderness and it is equally important to be careful with your stove as it has an open flame and can obviously cause a fire to start if you are not careful with it.

Here’s a good link to a camp stove that we use in Canoe Outfitting.

We also rent these stoves as part of our complete and partial canoe trip outfitting services.

More details on the Fire Restrictions Order for the Superior National Forest below:

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Going Solo: Tips and Tricks for Camping Alone in the Boundary Waters

Are you craving an escape from the daily grind and the chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural world? With solo travel on the rise, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness offers a unique and rewarding adventure for those looking to venture out on their own. Nestled in northern Minnesota, this vast wilderness beckons with the promise of solitude, serenity, and the opportunity to reconnect with the natural rhythms of life. 

So, join me as I take a closer look at what makes camping alone in the Boundary Waters such a memorable and transformative experience. From navigating the waterways to finding your inner calm, I’ll share some tips and insights to help you make the most of your solo journey into the wild.

Of course, with great adventure comes great responsibility, and solo camping in the Boundary Waters is no exception. As you venture into the wild on your own, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and hazards that you may encounter along the way. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your solo camping trip:

Staying Safe in the Wilderness: What you need to consider for solo camping in the Boundary Waters

Picture yourself standing at the edge of the water, gazing out into the vast expanse of the Boundary Waters. The sun is just starting to peek over the treetops, casting a warm glow on the still, glass-like surface of the lake. The only sounds you can hear are the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the gentle lapping of the water against the shore. You take a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air and feel a sense of calm wash over you. This is why you came. You’re here to experience the serenity and solitude of the wilderness, to challenge yourself and test your limits, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.

But hold on a sec before you dive headfirst into your solo camping adventure! We’ve got some important stuff to cover to ensure your safety and peace of mind out there in the wilderness. One of the biggest challenges of camping alone is the risk of getting lost. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself wandering aimlessly in the vastness of the Boundary Waters. You’ll definitely want to have a solid grasp of navigation and route planning!

To start, make sure you pack a detailed map of the area. I highly recommend checking out the Voyageur Map Bundle. It’s like having your very own treasure map, leading you to all the hidden gems and secret spots within the Boundary Waters.

Now, let’s dive into another essential resource: guidebooks! If you’re serious about navigating the Boundary Waters like a seasoned pro, these three beauties have got your back:

  1. Exploring the Boundary Waters – This little gem from the U of MN Press is an absolute goldmine. It’s chock-full of insider tips and detailed insights on the best routes to take and the most jaw-dropping spots to explore. Think of it as having your very own wilderness guru guiding you along your journey. Trust me, you won’t want to leave for your solo adventure without it. You can get your hands on a copy here.
  2. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Eastern Region – Ready to conquer the eastern part of the Boundary Waters? This guidebook is your ultimate resource. It’s like having a local expert by your side, showing you the ropes and giving you all the insider knowledge on campsites, portage trails, and more. You can snag a copy here.
  3. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Western Region – Now, if you’re itching to explore the western region, this guidebook is an absolute must-have. It’s jam-packed with detailed descriptions of lakes, rivers, and forests in that area, along with invaluable navigation tips and camping know-how. Consider it your trusty sidekick, ready to accompany you on your solo adventure. You can find it here.

With these guidebooks and your trusty map in tow, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the wonders of the Boundary Waters like a true explorer.

Of course, getting lost isn’t the only concern you may have on your solo camping trip. While wildlife encounters are rare, it’s important to take precautions. The Boundary Waters is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, moose, wolves, and more. While these creatures generally avoid human contact, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Consider carrying bear spray or other deterrents in case of an encounter. It’s worth noting that black bears are generally not threats to humans under normal circumstances. Moose are perhaps the most dangerous animal because of their size and unpredictable behavior.

Another important consideration is your safety in case of accidents. Always wear a life vest when on the water, and carry a spare paddle. It’s also advisable to have a well-equipped first aid kit, such as the MYFAK Medic Basic First Aid Kit to stay prepared for the unforeseen when you are traveling deep into the BWCAW lakes and sites.

PRO TIP: make sure to leave a copy of your entry point, route, and exit date plans with someone you trust and your Canoe Trip Outfitter so that you can be found more quickly in case of an emergency.

Finally, be prepared for inclement weather. The weather in the Boundary Waters can be unpredictable and change rapidly. Bring high-quality clothing, including rain jackets, rain pants, and a warm, waterproof layer for colder temperatures. Our retail store in Ely, Minnesota has everything you need in the wilderness clothing department and when you do a Canoe Outfitting Trip with us we offer a discount on those purchases. 

Check the weather forecast before you set out and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly. If you’re caught in a thunderstorm, seek shelter in a low-lying area away from tall trees and water, and wait out the storm before continuing your journey.

By following these safety tips and taking a cautious approach to your solo camping adventure, you’ll be able to enjoy all that the Boundary Waters has to offer with peace of mind and confidence. So, take a deep breath, embrace the solitude, and let the wilderness work its magic.

Final Thoughts: Why Solo Camping in the Boundary Waters is Worthwhile

There you have it, folks! Solo camping in the Boundary Waters can be a truly unique and rewarding experience. We hope this post has provided you with some valuable insights and inspiration to embark on your own solo adventure. 

We have taken some of the first steps down the path to solo adventure, but before you choose which solo canoe you’d like to rent or decide how many portage packs/food packs you need the next step is to call us T 1-800-223-6565 and discuss permits and further trip planning. We have years of experience planning, routing, outfitting and guiding canoe trips (we’ve been doing this since 1979.)

Please understand before you leave our blog, we want to hear from you! What safety considerations do you keep in mind when solo camping? What’s your favorite route to explore on your own? Do you have any tips or tricks for enjoying the solitude and serenity of the wilderness alone? Do you have more concerns or questions that this introductory article hasn’t touched on?

Drop us a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going. Feel free to post a picture of your recent solo adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Happy canoe camping!

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It is Bug Season

Gear Review: Best piece of gear for Blackflies, gnats and Mosquitos while taking a canoe trip in late May/June in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is hand’s down besides cans of spray, our Elite Original Bug Shirt! With tons of features and a loose fitting design that allows for breathability and most of all, YOUR SANITY, it is a no-nonsense approach to the outdoors. We mow the lawn, garden and walk in them and have been know to even swing a golf club wearing one here in town. Out in the woods whether you find yourself on a lake with no breeze or on a portage any time of the day, especially after the heat and dusk or dawn settle in, this piece of gear is a must have.

Here’s some pictures up close and a direct link to a great product. We just resupplied and stocked up because we sold out already. So now we are ready with what we refer to as canoe trip insurance. Insurance money well spent on your pleasure while camping because without it you’ll have a bad time. Why tempt it? It’s a long paddle and drive back to town. Pick yours up here: Original Bug Shirt.

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Opening Weekend Canoe Trip with Eric Glasson and Wondrous Wendell

A few highlights from the trip follow:

-Paddled in Thursday the 11th and out Monday the 15th.

-Expected ice on LLC but didn’t run into ANY

-Water surface temps as cold as 42 degrees and as warm as 54 degrees

-Bought Wendell the Ruffwear Float Coat before the trip and he did a great job wearing it while he was in the boat – he seemed very comfortable in the coat and it fit him very wel (size medium coat, Wendell is Aussie Mix roughly 50lbs).  This is the first time I brought him on a fishing opener trip – and the longest at 5 days – and it went great.  Float coat helped me feel secure as I was responsible for his safety the 8-10 hours/day we were in the boat.  Yellow color is great for high-visibility in the woods!

-Lake Trout fishing was tough, fishing on the main body of water (colder water) was tough, but the Walleye, Pike and Bass fishing was REALLY good by moving water.  Walleyes were mid/post spawn, feeding in water anywhere from 6-30’ deep during the day.  The warmer water flowing from surrounding lake(s) was really the only place we had good fishing the entire trip.

-We ended up catching just shy of 150 fish (Smallmouth and Pike are open and OK to target on LLC before statewide opener as it is a border water) between the four of us during our 3.5 days of fishing.

-Took the larger Champlain, in addition to my buddy’s NW17, to accommodate for room for Wendell.  The Champlain paddled like a dream, was super stable for fishing and had plenty of room for two large packs and a whole open area between thwarts for Wendell to be comfortable.

-Pictographs on LLC were breathtaking – A must see!

-Explored Fish Stake Narrows and Lady Boot Bay where we saw NO ONE!

-Only ran into a handful of groups after Agnes – LLC was not as busy as I expected for opener weekend.  If I had to guess, only about 40% of the campsites in Tiger and Boulder Bay were occupied.

Weather: Unseasonably warm and sunny!  Upper 60’s to upper 70s for highs and overnight lows just barely dipping into the high 30’s.  Lack of wind made fishing difficult, but I can’t complain about the sun.

Bugs: zero bugs for the first 2-3 days of the trip but by the end we saw multiple mosquitos and black flies.  Still too early to be biting, but I would bet after our recent rain and a little more sun/warmth they will be out in numbers.

Additional Highlights: LLC Blue Walleyes, Fantastic 5-star campsite adjacent Warrior Hill and Pictographs, spring walleye bite (jig and minnow by far our best bait), lake trout dinner, bonus 46” northern pike I caught jigging for walleye

All photos credited to @eric_in_ely and @wondrouswendell

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Compression Sacks for Everyday Travel? A not so novel idea.

Monday mornings are for simple but effective ideas. Ideas that can save you time and money and headaches. Because we have enough of that on Mondays. Multi-use. That’s a good idea. If you can use your camping gear that you spent well-earned money on for other things, that’s a great idea.

Did you know that Compression Sacks aren’t just for camping? That’s right, our load em up big, pack em down small bags that allow you to fit so much into your portage packs have common everyday travel benefits too. Perhaps you already have watched all the YouTube videos on how to fold and roll your clothes to fit more into your suitcases, duffels and carryons. Perhaps you’re always disappointed with your lack of variety and realization that you’ve arrived without your favorite jeans and kicks?

We like it a lot when we can supply you with gear that functions as perfectly outside of the Boundary Waters as it does on a well-planned canoe camping trip. Even if you don’t “need” more room on trail or on the road, compression sacks are fantastic organizers and they shrink down to give any pack or suitcase a more streamlined feel with just a few pulls of your straps or roll of their tops.

We’ve got a variety of options and sizes that work just as easily in a hotel room as a tent with a no-see-um view of the Boundary Waters. In fact, two pages of organizer sacks/packs from small zip sacks that hold all your toiletries and cords and menagerie to larger see-through Discovery View bags. Page One and Page Two links for your browsing pleasure.

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Used Gear Sale Produces Great Deals

We’ve brought in all new gear for our Canoe Trip Outfitting season. That means we’ve got plenty of used gear from last season on sale. Tents at savings like never before. Lifevests at savings unprecedented. Cooking and Kitchen tools ready to blow out the Outlet door. Sleeping pads, sleeping bags, tarps, and oh yeah, Paddles. Experienced Gear. What exactly does that mean? Gear that has experienced a season in the Boundary Waters. It will last you for many years to come and the discounts begin in earnest this weekend. Here’s the online list of our used gear, but show up in person and you’ll be surprised at the incredible savings available to you in our Outlet Store that opens today in Ely, Minnesota.


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A Busy Week with Fishing Opener, Mother’s Day Sales and our Outlet Store Opening

Boy, when the sun decides to show up in Ely, everything changes. When the calendar turned the page on April this year it felt like we might be done with the cold. So far that’s a true statement. Last night we didn’t dip below 50 degrees and later this afternoon we should top out around 78. The sun is shining and we are busy like bees in a growing hive.

Last Saturday, Drew, our Outfitting Manager, packed up and took off into the wilderness, Entry Point #32, South Kawishiwi River to be exact, on the first canoe trip of the season. He found a pile of snow at the back of the campsite and some black ice to crash through with the rock guarded Viper paddle by Bending Branches along the way, but all of that is long since gone. Here’s some pics of his weekend canoe trip adventure:

So, that’s how our week began. As you can see the water is plenty high and the ice (now) is out on the local lakes, big and small, deep and wide. It is time for fishing opener this coming weekend when, following decades of family and fun tradition, anglers and canoe campers decent upon Ely in hopes of Walleye fillets in the hot skillet for a fantastic shore lunch.

Now instead of snow early in the morning, this is what we wake up to. It gives a whole new meaning to living (in a van) down by the river. Life is indeed, good.

Saturday is fishing opener and you’ll find our Retail Store fully stocked for anything you need to begin a successful 2023 Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest Fishing Opener trip.

Our Outlet Store is opening tomorrow, May 12th, for the season. It is stocked and reading to go for your 40% off Shopping Sprees. Quality clothing in a variety of closeout colors, styles and sample lines grace the racks. Every year, we buy stock specifically for this location with the sole idea of giving our loyal customers in Ely and all of our visitors a chance to save good money on good clothing and footwear. Each year we also have a great selection of slightly used gear that we put on sale from the previous outfitting rental season. It has experienced a season in the Boundary Waters and it is clean, broken in a little and ready to serve you faithfully for years and years to come. At a reduced and discounted rate, of course.

Yesterday we began a Mother’s Day 20% off Women’s Clothing Sale in our retail store. That sale will run through Sunday, May 14th, 2023. If you find yourself in Ely, be sure to stop in and take advantage of new clothing and new Outlet clothing. You could complete your Summer wardrobe in one shot and look great doing it!

While you are here, you don’t really need to be reminded to climb the stairs to our famous Bookstore, but here are some great reasons to do so.

Don’t they say a blog is a terrible thing to waste?

Well, someone did, somewhere. It’s true. We enjoy engaging with our customers, those who visit Ely and those who visit here virtually and don’t get to make the trip. We want to show you our commitment to the Brick and Mortar side of our business. It is huge, this now five decade continuing journey to preserve the wilderness and provide folks good, quality and lightweight gear for canoe camping. Since 1979 we’ve been here for you and we promise to continue that commitment in person and on the internet.

See ya around the bend, or perhaps, right here in Ely.

In closing, here’s a few lines from the Boundary Waters inspired by the photo by Steve Piragis above.


Later in the year, lily pads lift up
flying like hundreds of green flags
at the canoe Olympics.
We balance on water
cold with the memory of winter.
We propel ourselves
through towards adventure.
Each stroke its own adventure.
It feels good again
to stretch these shoulder muscles
and feel the small of our back

To feel the stress
slip out of us like water through
an old aluminum colander
that we throw in the bottom of our pack for pasta
and straining lake ice
during the year’s first early trip.

Each dent, remembered route
and moment by the evening campfire
shores us up.

We reflect on the fact that with each year
we are one with the packs on our back,
another worn but reliable piece of gear.
More familiar with the outdoors,
more in tune with the loonsong and wolfhowl and frogpeeping
melody slipping in and out of the shadows
of the first or second thunderstorm of the Spring.

Flashes of nostalgic childhood music.

©Timothy James Stouffer #elystreetpoet 5/11/2023
All Rights Reserved Ely, MN