Wednesday, July 27, 2016

7/27/16 Update on the BWCA after the July 20th, 2016 Storm

Date Issued: July 27, 2016

USFS Information: 218-365-7600

We (the USFS) will not be posting sites as closed to avoid implying that the other sites are safe. Hazard trees have not been removed yet. When choosing a campsite and tent pads, visitors are reminded to look up and all around. There are many leaning trees, broken tops, and hanging branches that may fall easily. Saturated soils make otherwise stable trees prone to falling over. Consider these hazards and prevailing winds when choosing a parking, picnic, camping site, or tent pad.

Some access roads have not been widened. Even where they have been widened debris in ditches and on shoulders increases danger. Power companies continue to repair lines and there are still some down. We’ve had reports of people driving the access roads too fast and this is endangering our crews and each other. Getting visitors INTO the wilderness is NOT an emergency.

We have not been able to assess everything within the impacted area yet due to the need to open portages. Traveling roughly clockwise, beginning at Snowbank, here are the conditions as we know them right now:

·         Snowbank Area: Portages from Snowbank into Disappointment, Disappointment to Parent, and Parent to Snowbank are now passable. The portage into Grub was not cleared yesterday (mistakenly reported as cleared). Portages have been cleared from Snowbank east to Thomas Lake. The condition of portages from Boot to Caddyman Lake and Gibson to Ensign Lake are unknown.

·         The Snowbank/Kekekabic Hiking Trail has not been worked. Much of the trail is believed to be impassible, especially around Disappointment Mountain and on into Thomas. Hiking may be hazardous and is not advised.

·         Lake One Area: Portages into Lake Two are passable. Conditions beyond are believed to be mostly passable.

·         N. Kawishiwi/Gabbro area: Portages through Ojibway, Triangle and down into the North Kawishiwi River are passable. Conditions are unknown on the North Kawishiwi River, into Clear and into Eskwagama. Portages have been made passable from Little Gabbro, Gabbro, Bald Eagle, and Turtle to Clearwater Lake. Portages south from Clearwater to Gull have not been worked. The portage from Little Gabbro to Bruin is now passable.

·         The access into Glacier Pond is passable.  

·         Farm Lake, Birch, and White Iron roads and campsites are south of the largest impacts but had scattered damage. Roads are mostly passable. The South Kawishiwi and Birch Lake Campgrounds had little damage and are open.

·         Mudro entry point: The North Grassy Road is mostly open shoulder to shoulder now but the road is narrow and shoulders are now lined with cut trees. Power is not yet restored on much of the Echo Trail so power company trucks and workers may be on the roads. Please drive slowly! Mudro to Lower Basswood Falls through Horse is passable. Horse to Fourtown is passable. Conditions on portages to the west and north of Fourtown are unknown.

·         The Fenske Lake Campground was impacted and remains open. Crews cleared the Fenske Campground Trail, Swimming Beach, Group Site, and the trail to the public landing. They also made the Fenske to Everett Lake Portage passable.

·         Portages on the Circle Route are clear into Grassy Lake. Camping is not recommended on Bass, High, Dry, and Low Lakes at this time. Hiking the Bass Lake Trail may be hazardous. The trail is passable from the parking lot into Dry Falls. The portage from Dry into High is passable. The Dry Lake Loop of the trail is very hard hit and has not been cleared. A crew will be working the trail again today—please give them room to work. The portage into Bass Lake is passable.

·         Burntside/Crab Lake: The Van Vac access was hard hit but is now passable. Downed power lines were repaired. The Passi Road was impacted but is now passable. The Crab Lake portage was made passable yesterday. Campers report portages to the west and to the north of Crab Lake as rough but passable. Slim and Little Rice Lakes were impacted. The North Arm and Slim Lake Access roads were impacted and are now passable. The portages into Slim, Rice, Hook, and Kenue Lakes are passable.   

·         Fall and west Basswood: Newton and Pipestone portages are passable. Campsites on the southeastern shore of Pipestone were especially hard hit. A few campsites on Jackfish and, Back Bays and Newton Lake were also hard hit. Campers must choose sites and tent pads carefully, looking for hazard trees. Back Bay to Frog Bay portage is passable. The Fourmile Portage is passable to Mud, Ella Hall, and the north end of Muskeg. Beyond Muskeg the Fourmile is impassible.  

·         Moose Lake Road, eastern Basswood: The Moose Lake Road is passable. Power company trucks may be working on the road. Prairie Portage is passable. Portages into Sucker, Birch, and Ensign may be difficult but are passable. Portages farther east seem to have been less affected. Wind Lake portages are passable from Hoist Bay through to Moose Lake. 

·         Wood area: The Wood Lake area including Hula, Indiana, Good, and portages into Hoist Bay are passable.

If returning BWCAW visitors have updated information, please let us know.

 A note of caution:

·         Some branches and even whole trees are bent under pressure and may spring up suddenly if pressure is released so watch for spring poles if you are clearing blowdown.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer BWCA Outfit Special

With plenty of fish to catch and other wildlife to see, the BWCA is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors. Start your wilderness adventure in Ely, MN, canoe capital of the upper Midwest. Easy access to a place where you can listen to the silence and slow down the pace of life.

Spirit of the Wilderness is offering a 3 day 2 night complete outfitted canoe trip in the beautiful Boundary Waters.
  • Only $225 plus tax per person

This special offer includes but is not limited to:
  • Straps, pads and the loading of your canoe
  • Kevlar canoe, yoke with pads, life jackets and paddles
  • Food, cook kit and utinsils, stove with fuel and dining tarp
  • Tent, sleeping bags and pads
  • Additional days available at a discounted rate

  • There must be a minimum of 2 people
  • BWCA permit and usage fees are not included
  • Reservation with deposit are required
  • Must start trip by September 30, 2016
  • Black-out dates July 24 - August 13, 2016

The Boundary Waters is Calling You!

Call today and let Spirit of the Wilderness, Ely MN outfit you for a exciting summer canoe or hiking trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Ph: 218-365-3149 or 800-950-2709

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Foss Fire update May 20, 2016

Date Issued: May 20, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. Incident Commander Type III: Timo Rova
Fire Information:

Fire Start Date: May 19, 2016 Size: Approximately 440 acres Containment: 10 percent

Location: This fire is located 10 miles west of Ely, MN, in St. Louis County, one mile west of the southwestern edge of Burntside Lake, north of Foss Lake, and south of Crab Lake.
The fire is burning north within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Crews made good progress today, directly attacking the fire on its north, east, and west sides. Aircraft dropped fire retardant along the east side of the fire and water on the west side.

Background: The Foss Lake Fire began on May 19 as a prescribed fire to reduce surface and ladder fuels, to enhance wildlife habitat, and to encourage jack pine regeneration. Shortly after ignition, an unpredicted change in weather conditions brought higher winds, warmer temperatures, and lower relative humidity.

A spot fire north of the control line escaped containment and the wind-driven fire spread to the north.

Aircraft that were on standby responded quickly and, with the work of ground crews, were able to slow the fire’s eastward spread with water and retardant drops, protecting the west and north sides of Burntside Lake.

The fire spread north to Crab Lake in the BWCAW. There was no fire growth to the south.

There is no threat to the towns of Ely, Winton, Tower, or Soudan. No structures are threatened. Good fuel-reduction work completed over the last two years on Burntside Lake increases firefighters’ ability to manage the eastern edge.

80 personnel and 8 aircraft. MNICS Type II Team under Incident Commander Brian Pisarek arrived today and will take command of the fire Saturday morning. The Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade and the Morse/Fall Lake Fire Department both have fire boats on Burntside Lake are conducting structure-protection assessments.

Weather: Saturday’s weather will be very similar to Friday’s. The temperature will be around 75 degrees. Relative humidity will be 20–27 percent. South winds will be variable up to 7 mph. The earliest chance of rain over the fire area is Monday.

Closures: Currently, just one BWCAW entry point is closed: entry point #4 Crab Lake. All other entry points remain open. The closure area includes the following BWCAW portages and lakes, including campsites:

  • Crab Lake BWCAW entry point and portage from Burntside Lake to Crab Lake
  • Crab, Boulder, Phantom, Battle, Sprite, Meat, Clark, Glimmer, Hassle, Saca, Little Crab, Korb, Maxine, Barefoot, Little Jig, Silaca, Coxey Pond, Lunetta, Schlamn, Soroll, Glenmore, Western, Blick, Chad, Dugout, and Pine Lakes and associated portage trails
  • Cummings Lake portage from Cummings Lake to Korb Lake and Cummings Lake to Korb River Update Foss Lake Fire
  • Pine Creek East of Trout Lake
  • Pine Lake portage from Trout Lake to Pine Lake

Closure signs will be used at normal points of access to delineate the closure area. The closure area map is located at

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Canoecopia 2016 is almost here!

Canoecopia is March 11-13, 2016.  This is a great paddle sports show in Madison, WI.

Come visit the Spirit of the Wilderness canoe outfitter's booth.  We are happy to discuss & help plan your upcoming Boundary Waters canoe trip for this coming summer.

Spirit of the Wilderness will be at booth #N14.  Stop by our booth to sign up for our drawings.

We will also be giving a number of seminars during the weekend show. Here's the titles and times to catch.

A First Time BWCA Adventure You Can Do
       -Friday, March 11 at 6:30-7:15pm
       -Saturday March 12 at 11:30-12:15pm

Top 10+ Unique BWCA Sites to Visit
        - Sunday, March 13 at 10:30-11:15am

We look forward to seeing you there.  Bring your trip dates and canoe trip questions.  You can book your trip in person and have something to look forward to this coming summer.

Can't make it to Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin?  Call us at 800-950-2709 or 218-365-3149.  You can also email us at  For more BWCA canoe trip information visit

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fishing Gear in the BWCA - what to pack?

Do you fish the Boundary Waters or Quetico?  What top fishing tackle items do you always take with you?

Some items to take on a canoe trip:
  • Rod and reel with 6-8 lb test line. It's ok to take more than 1 rod/reel, just be careful you are only using one at a time per person. MN DNR rules.
  • Floating lures - working top water is great late June into September when fishing for bass
  • Countdown lures - getting down to where walleyes are takes some planning. Lures that are designed for 15-20 feet used while trolling work well
  • Jigs with twister tails or artificial bait - jigging is a good method to get deep, working a foot or so off the bottom of the lake. 
  • Spinner bait to work the weed beds - fish go looking for food (bait fish) and a place to hide in the weeds. Yes, you might get your lure stuck in the weeds...but fish where the fish are.
  • Live bait, i.e. minnows, leeches, crawlers, are allowed in the Boundary Waters. Be sure to change water between lakes so as not to take an invasive species into another lake
  • Fillet knife - think are going to catch a fish big enough to fillet and eat

Register Your Fish

If you fish lakes in the Ely area, BWCA or Quetico this summer, be sure to register your fish at Spirit of the Wilderness, Ely MN to enter the Angler Fishing Contest.  Free registration, get your picture in the Angler paper and best of just might win!

We register both catch and released as well as those fish that are kept.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What are the top 3 items you take into the BWCA?

What are the top items you always take into the BWCA and use around your campsite?

Yes, we take a canoe, paddles, life jackets, tents, sleeping bags w/pads and more.  I'm asking what special items do you take?

Couple of my favorites area pliers or multi-tool and Gerber 6 inch blade knife w/sheath that I received as a high school graduation gift. Oh has it been that long that I have owned it...since graduation? These must have items are great for cooking, repair of camping equipment, fishing, etc.

What items do you have to have available around your campsite?

  • 2- 50 ft length of rope - use for hoisting food pack into trees or line for drying wet clothes
  • Collapsible or Sven saw - many times I don't even use a saw as there is usually more than enough small pieces of wood gathered off the ground. No need to take an ax or hatchet. Most people fail to follow correct handling rules and risk a severe cut. Save your fingers by using a saw.


  • One or two burner stove with fuel - size of the group will determine size of stove. 2-4 people a single burner stove will be adequate. 4+ people, go for the two - single burner or two burner stove.
  • Strike anywhere stick matches in a water tight container. I also like to have a small lighter along as a back up and easy to carry in my pocket.


  • Water bottle for each person. Keep hydrated and your trip will be more comfortable.
  • Compass for orienting your map to north. I have my compass on a landyard around my neck for quick use.
  • Map of the area you are traveling. Using a GPS is fine; but batteries wear out, devise may not pick up a signal, or you drop it in the water and now it really doesn't work.  We recommend having a set of maps for each canoe. Keeps peace in the group, allows others to know "where the heck are we?" and to compare locations

Visit Spirit of the Wilderness website at or call us at 218-365-3149 and start planning your 2016 Boundary Waters or Quetico canoe trip.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Happiness effect...spend time in the outdoors

Here is an easy and enjoyable way to increase your creativity; spend time outside in a green space!  

Nature nurtures us...helps us relieve stress and mental fatigue, boosts our mood, and more. People underestimate the "happiness effect" of being outdoors. We don't think of it as a way to increase happiness. We think other things will, like shopping or TV*.

Will you spend time outdoors soon? 

The Boundary Waters is calling you. Answer 
the call.

*National Geographic, January 2016. The Power of Parks.