Boundary Waters Tornado

November is here and snowflakes have begun to fall. The air is crisp, the leaves are down and all things in nature are preparing for the approaching winter. I’m not sure where October went or how it passed so quickly but one interesting tidbit from the month is the fact there was a rare tornado touchdown in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

There were weather alerts and warnings in our area on the evening of October 10th but no one saw immediate signs of severe weather. It wasn’t until later when cabin owners around Clearwater Lake mid-trail did some exploring and found signs of high wind. Then further exploration via satellite and airplane confirmed damage to trees in the forest. Everyone did their part and it was determined by the National Weather Service an EF2 tornado touched down on October 10th.

The tornado was on the ground from 6:10 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. and traveled along a four-mile track near Alder, Rocky and Clearwater lakes in the BWCA and over the Border Route Trail, according to the NWS. It had a maximum width of 500 yards with winds topping out at an estimated 120 mph.

tornado in the BWCA

Satellite image of BWCA tornado October 10

Boundary Waters tornado

1st ever October BWCA tornado

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More BWCA entry points open up

We’re thankful the USFS made the decision to open up more entry points into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Saganaga and Seagull Lake entry points are open but some areas remain closed to canoe campers.

Opening BWCA entry points

Starting Sunday, please call the Gunflint Ranger District (218-387-1750) or the Tofte Ranger District (218-663-8060) for fire information. The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 will return management of the fires back to the Superior National Forest on Sunday at 6:00 am. The team will continue to manage the Greenwood Fire until Tuesday.

CLOSURES:
 Effective September 11, Superior National Forest lands and roads along the upper Gunflint Trail will reopen with the
exception of Blankenburg Boat Launch, Iron Lake and Trails End campgrounds and all associated facilities. These
campgrounds will remain closed to serve as basecamps for firefighters responding to the fires.
 The forest is downsizing the John Ek and Whelp Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness closure. Effective September
11, the following entry points will reopen: Seagull Lake Entry Point #54/#54A/L, Saganaga Lake Entry Point #55/#55A/J,
Cross Bay Lake Entry Point #50, Kekekabic Trail Entry Point #56 and #74, Skipper and Portage Lakes Entry Point #49,
Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37, ​Magnetic Lake EP #57, Larch Creek EP #80. Due to upper Gunflint Trail closure South
Lake EP #58 is closed. Visitors with valid permits for Seagull Lake entry points will be able to access the lake via
Blankenberg boat launch or Trails End campground. This is the only allowable public use of the boat launch and
campground at this time. The following entry points will remain closed until further notice: Missing Link Lake EP #51 and
Brant Lake Entry Point #52.
 Across Superior National Forest, several closure orders are in effect due to wildfires, to protect public health and
safety. To see all the Forest closure orders and other alerts go to: https://www.fs.usda.gov/superior.

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Posted in BWCA

Time to open the rest of the Boundary Waters

We feel it is time to open up the rest of the Boundary Waters due to the lack of threat from the John Ek Fire. The fire has not grown in size, crews have established fire lines, temperatures have been low and we received over a half of an inch of rain at the end of the Gunflint Trail again last night. In my opinion there’s more chance of a new fire starting closer to the end of the Gunflint Trail than the John Ek Fire spreading and affecting the Gunflint Trail. And that chance is slim to none at this point.

What are we waiting for? It’s never 100% safe to paddle and camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and that is a risk people who go there are willing to take. It’s time to add the permits back into the reservation system and allow folks to enjoy what’s left of the canoe camping season in the BWCA. BWCA

The closing of the entire Boundary Waters was unprecedented and way too easy to do. Keeping the end of the Gunflint Trail closed right now isn’t necessary. There is no real threat from the John Ek Fire except to the livelihoods of businesses that depend upon the flow of people heading into the Boundary Waters.

 

 

JOHN EK FIRE (1,357 acres, 0% contained): Little fire growth has occurred on the John Ek Fire the last few days. Crews have completed contingency lines on three sides of the fire (on the north side from Gabimichigami Lake to Tuscarora Lake; on the east side from Little Saganaga Lake to Dent Lake; and on the west side from Little Saganaga Lake to Pan Lake.) Should the fire become active again, these contingency lines will be used as necessary, including conducting burnouts along them and/or turning on sprinkler systems adjacent to those lines. Structure protection crews are still doing Firewise work (assessing structures, removing debris and thinning fuels near homes) on the south side of the Gunflint Trail, from Poplar Lake to Round Lake and Tuscarora Lodge.

Most of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness closure has been lifted, with the exception of the John Ek/Whelp fire closures and entry points associated with the Greenwood Fire and Gunflint Trail Closure. John Ek/Whelp closure area includes the following entry points: Seagull Lake Entry Point #54/#54A/L, Saganaga Lake Entry Point #55/#55A/J, Missing Link Lake EP #51, Brant Lake Entry Point #52, Cross Bay Lake Entry Point #50, Kekekabic Trail Entry Point #56 and #74, Skipper and Portage Lakes Entry Point #49, Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37, ​Magnetic Lake EP #57, Larch Creek EP #80. Due to upper Gunflint Trail closure South Lake EP #58 is closed. Due to the Greenwood Fire closure, the following are closed: Island River EP #34, Isabella Lake EP #35, Bog Lake EP #67, Little Isabella River #75, Snake River EP #84, Pow Wow Trail EP #86, and Hog Creek #36.

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Posted in BWCA

Camping allowed again in the Superior National Forest

More good news today as the US Forest Service announced folks can camp in the Superior National Forest once again. This opens up the dispersed camping and backcountry campsites. This does not include the pre-evacuation area of the Gunflint Trail even though the pre-evacuation has ended.  Campfires are still not allowed anywhere in our region.

Other good news includes our Canadian neighbors who are now beginning to work on Quetico Park fires. Due to the large amount of fires burning elsewhere in Ontario the Quetico fires were pretty much left to burn. To date those fires have burned over 120,000 acres and resulted in the Quetico Park being closed as well. Now they have the other fires under control so they can spend time working on suppressing the fires in the Quetico.

fires in the Quetico Park

Quetico Park fire

USFS UPDATE 9/2

JOHN EK FIRE (1,350 acres, 0% contained): Crews were flown into the fire to improve portages and set up sprinkler systems on the east and west sides of the fire. Firefighters will be widening portages to serve as a contingency line on the north side of the fire from Ogishkemuncie Lake to Tuscarora Lake. A structure protection group is working on the south side of Gunflint trail from Poplar Lake to Round Lake and Tuscarora Lodge. 

WHELP FIRE (50 acres, 0% contained): The Whelp Fire is five miles northwest of Sawbill Lake. Fire managers continue to use air resources to monitor the fire and are assessing contingency line opportunities on the south side of the fire. They are also looking for opportunities to go direct.  

WEATHER and FIRE BEHAVIOR:  An incoming weather disturbance will bring abundant cloud cover to the region today, along with increasing chances for measurable rainfall tonight through Friday morning. Winds today will increase out of the southeast at 6-9 mph with 14-19 mph gusts. Minimum relative humidity will range from the mid-40’s to mid-50’s, with higher humidity’s expected for Friday. Clouds and scattered showers will keep temperatures cooler the next two days.

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Posted in Gunflint Trail, wildfire

Boundary Waters entry points opening up

Gunflint Trail closure map

BWCAW closure Map

The recent rains, cooler temperatures and additional fire resources in the Superior National Forest are allowing the USFS to open up most of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area entry points on September 4th. Unfortunately the lack of containment of the John Ek Fire is prompting officials to keep the end of the Gunflint Trail entry points closed.  We were hoping to have Saganaga and Seagull Lake open back up for at least day use but that didn’t happen. We are hopeful firefighters will get some work done quickly around John Ek and Mother Nature will bless us with more rain in the near future so folks can paddle and camp on Saganaga once again.  We’re thankful other BWCA entry points are open and Voyageur Canoe Outfitters outfits to all entry points on the Gunflint Trail so give us a call for your September canoe camping trip in the BWCA. 218-388-2224

 

Forest Service News Release

Boundary Waters entry points

Saganaga and Seagull Lake still closed

Media contact: Joanna Gilkeson

(218) 349-5137

Joanna.Gilkeson@usda.gov

www.fs.usda.gov/superior

Superior National Forest reopens portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and National Forest lands

Closures remain in place for the Greenwood, John Ek and Whelp fires

Duluth, Minn., September 1, 2021 — The Superior National Forest is reopening some areas of the Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, given recent rains, cooling temperatures and progress made on active fire. However, certain closures will remain in place where active fires remain on the landscape.

The Forest is lifting the full closure of the BWCAW, the Crooked Lake closure near the fires in Canada. The Forest is slightly modifying closure maps for the Greenwood Fire, and the John Ek and Whelp Fires. The closure of Forest Service land at the Upper Gunflint Trail remains in place.

“We’re thrilled to reopen some of our public lands to visitors. The drought is not over but we’re starting to see more rain and lower temperatures. These conditions moderate fire activity and lessen the chance of new fires showing up,” said Connie Cummins, supervisor for the Superior National Forest.

“After talking with our fire experts about the latest data and weather conditions, we believe we have the capacity to manage the potential risk to the public of wildfire in some portions of the Forest,” Cummins added.

What this announcement means for visitors: 

    • Full BWCAW Closure is being lifted: Portions of the BWCAW will reopen, effective September 4, including the Crooked Lake area near Canada.
      • If you had a previously reserved permit for after September 4, your permit is still valid.
      • Available quota permits will be live for reservation on Thursday, September 2 at 12:00 PM on Recreation.gov.
    • BWCAW Closure due to John Ek & Whelp fires: A new closure area has been drawn for the John Ek and Whelp Fires: Seagull Lake EP #54/#54A/L, Saganaga Lake EP #55/#55A/J, Missing Link Lake EP #51, Brant Lake EP #52, Cross Bay Lake EP #50, Kekakbic Trail EP #56, Skipper and Portage Lakes EP #49, Kawishiwi Lake EP #37, Hog Creek EP #36.
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Waiting, Watching, Wondering about wildfires on the Gunflint Trail

That’s what we’ve been doing lately in regards to the wildfire situation on the Gunflint Trail. Waiting to see if the fires will produce a plume of smoke again, watching for updates from the fire teams and wondering if we’ll be able to outfit folks into the Boundary Waters again soon. Since this has never happened before we have no idea if the closure of the BWCAW will be extended or lifted. We want everyone to be “safe” when they are camping and canoeing in the wilderness but in reality no matter where you are you are never really “safe.”  How safe is the Boundary Waters in relation to the drought conditions at this time? We’re not sure so we have to wonder, wait and see what the USFS will decide to do.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Hanging out in the BWCA

We received about 3/4 of an inch of rain at the Seagull Guard Station over the weekend. This wasn’t enough to take us out of the drought situation we were in but it did allow firefighters to gain access to both the Whelp Fire by Sawbill and the John Ek Fire closer to the Gunflint Trail. Teams are working on constructing fire lines and laying hose down on the Whelp Fire while logistical work is being done on the John Ek Fire. Neither fire grew in size over the weekend but according to information received from the Incident Team fires could become active again later in the week as conditions dry out.

We will wait and see.

 

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Additional closures and restrictions announced for Northern Minnesota

Gunflint Trail fire danger

A little bit of rain

We received a total accumulation of .14″ of rain at the end of the Gunflint Trail in the past 24 hours. The cloud cover, cooler temperatures, higher humidity we experienced yesterday were helpful for keeping fire activity minimal.  No growth has been reported on any of the fires burning in our region. The Whelp Fire remains at 50 acres, Gabi Fire at 1 acre, Petit Fire contained at 1 acre and the John Ek Fire at 1563 acres.  The Greenwood Fire is at 25,991 with 481 personnel working on it.  The Eastern Region Type 2 Incident Management Team is now in charge of the Whelp and John Ek Fire. There are people on the ground at the Whelp Fire and personnel were sent in to evaluate the John Ek Fire. We haven’t received updates on whether or not folks are currently on the ground for the John Ek Fire. As progress is made on the Greenwood Fire more resources will be available to suppress and control Whelp, John Ek and any other fires in our area.

The Minnesota DNR has announced additional closures and restrictions beginning Monday, August 30th for northern Minnesota. While reading through the restrictions a sign I once saw popped into my mind so I thought I would share it.

BWCAW closed due to wildfires

The forest is really dry

DNR News Release

For Immediate Release

Aug. 27, 2021

 

Intense wildfire year prompts additional restrictions in northeast Minnesota

Wildfire conditions in Minnesota continue to worsen and are now prompting restrictions on mechanized operations and dispersed camping, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Effective at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 30, dispersed camping in state forests and backcountry camping in state parks will be closed in the northern portion of St. Louis County, and all of Lake, Cook, and Koochiching counties, with the exception of the four designated backcountry sites at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

Land management activities on DNR-managed lands within these counties will also be restricted between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

“The extended, extreme wildfire season means we need to greatly reduce human activities that could spark a fire to help protect life and property,” urged Allissa Reynolds, DNR acting wildfire prevention supervisor. “We are asking for residents, visitors and business owners to join us in this challenging fight to prevent and suppress wildfires in the face of persistent drought conditions.”

“We understand the impact this summer’s fire situation and associated state and federal restrictions are having on local businesses, visitors, and residents,” said Forrest Boe, DNR Division of Forestry director.  “We don’t take these decisions lightly and, when conditions allow, we will ease restrictions.  In the interim, we appreciate people’s support as we all work through this dangerous wildfire season together.”

Dispersed camping is not allowed in 18 state forests and backcountry camping is now closed in six state parks. Be sure to check the website for state forests and park restrictions before your visit.

Land management activities restricted on DNR-managed lands include any mechanized operation that could create a spark and result in a fire, such as:

  • Harvesting trees and processing logs on the landing
  • Mowing and clearing grass and brush
  • Road grading
  • Dressing (sharpening) road grader blades on hardtop roads
  • Preparing land for tree, shrub, or grass planting (e.g. roller choppers, anchor chains, and rock rakes)
  • Decorative top harvesting
  • Blasting activities outside of a defined mine or pit
  • Welding, using acetylene torches, or other devices with an open flame, to cut metal or rock
  • Grinding metal and rock
  • Parking vehicles and machinery in tall grass and vegetation

Exceptions to these restrictions include:

  • Hauling cut forest products is allowed 24 hours a day.
  • Equipment and gravel crushers working in a pit.
  • Equipment used for the purposes of emergency response or fire suppression

Contact the local DNR field office information about the restrictions on land management activities and the process for requesting special permission to conduct such activities, if necessary.

The U.S. Forest Service has issued similar dispersed camping and land management activity restrictions for the Superior National Forest. The DNR’s restrictions do not control tribal lands. Tribal governments may have their own restrictions in place.

All previously issued burning and campfire restrictions remain in place for public and private lands at this time. The DNR wildland fire information webpage includes information on all restrictions and a list of affected state forests, parks and recreation areas.

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Posted in Gunflint Trail

Good news on the Gunflint Trail

Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

Rain in the forecast

In a quest to find good news I took a look at our weather station information from the Seagull Guard Station.  It’s easy to look at the amount of precipitation we received in the past 24 hours and become depressed that we didn’t get more. We received .01 inches of rain, for the folks who never liked decimal points that’s 1/100th of an inch of rain, not 1/10 of an inch of rain. That isn’t much rain but if you look deeply enough you can find the good in everything. In relation to the threat of wildfire things are looking better because we’ve had lower temperatures, higher humidity, more cloud cover which affects fuel temperatures and there is rain in the forecast for today. That combined with the fact the USFS might actually put a team on the ground for the John Ek Fire today is all good news.

I was thinking about all of the people across the world who have been affected by wildfire and the amount of stress it causes. I wonder if there has been a study done? I was trying to think about how to explain the different affects it can have on a person based upon their specific experience.  I’ve come up with a couple of analogies that you may or may not think are the same and if I offend someone in making references that seem harsh or callous I apologize but it’s my blog, not anything you have to read or agree with.

The first scenario is a wildfire that basically comes up out of nowhere and within hours burns everything in it’s path so severely there is nothing left to burn. Think of a town out west like Paradise, California that was destroyed by the Camp Fire with very little advance warning.  The fire came through burned everything to a crisp and with no fuel left to burn there was no longer a threat of wildfire in the area.  Remember, I am not trying to minimize this fire or the affects of fire in any way, I’m trying to explain the feelings or stress felt with this type of incident.  I’ll compare this to a fatal car crash.  A car comes out of nowhere, smashes into another vehicle, people die, there’s sadness, anger, loss and a mess to clean up.  It happened and it sucks but it’s over and while there are new things to worry about, in the case of Paradise, the threat of wildfire isn’t one of them.

The second scenario is like the John Ek Fire.  There’s this threat of wildfire looming, yet no flames have touched us. It’s out there, waiting for conditions to thrive and it could be deadly but it might not ever amount to anything. We’ll run our wildfire sprinklers to hopefully protect our buildings, we’ll fire wise our properties to clear away any burnable debris and we’ll hope for the best.  I’ll compare this to the Coronavirus.  The threat is out there and it could make us sick or it might kill us. Some of us choose to vaccinate or wear masks to hopefully protect ourselves but we might still get sick or die. It’s out there and we’re not sure what or if anything is going to happen.

Then there’s my last scenario that involves a comparison to the Ham Lake Fire. It came, it burned and it stuck around to torment us for weeks because it didn’t fully burn all of the fuel it could. It kept moving around, threatening to finish what it started or burn something new. There was loss, devastation and the threat of the unknown. If I go back to the car crash scenario maybe one person was pulled from the wreckage and brought to the hospital. Both lower limbs of this person had to be removed due to the damage done, there’s internal bleeding, swelling on the brain and the person is in a coma. It’s touch and go, day to day whether or not they will pull through. There’s the immediate loss and then there’s the continued threat of complications and/or death.

All of these situations affect people differently. You might not think these are good comparisons at all, that’s fine. I just wanted to help people understand the stress or trauma associated with experiencing wildfire or the threat of wildfire.  It’s probably similar to a bunch of other natural disasters I’ve never experienced first hand, like floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. Maybe it’s the same stress people who are in abusive relationships feel. If we haven’t experienced it ourselves we don’t know exactly how it feels or the stress associated with it but it doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand how another person is feeling.

We all have loss, stress and fear of the unknown on some level. We’re all going through something whether it is evident or obvious to others. As humans we should always be kind and compassionate to everyone because we don’t know what level of wildfire threat they are currently experiencing(:  What I want you to know after reading this blog post is, the good is out there and if you look deeply enough you’ll find it.

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Posted in Gunflint Trail

Additional closures on the Gunflint Trail

National Forest lands and roads on the upper section of the Gunflint Trail are now closed. Private and public roads are still open so homeowners and guests can access resorts, outfitters and restaurants on the Gunflint Trail.  The closure area starts beyond Poplar Lake and pertains to recreating on the lakes, rivers, roads, hiking trails and campgrounds.  Folks will no longer be able to hike the Centennial Trail, Magnetic Rock Trail, Seagull Lake Nature Trail or camp in the forest including Trail’s End Campground and Iron Lake Campground.

Closures on the Gunflint Trail

Closure on the Superior National Forest

There are not enough fire fighting resources in the state to protect all of the areas from threat of current wildfires The Greenwood Fire near Isabella, MN has burned structures and is over 20,000 acres in size. It continues to threaten property and this fire will remain the focus of firefighting activities. Since the John Ek Fire isn’t immediately threatening property or people no resources are currently being used to fight the fire.  When there is an immediate threat to people or property then resources may be diverted to fight the John Ek Fire. However, there are only so many resources available at this time and if rain isn’t received the powers that be may have some difficult decisions to make.

We’re running our wildfire sprinkler systems and our neighbors are as well. In the event the fire does make it to the Gunflint Trail we hope we’ve created enough of a vapor barrier that our properties will be spared.  We will continue to pray for rain and no wind and ask you to do the same. There is rain in the forecast for Friday so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

You can find updates from the USFS on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SuperiorNF/

Wildfire in the BWCA

Smoke on the Seagull River

Gunflint Trail Lodge

Smoky Voyageur Lodge

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Posted in BWCA

Boundary Waters Closure extended into September

No significant amount of rain has fallen on the Superior National Forest and none of the fires on the forest have been even partially contained. Fire fighting resources are inadequate for the current fires and more fires continue to start. This along with the lack of significant rainfall in the forecast prompted the USFS to extend the closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness until at least September 3rd.

BWCA Fire

Fire map John Ek

It’s a bummer for sure. People have canoe trips planned that have to be cancelled, folks are being evacuated from their cabins and homes and there’s smoke in the air. Fire fighters are exhausted and people’s nerves are frayed. Business owners are wondering how they will make it through the winter without the income they were expecting during the last two weeks of August and potentially into September.

It isn’t all gloom and doom though. No lives have been lost, there have been no significant injuries and damage to private property has so far been relatively little. With a little help from Mother Nature we’ll get a significant amount of rainfall, very little wind and the firefighters will be able to contain the current fires before they do serious harm. We’ll hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The John Ek Fire

The Whelp Fire

The Greenwood Fire

The Gabi Fire is located southwest of Seagull Lake near Gabimichigami Lake and north of the John Ek Fire in the BWCAW.

The Petit Fire is just north of Crescent Lake and is also entirely inside the BWCA.

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