Campfires allowed in the Boundary Waters

The campfire ban for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has been lifted due to the significant amount of precipitation received recently. That’s great news for people who love to spend time around a campfire.

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Boundary Waters bears and campfire ban

bears in the bwcaIt’s been a dry summer so far in the Boundary Waters and the Superior National Forest has enacted a fire ban. This means no open campfires are allowed in the BWCA during the 4th of July and after until conditions change.

The Forest Service says current drought data shows lands across Superior National Forest, including the entire BWCA, are in the ‘abnormally dry’ and ‘moderate drought’ condition categories. Such conditions can cause serious harm and dangerous scenarios, including increased fire danger and a decline in lake and river levels. Due to these conditions, the potential for wildfires remains high in and around the Superior National Forest. With the continued lack of moisture and increase in temperatures, potential heat sources such as engines or campfires can easily ignite surrounding vegetation, resulting in a wildfire, the Forest Service says.

The blueberry crop was looking really good earlier in the season but the lack of moisture isn’t good. This could mean fewer berries and hungrier bears. Normally once berries ripen black bears find plenty to eat without visiting a campsite. We are hoping this is the case as there have been a number of bear sightings at BWCA campsites over the past couple of weeks. We even have a resident bear at Voyageur who doesn’t mind being treed by Bosley or having his photo taken.

Please use caution during these dry conditions and keep a clean camp in the Boundary Waters to keep bears and other critters away.

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Quetico Park Cache Bay Ranger

Janice Cache Bay RangerOur favorite Quetico Park Cache Bay Ranger Janice received some bad news recently.  First it was you can’t go to your summer home island where you’ve lived and worked the past 30 plus years,  but it’s much worse than that. Janice has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and she could use your healing prayers and support.

From Go Fund Me website…

Our beautiful friend, Janice Matichuk has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer. This came as a huge shock to Janice, her family and friends. Janice has always been the strong one, the determined one, creative one, making a difference with many not-for-profit organizations, schools and anyone who needed help. 

Janice has always given more than she received. All her life she has volunteered for different organizations, Canoe Ontario, the North Bay cross country ski club, Friends of Quetico, the Pictograph Gallery, Beaten Path Nordic trails as well as many more that I can’t remember.

Janice is also responsible for saving lives during her time at Cache Bay, a ranger station in Quetico Provincial Park,  since 1985. This is the first time since she started work as a ranger, that Janice cannot help campers coming into Quetico to be safer and more environmentally responsible as they canoe through Quetico’s vast wilderness.

The following months will be a difficult time for Janice. There will be many health related travel trips to Thunder Bay and possibly elsewhere  for treatment. All of this will require considerable financial cost to Janice and her family. I am asking for anyone who has the ability to please contribute to this gofundme page.

Thank you for assisting Janice and her family during this difficult time.

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Hiking the Magnetic Rock Trail on the Gunflint Trail

Hiking the Magnetic Rock TrailThe Magnetic Rock Trail is probably the most well-known hiking trail on the Gunflint Trail. The well-marked trailhead is 48 miles from Grand Marais and the parking lot is directly off of the Gunflint Trail on the East side of the road.  Other hiking trails on the Gunflint Trail require a few more directions to get to the trailhead so the Magnetic Rock Trail is an easy one to recommend and a relatively short and easy 3-mile round trip hike. It’s a quick 10 minute drive from Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and there’s a latrine and a picnic table located at the trailhead.

The Magnetic Rock Trail is famous for the 60-foot tall rock that makes your compass spin due to its magnetic properties. Magnetite is one of the dominant iron bearing minerals found in the bedrock of the Lake Superior Region and our local Gunflint Iron Formation.  Due to the amount of magnetite in the area you might want to check your compass readings in a variety of locations if you ever find yourself lost in our woods.  If you want to learn more about the geology of our area here’s a link to a Gunflint Trail hikingstudy you might find interesting.

The Magnetic Rock Trail was burned during the 2007 Ham Lake Fire. The fire opened up views that had once been blocked by towering pines. The trail crosses Larch Creek, passes over exposed bedrock and offers great vistas from the top of rock ledges. Amazingly some of the views are once again becoming obstructed in places due to the thriving jack pines and birch trees that have shot up over the years. The blueberry picking along the trail has always been dependable which also might be why the Magnetic Rock Trail is so popular.

Magnetic Rock hiking trailThe trail is part of the Border Route Trail and actually continues beyond the Magnetic Rock and follows the United States and Canadian Border for another 60 or so miles. Most folks turn around at the rock but you can make a great loop by following the Border Route for 1.73 miles out to a gravel road(Gunflint Narrows Road). When you reach the road you take a right onto the Gunflint Narrows Road and hike 1.15 miles out to the Gunflint Trail. At the Gunflint Trail you take a right and hike about 1.5 miles back to the trailhead of the Magnetic Rock Trail.


Hiking Gunflint Trail

Gunflint Trail scenery

Hiking the Border Route Trail

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Boundary Waters claims first life of the season

It’s always a sobering thought to think about death but especially when it happens in the Boundary Waters. We received news on the 20th of May a canoe had capsized on Tuscarora Lake and one person was missing. The first assumption whenever we hear a person is missing on a lake in the BWCAW is the person wasn’t wearing a life vest. Next my thoughts immediately go to the folks in the group paddling and camping with the individual.  I cannot imagine the terror or stress of the situation.

This incident isn’t the first of it’s kind to happen in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and it won’t be the last. It turns out this individual, Billy Cameron a 29-year old from Indiana, was wearing his life vest and died from hypothermia. I listened to an interview with Billy’s girlfriend on WTIP  and she explained the incident as relayed to her.

Billy was paddling in a canoe with two of his friends on Tuscarora Lake in the Boundary Waters. The canoe capsized and the three friends attempted to right the canoe but waves prevented them from being able to empty the water out or get back into the canoe. After approximately five minutes of being in the water their limbs were numb, after about 15 minutes one individual was drifting in and out of consciousness. Billy attempted to swim to shore and was last seen close to shore and the individual who was conscious isn’t sure why he didn’t make it to shore.

I don’t know how word got out that these individuals were in trouble on Tuscarora. I do know Search and Rescue was called and a USFS float plane flew to the rescue and located the two individuals. They were brought to the seaplane base on Devil’s Track Lake and most likely were met by the ambulance. The float plane went back to look for Billy and since he was wearing his life vest he was found but too much time had gone by and he had passed away from hypothermia.

The ice on most of the lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area typically remains until sometime in May. While areas like the Twin Cities of Minnesota or other places farther south have had ice free lakes and warm temperatures in May we can still find snow in the forest. The lakes of the BWCA are deep and even in mid-summer can be dangerously cold. Hypothermia can happen during any month of the year in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park and indeed it has.

How can you prevent death by hypothermia in the Boundary Waters?  While you’re never 100% safe and secure in the wilderness the best advice we can give you is, always paddle close to shore and always wear your lifevest. If you can reach shore in less than five minutes you have a much better chance of surviving than you do by staying in the water.  On the 20th of May the air temperature recorded at the end of the Gunflint Trail reached 79 degrees and the sun was out in full force. If the three friends could have made it quickly to shore they could have stripped out of their wet clothes, performed jumping jacks or snuggled in the sunshine together to raise their body temperature and they would have had a scary but funny story to tell. Unfortunately they were paddling too far from shore when they capsized and their friend is no longer with them.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Billy’s family and friends. We don’t want to have to tell another story about someone else dying in the Boundary Waters, especially not due to drowning or hypothermia. These two things can be prevented so please, wear your life vest and paddle close to shore.

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Boundary Waters bound walleye

Walleyes in Saganaga Lake of the Boundary Waters spawn in the Seagull River in the spring. They swim against the current and make their way through the rapids and to the falls between Seagull Lake and Saganaga Lake.  They don’t remain there for long before they head back into the BWCA. After the spawn they are usually inactive for awhile before they will start biting bait on angler’s lines.

The Minnesota DNR ensures their safety during this time by closing the spawn area for fishing until Friday night at midnight of Memorial Weekend. Guess what? Today’s the day! We wish all of the anglers the best of luck and remind everyone to stay safe and wear a life jacket.


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Boundary Waters open for camping

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is open for overnight canoeing and camping. At Voyageur Canoe Outfitters we are super excited to be a part of your BWCA canoe trip. It’s been a crazy time for everyone these past couple of months so it’s super refreshing to be able to rely on the Boundary Waters to remain consistent and familiar. The fresh air, sparkling water, towering pine trees and sound of the loons have a way of welcoming you and making you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. It’s a good world in the Boundary Waters where masks aren’t required, social distancing has always been the norm and events have never been allowed.

BWCAW canoe tripWe would love to be a part of you BWCA canoe trip this summer.  We’re doing things a little bit differently at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters but it’s pretty much business as usual. We have the standard plexiglass in the office, a sign asking there to be just one group in the store at time and a few other things we’re doing differently but we also have the same friendly, familiar faces and awesome customer service we’ve always had. We hope to see you at Voyageur soon, please give us a call, 218-388-2224.


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Boundary Waters is opening for overnight trips May 18th

BWCA opens againHappiness is camping and canoeing in the Boundary Waters and starting May 18th the BWCA will be open for day use and overnight canoe camping trips. We’re super excited at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and can’t wait to start outfitting folks into the wilderness for the 2020 paddling season. Give us a call and we’ll help you plan your next Boundary Waters canoe trip adventure.

Superior National Forest to Reopen Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Duluth, MN May 15, 2020 – On May 18, Superior National Forest will open the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for both day and overnight use, which is in alignment with Minnesota Governor’s new order 20-56. For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information on re-openings, visit the Superior National Forest website and social media pages:

“We are happy to be fully allowing visitors into the BWCAW,” says Connie Cummins, Forest Supervisor. “We ask that visitors please continue to follow local, state and federal guidelines on staying safe and practice good hygiene and social distancing wherever they choose to visit.”

To ensure the health and safety of its employees, partners and members of the public, the Superior National Forest will continue to use temporary modifications to the permit pick-up requirements beginning May 18 for all BWCAW quota permits. For additional information on this process, please visit the Superior National Forest’s website at

Support for will continue to be provided via email until further notice. The quickest way to get help is to visit the online Help Center. You can also call the Forest Service or your local cooperator if you cannot make changes online via

Keep in mind for travel plans to Quetico Provincial Park through the BWCAW, Ontario, Canada has current closures in place.  For information on Canadian closures, please visit: and

Visitors are asked to stay as local as possible when choosing a site to visit and to pack out everything they bring, especially trash. Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with local health and safety guidance. For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to:

Responsible recreation will help expand access to facilities, services and other opportunities. Certain services may still be unavailable, so visitors are asked to plan accordingly and to remain flexible.

Contact information for the Superior National Forest is available online at

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Hiking the Centennial Trail on the Gunflint Trail

There are so many wonderful hiking trails on the Gunflint Trail and lucky for us, many of them are located near Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Our cabin guests can access the numerous trails at Chi-Wauk Museum as well as the Seagull Lake Nature Trail by a quick five minute drive or they can paddle or walk to the trailheads. Just ten minutes away are two more trailheads including Magnetic Rock and the Centennial Hiking Trail.

The Centennial Trail is accessed via the Kekekabik Hiking Trail and is located approximately 47 miles from Grand Marais, Minnesota. One of the reasons I love the Centennial Trail is because it’s a loop route where you don’t have to hike the same terrain in and out. It’s a relatively easy 3.3 mile trek with just a few steep places that may require a person to scoot on their butt. There are typically some wet areas on the trail even during the dry season but they are easily avoided and there are boardwalks in the wettest areas. To fully enjoy the trail a person should plan to spend a couple of hours hiking.Hiking the Centennial Trail

The best part about the Centennial Trail is the rich history surrounding it. It was created in 2009 after the Ham Lake Fire of 2007 exposed test pits and pilings from mineral explorations in the 1800’s.  Prospectors were hopeful and one man in particular, John A. Paulsen was interested in exploring for gold, silver, nickel and iron ore.

Along the trail there are test pits that are now filled with water and other debris. You can see the bottom of some of these pits while others are rumored to be over 70 feet deep.  The trail is marked with interpretive signs and there’s a pamphlet that tells about each stop.

A portion of the trail is on the old railway bed built by the Port Arthur Duluth and Western Railway Company to access the ore. A  500-foot long, 80-foot high trestle built with white pine was once a part of this impressive railway. There was even a place known as Gunflint City built on the shores of one of the lakes near the mine site.

The railroad was later named the “Poverty, Agony, Distress and Want” because the endeavor was not successful or profitable. Ore was discovered elsewhere in the state and it was of a better quality and easier to get to than the Paulsen area. Only one load of ore ever left the area in 1893 and according to legend it was barely enough for a single horseshoe.

Financial troubles and a forest fire that severed tracks by Gunflint Lake forced the mine to close permanently. The book Pioneers in the Wilderness by Willis H. Raff has a complete history of the hows and whys of the railroad and mining on the Gunflint Trail for those who are interested. Another resource is the website by Dave Battistel who has studied and explored the area extensively.

Next time you’re on the Gunflint Trail be sure to take the time to hike the Centennial Hiking Trail.

Centennial Trail Narrative

Centennial Trail Guide





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Boundary Waters and Black Bears

I don’t like to see bears when I’m camping in the Boundary Waters or when they are rummaging through our garbage cans at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters but I do love to see them. They are such beautiful creatures and normally quite afraid of humans. Everyone has been spotting this mama and her three cubs in the neighborhood, everyone except for me that is.  Hopefully I’ll get to see them soon.

bwca black bear

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