Sharing a Boundary Waters Campsite

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a place to get away from it all and enjoy the solitude and serenity of a secluded private campsite. The campsites are normally situated quite a distance from each other providing for a private wilderness experience. While BWCAW campsites vary on the number of tent spots at each one they are intended for just one group to camp at each site at a given time.

A recent thread on the web talks about an incident where one group camping in the BWCA ended up sharing their site with someone else. Knowing the rules and etiquette of wilderness camping wherever you go is very important. If this would have happened to me I would definitely have approached the group and politely asked them to find another site. If the waves were bad and they were having a difficult time finding another site I would have paddled them to another site myself. Only under very unusual circumstances would I allow another group to camp at my site. There would have to be five foot waves, a burning forest fire or a near death experience before I would ever share my BWCA campsite. This isn’t because I am afraid of other people it is because that is how much I cherish my time in the woods.

Boundary Waters campsites have one latrine and one fire pit for one group to camp at at a time. Use an outfitter like Voyageur so you learn what is appropriate in the BWCA or educate yourself so you never negatively affect another’s wilderness experience.

And just in case you are wondering, you should leave your accordion at home too.

Boundary Waters campsite
BWCA wilderness

Posted byu/Browneyeddoggo5 days ago

Proper etiquette of sharing sites in the BWCA?

For a little context, we are four women in our late 20s. We are newbies to the Boundary Waters but not to the wilderness.

Here’s what happened. On our second to last day, we got up early to get a spot near our final portage on Fall Lake. It worked because we scored a really great spot, the closest one to the portage, around 2 PM.

After we set up, two of us were fishing off the shore of the site when two women paddle up, presumably a mother and daughter. We say hello, with silence as a response.

As they pull fully into the site, they ask us how many people are in our group and where the latrine is. We say four and point them in the right direction, thinking okay, they have to shit and they’ll be on their way.

When they return they start unloading and setting up within 10 feet of our site. In the most Midwest way possible, one of the girls confronted them about their proximity to our campsite. They say that the site holds 9 (which is true) and they “don’t care if we smoke weed or drink”. And that was that, they set up and stayed the night right next to us.

Like I said we are newbies, and we weren’t sure if this is the norm in the BWCA. But we were upset about it and here’s why. It was a perfect day, no wind and a sky free of clouds. At 4:30 when they pulled up there was still 4 hours until dark. We had come from the north and knew there were tons of spots available not more than two miles away. They didn’t have a conversation with us about coming into the site, they just set up. Finally, I feel like you go to BWCA to get as far away from people as possible, which we did not experience on our last night.

Are we crazy for being upset? Is this totally cool behavior where in BWCA?

Edit: Had we had the knowledge this thread provided, on that day, we most certainly would have told them to keep paddling. I’m glad to know how to react next time, but by the sounds of it there won’t be a next time. All in all it was a fabulous trip, one of the best times of my life. We’ve already planned for this to be an annual trip. Not even camp intruders can ruin that.