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Backpacker Magazine – September 2010

Disappearing Act: Paddling the Boundary Waters

Want to vanish into the quietest, wildest corners of the Boundary Waters? Say these magic words: Primitive Management Area.

by: Gustave Axelson

The author and co-hort paddle across Ester Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
The author and co-hort paddle across Ester Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
Crossing 10-foot-deep Nawakwa Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
Crossing 10-foot-deep Nawakwa Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
Catching a four-pound northern pike. (Layne Kennedy)
Catching a four-pound northern pike. (Layne Kennedy)
Bushwacking from Gift Lake to Fish Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
Bushwacking from Gift Lake to Fish Lake. (Layne Kennedy)
Solitude guaranteed.
Solitude guaranteed.

trip iconDOWNLOAD THIS TRIP: Pitfall Lake PMA
Paddle-and-portage 40 miles on a four-night tour with just your companions and a few moose, wolves, and loons
GOING PRIMITIVE
In order to keep PMAs completely devoid of visual human impacts, BWCAW officials ask visitors to observe these special Leave No Trace rules.

>>Spread out Unlike other areas of the BWCAW, where paddlers are encouraged to stick to the network of maintained portage paths, PMA visitors should fan out to disperse the impact of their footsteps.

>>Hide out There are no campsites in the PMAs. Choose durable surfaces and pitch tents away from the lake and out of sight. Set canoes and packs on rocks or bare ground (instead of delicate vegetation).

>>Put out The USFS prefers camp stoves over fires. If you like fires, use a fire pan or roll back a patch of sod (replace it before you leave). Use wrist-size sticks (or smaller) to keep flames down.

>>Pack out all garbage and your TP. No matter how conscientious you are about catholes (150 feet back from the shore, six inches deep), animals will investigate--and any buried toilet paper will get strewn around the woods. Don't burn it; throwing trash in fires is prohibited.




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Barry
Sep 30, 2010

Ijust returned from a short 4 day solo trip into one of most popular areas in the BWCA. The trick to a wilderness experience going in late Sept or early Oct, and try going solo.

Steve Cash
Sep 30, 2010

I want to go where no one has even heard of the place and the maps are left blank....

Matthew Davis
Sep 30, 2010

If you want to have a wilderness experience in the BWCAW, you could also try backpacking since less than 1% of the BWCAW's use is by foot.

The Kekekabic and Border Route Trails offer about 100 miles with world-class scenery along the way. About 70 being inside the BWCAW. For more info, visit kek.org or borderroutetrail.org.

Matthew Davis
Sep 30, 2010

If you want to have a wilderness experience in the BWCAW, you could also try backpacking since less than 1% of the BWCAW's use is by foot.

The Kekekabic and Border Route Trails offer about 100 miles with world-class scenery along the way. About 70 being inside the BWCAW. For more info, visit kek.org or borderroutetrail.org.

Joe H.
Sep 30, 2010

Have been going to BWCAW 1-2 times a year for 20+ years. You DO get "wilderness" experiences without trekking back to "primitive" areas. Just returned from 6-day trip where the 1st portage is 1.25 miles -- that weeds out a lot of people. In 6 days we saw ONE person. You need navigation skills, as there are NO markers and lots of portages and lakes, but a compass & map & away you go. Preparedness is mandatory, as it is wilderness. No cans or bottles, and take out what you bring in. Great.

Richard Beamish
Sep 30, 2010

Been to the Boundary Waters several times. If you really want a wilderness canoe experience then I would recommend either Wakabiki or WCCP Park in Ontario. Took a 14 day trip to Wabakimi into 2008 and did not see a soul for 7 days.

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