Experiencing the BWCA Wilderness

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a 1.09 million acre wilderness area along the border of the United States and Canada.

BWCAW was established in 1978 by Congress through the BWCA Wilderness Act. Just across the border in Canada the area is called Quetico and protected as a Provincial Park.

The BWCAW is a beautifully pristine, yet rugged wilderness. The lakes are cut from granite and surrounded by old pine growth.

In August of 2009 I set out to explore this gorgeous natural treasure with Carson Stewart and Cameron Finnis. Over the course of six days we canoed, hiked and portaged over an expansive series of lakes, forests, streams and rivers.

This website is designed to document our adventure. Most images featured here are thumbnails. To view a larger popup version just click on the image.

We began our trip from Minneapolis and from there went north on a 4-5 hour drive to Ely, Minnesota.

There in Ely was based Jordan's Outfitters, run by Mark Bland. Mark and his top-notch company provided us with equipment, tips, and most important, a map and suggested routes.

The BWAC Wilderness is one of Minnesota's top tourist attractions. More than 200,000 people visit each year. Yet because of strict permitting requirements, the numbers in any given area remain incredibly low. We were often the only humans within miles.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines "wilderness" as an area:

  • ...where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.
  • ...where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
  • ...retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation.
  • ...which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable.
  • ...that has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.

This is a fine definition of what wilderness is, but I think it's equally important to note what wilderness does. For me, time spent in the wilderness has a way of washing the spirit clean. As famed naturalist and preservationist John Muir once said, "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."


Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
Experiencing the BWCAW, August 2009

Outfitted by Jordan's Outfitters
© Copyright 2009 Joshua Claybourn. All Rights Reserved.