Paddling Across the Boundary Waters




Dave and I just spent eight days paddling through the BWCAW. BWCAW stands for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Our journey began on the South Kawishiwi River near Ely, MN. Friends came to say goodbye and wish us luck on our trip. Twenty canoes paddled the first mile with us. Did you know that this year is the BWCAW’s 50th birthday? Everyone sang happy birthday to the Boundary Waters and then we paddled away.


These are the people who came to paddle the first mile with Dave and Amy. Photo by Nate Ptacek

These are the people who came to paddle the first mile with Dave and Amy. Photo by Nate Ptacek

The Boundary Waters


The BWCAW is a very special place. It is in northern Minnesota, just south of the Canadian border. Over 1 million acres of pristine lakes, rivers, and boreal forest are protected in this wilderness area.  There are no roads or houses in the wilderness. Cars and other motorized vehicles are not allowed there.  In fact, the water is so clean that Dave and I often dip our cups right in the lakes when we are thirsty.  There are very few places in the world where you can safely drink right out of the lake and it is something you should not try near your home.


We entered the wilderness at Fall Lake. We followed the Border Route, which means that we paddled on lakes and rivers that form the border between the U.S. and Canada. This route was a very important travel and trade route a long time ago. Many Native Americans and voyageurs traveled by canoe on these same lakes and rivers. We paddled and portaged a total of 160 miles. Portage means to carry a canoe over land on a trail from one lake or river to the next.


The most challenging portage was the Grand Portage. Here we hiked for 8.5 miles from the Pigeon River to Lake Superior. A long time ago, the voyageurs carried over a million beaver pelts on this same trail. Why beaver pelts? Beaver felt hats (like the top hat Abraham Lincoln wore) were the fashion in Europe and North America. Voyageurs traded with Native Americans in order to get the beaver pelts. They traded things like wool blankets, pots and pans, knives and beads for beaver pelts.


Here Dave is portaging the canoe around rapids on the Kawishiwi River. Amy is portaging a pack. Photo by Nate Ptacek

Here Dave is portaging the canoe around rapids on the Kawishiwi River. Amy is portaging a pack. Photo by Nate Ptacek

The Boreal Forest


The Boundary Waters is located on the southern edge of the boreal forest. The boreal forest is the world’s largest biome. It represents 29% of the world’s forests. The boreal forest is also called the taiga. Most of Canada and Russia are covered in boreal forest and it forms a giant ring around the Northern Hemisphere.  The boreal forest stores enormous amounts of carbon and helps control the world’s climate. It is also home to lots of different animals, including: moose, black bears, wolves, ravens, snowshoe hares, lynx, martens, and gray jays.  You can learn about these and many other animals from the boreal forest in our Wilderness Library.


Keep Exploring!



Food for Thought

A biome is a major regional or global biotic community, such as a grassland or desert, characterized by the main forms of plant life and the climate. Dave and I are exploring the boreal forest biome, which is also called the taiga biome. What biomes are near your house? Can you identify any animals that live in the biome near your house? Can you identify animals that live in the boreal forest? Describe how the climate is different where you live compared to the boreal forest. Is it hotter or colder where you live?


Use the link below to find the biome you live in.


Email us and let us know what biomes are found near your house and let us know what types of animals live there.


You can learn more about the voyageurs and the history of the fur trade here:


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One Comment

  1. mya satchell
    Posted September 8, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I love this site!

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