‘Fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources’ force closure of Boundary Waters

Bwca Fires2

Duluth, Minn. — The Superior National Forest closed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Saturday, Aug. 21, “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, and limited resources.”

The closure, which came after SNF officials contacted all of the canoe outfitters serving the wilderness area Saturday morning, includes all lands, waters, trails, portages, campsites, canoe routes and BWCAW entry points, according to a Superior National Forest press release.

The Forest cancelled all permits made out for today through Aug. 27, and permit holders will be fully reimbursed.

The order includes all overnight paddle, day use and motorized day use, and the Forest said it would reopen portions of the Wilderness when it was safe to do so.

The Forest, in its release, said the closure was necessary for the safety of visitors, wilderness rangers and fire-fighters, and will allow fire crews to respond to existing fires and new starts.

The northern portion of Minnesota is experiencing an extreme drought.

On Friday, Aug. 20, the John Elk Fire grew from 3 acres to 3,000 acres, and the Whelp Fire grew from 30 acres to at least 80 acres.

A Type 3 team, the most elevated level of a fire fighting squad, had been ordered to respond to the John Elk Fire.

The Greenwood Fire in Lake County was being managed by a Type 2 team. That fire grew to 9,000 acres this week.

Meanwhile, the several other fires are being monitored, as are fires in Quetico Pronvincial Park, that have been moving closer and closer to the U.S. Border and BWCAW.

It is the first entire closure of the BWCAW since last year, due to concerns over the COVID-10 pandemic. It was unclear, however, when the last time the wilderness area was closed entirely due to wild fires.

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