Superior Hiking Trail. WTIP file photo
WTIP file photo

Outdoor recreation continues to be impacted by wildfires near the BWCA and North Shore

Many residents in Cook and Lake counties celebrated much needed precipitation to start the final weekend in August, though wildfires burning in the region continue to impact public safety, air quality and many forms of outdoor recreation.

Nearly one week after the complete closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, all dispersed camping on Superior National Forest and state managed land in the region is now prohibited. The announcement Aug. 27 from both agencies led to a closure of all campsites along the Superior Hiking Trail. Only day use is permitted at this time on the popular hiking trail that runs the length of the North Shore.

Examples of dispersed campsites on Superior National Forest outside of the BWCA and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lands would be the island campsite on Poplar Lake, two campsites on Homer Lake and water access campsites along Lake Superior frequented by kayakers.

The announcement of additional restrictions and closures came on a day when there was little news specific to the wildfires burning in and around the BWCA. As of Saturday morning, the estimated size of the Greenwood Fire near Isabella remained at nearly 26,000 acres with no containment. The John Ek Fire in the BWCA remained at nearly 1,600 acres with minimal growth in the past 48 hours, while the Whelp Fire near Sawbill Lake remained at about 60 acres. Fire crews are now camped near the Whelp Fire and suppression efforts are containing the fire.

WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast hosts Matthew Baxley and Joe Friedrichs traveled up the Gunflint Trail Aug. 27 to get a firsthand feel for how things were going on the edge of the wilderness.

The BWCA remains closed at this time, now a full week into the closure of the most visited wilderness area in the nation. On Friday afternoon, canoe racks sat full at local outfitters. Restaurants along the Trail were quiet. Most of the vehicles the podcast duo passed on the Trail were trucks carrying firefighters. It was not a typical Friday afternoon and evening in late August on the Gunflint Trail.

Baxley and Friedrichs stopped on the shores of Poplar Lake to record this wildfire update.