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BLANE KLEMEK COLUMN: The Boundary Waters are a jewel for Minnesota

Across the tranquil lake in the darkness of a moonless sky, I can barely make out the faint yellow glow of a campfire. My fire is behind me, about 50 feet, crackling in a dreamy and muffled series of pops and snaps as the dry pine slowly burns.

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Across the tranquil lake in the darkness of a moonless sky, I can barely make out the faint yellow glow of a campfire. My fire is behind me, about 50 feet, crackling in a dreamy and muffled series of pops and snaps as the dry pine slowly burns. Related content As I sit alone on a sprawling slab of stone that descends into the dark water before me, here and there across the rock surface are plate-size natural depressions full of water from the afternoon's rain shower. And upon the lake's calm and reflective surface, I can see thousands of mirrored stars twinkling brightly. With no discernible shoreline in the black night, the dual image of stars above and stars below creates a wonderment seen only on waters and skyline not shrouded by the artificial lights of civilization. Indeed, every year about this time, I find myself daydreaming about the enchanting place that we Minnesotans call simply the "Boundary Waters," or "BW." The 1.1 million-acre wilderness area and its clear lakes, the endless pine-studded rock islands and limitless beauty is a gem that we are fortunate to have in our own backyard. Surprisingly, many Minnesotans have never been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). More often than not, the reasons are far from not wanting to visit the boundary waters, but, rather, from not knowing how to do it. Rest assured, a trip to the wilds of this northern Minnesota jewel is not, by a long shot, reserved for only those young, experienced, or adventuresome few. On the website Recreation.gov, where reservations are made for entering the BWCAW, it describes the BW as: "...located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota... extends nearly 150 miles along the international boundary adjacent to Canada's Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park." The BWCAW offers more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 11 hiking trails, and approximately 2,000 designated campsites. The area was set aside in 1926 to preserve its primitive character and was made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. Visitors can canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French voyageurs of 200 years ago." Any group taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day use trip into the BWCAW from May through September is required to obtain a quota permit. Reservations are required since there are a limited number of quota permits available for each entry point. Self-issued permits are required year-round for all non-motorized day use visitors and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW between October and April. Self-issued permits are free and available at the entry point or Forest Service ranger stations." For birders, the drive to the Boundary Waters is worth the trip alone. Plenty of birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, not to mention the plant life and scenic beauty of the landscape, exists the entire journey as one travels to gain entrance to the wilderness area. Boundary Water entrances exist near Ely, off of the North Shore and to places such as Seagull Lake via the Gunflint Trail. Numerous state parks and our only national park, Voyageurs National Park, dot the way, too. If it's a canoe trip that interests you but you're unsure about planning a trip yourself, then perhaps guidance from an outfitter is the way to go. Most outfitters are able to supply everything you need for a comfortable trip: canoes, tents, cooking utensils, food, packs, rain gear and more. They can also help you plan your trip's route while taking into account your paddling experience and the time you can spend in the wilderness. The internet is a great resource for finding an outfitter. As already mentioned, reservations are needed for obtaining entrance permits, which become available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. Once an area has been established as your entrance point and the duration of your trip decided on, visit Recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777 to make your reservation. For a nominal fee you will receive a confirmation packet in the mail. Before arriving at your point of entrance, the actual permit needs to be picked up, usually at a nearby ranger station. The whole idea behind the permit system is to limit access into the area's vast, yet fragile lake country. This limitation allows all visitors to enjoy as close to an unspoiled wilderness experience as possible. Certain times of the summer, as well as certain areas, tend to fill up early, so now is the time to plan and make reservations. We Minnesotans are extremely lucky to have this wilderness area located just a short drive away. People from all over the nation and world visit the Boundary Waters every year. And with a little bit of planning and preparation, a peaceful paddle in pristine waters are yours and mine as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.Across the tranquil lake in the darkness of a moonless sky, I can barely make out the faint yellow glow of a campfire. My fire is behind me, about 50 feet, crackling in a dreamy and muffled series of pops and snaps as the dry pine slowly burns. Related content As I sit alone on a sprawling slab of stone that descends into the dark water before me, here and there across the rock surface are plate-size natural depressions full of water from the afternoon's rain shower. And upon the lake's calm and reflective surface, I can see thousands of mirrored stars twinkling brightly. With no discernible shoreline in the black night, the dual image of stars above and stars below creates a wonderment seen only on waters and skyline not shrouded by the artificial lights of civilization.Indeed, every year about this time, I find myself daydreaming about the enchanting place that we Minnesotans call simply the "Boundary Waters," or "BW." The 1.1 million-acre wilderness area and its clear lakes, the endless pine-studded rock islands and limitless beauty is a gem that we are fortunate to have in our own backyard.Surprisingly, many Minnesotans have never been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). More often than not, the reasons are far from not wanting to visit the boundary waters, but, rather, from not knowing how to do it. Rest assured, a trip to the wilds of this northern Minnesota jewel is not, by a long shot, reserved for only those young, experienced, or adventuresome few.On the website Recreation.gov, where reservations are made for entering the BWCAW, it describes the BW as:"...located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota... extends nearly 150 miles along the international boundary adjacent to Canada's Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park."The BWCAW offers more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 11 hiking trails, and approximately 2,000 designated campsites. The area was set aside in 1926 to preserve its primitive character and was made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. Visitors can canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French voyageurs of 200 years ago."Any group taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day use trip into the BWCAW from May through September is required to obtain a quota permit. Reservations are required since there are a limited number of quota permits available for each entry point. Self-issued permits are required year-round for all non-motorized day use visitors and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW between October and April. Self-issued permits are free and available at the entry point or Forest Service ranger stations."For birders, the drive to the Boundary Waters is worth the trip alone. Plenty of birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, not to mention the plant life and scenic beauty of the landscape, exists the entire journey as one travels to gain entrance to the wilderness area. Boundary Water entrances exist near Ely, off of the North Shore and to places such as Seagull Lake via the Gunflint Trail. Numerous state parks and our only national park, Voyageurs National Park, dot the way, too.If it's a canoe trip that interests you but you're unsure about planning a trip yourself, then perhaps guidance from an outfitter is the way to go. Most outfitters are able to supply everything you need for a comfortable trip: canoes, tents, cooking utensils, food, packs, rain gear and more. They can also help you plan your trip's route while taking into account your paddling experience and the time you can spend in the wilderness. The internet is a great resource for finding an outfitter.As already mentioned, reservations are needed for obtaining entrance permits, which become available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. Once an area has been established as your entrance point and the duration of your trip decided on, visit Recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777 to make your reservation. For a nominal fee you will receive a confirmation packet in the mail. Before arriving at your point of entrance, the actual permit needs to be picked up, usually at a nearby ranger station.The whole idea behind the permit system is to limit access into the area's vast, yet fragile lake country. This limitation allows all visitors to enjoy as close to an unspoiled wilderness experience as possible. Certain times of the summer, as well as certain areas, tend to fill up early, so now is the time to plan and make reservations.We Minnesotans are extremely lucky to have this wilderness area located just a short drive away. People from all over the nation and world visit the Boundary Waters every year. And with a little bit of planning and preparation, a peaceful paddle in pristine waters are yours and mine as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.