Girl Scouts brought to safety after lightning strike in Boundary Waters

Locator map for Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Locator map for Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness northeast of Ely, Minn.
Google Maps

Updated: July 27, 10:25 a.m. | Posted: July 26, 11:22 p.m.

A group of Girl Scouts was back at base camp and checking in with their families Saturday morning after a harrowing night in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

A group of nine scouts and guides were caught in a severe storm Friday evening while camping at Knife Lake, deep within the wilderness area. Several reportedly were injured when lightning struck near the group; they were evacuated by rescue personnel and reached a boat landing just before 4 a.m. Saturday.

"The latest update is that all girls and guides have been checked at the hospital in Ely," Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines reported in an online update later Saturday morning. "All of the girls are back at the canoe base and have changed into dry clothes and were sipping on warm beverages."

The scouts are from the Chicago area, and Girl Scouts officials had contacted all their families.

"Additionally, the girls are currently calling home (one at a time) from our land line at base camp — no cell service at camp," scouting officials reported.

The calls home came after an extensive overnight rescue operation, in the wake of the severe storms that produced gusty winds, some hail and lightning as they swept across the Arrowhead region.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office said it received a report of a lightning strike at the Knife Lake campsite at about 7:15 p.m. Friday. It appears no one was directly struck by lightning; Girl Scout officials reported a guide told them that "they believe that lightning struck the ground and they might have experienced ground current."

The scouts and guides ranged in age from 13 to 20, the sheriff's office said.

"The lead guide called in the lightning strike, per protocol, (and) informed authorities of their exact location per the planned route," Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines spokesperson Nancy McMullen said.

Rescue personnel "obtained preliminary coordinates from the reporting party, which we quickly pinpointed based on the campsite number provided by the outfitter," the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, one of the agencies involved in the rescue operation, reported in a Facebook update. Crews "transported canoes to the first portage by motorboat, then switched to paddle/portage mode" to reach the group.

Motors are allowed in the BWCAW for emergency rescues.

Rescuers found the scouts and guides "awake, alert, and able to move without assistance." All nine members of the party arrived at the Moose Lake landing east of Ely just before 4 a.m. Saturday. 

All the rescue personnel arrived back to the landing safe, too.

Other agencies involved in the effort included the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, Minnesota State Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol and Ely Area Ambulance.

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