Parts of BWCA to reopen today

Alton Lake, BWCA
Undated photo of Alton Lake near the Sawbill entry point in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. A new survey finds visitors to the BWCA are generally older and more educated than they were in 1991.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

Much of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness that was burned in last year's Pagami Creek wildfire will reopen to the public starting today.

Superior National Forest spokesperson Kris Reichenbach said the area was closed last year due to concerns about the dangers of standing dead trees. Work crews were able to check on conditions in the 93,000-acre area for the first time last week.

"We think it's safe and we won't have any appreciable resource damage by reopening a good portion of that area for the public to use," Reichenbach said.

Forest managers have reopened about 100 of the 177 campsites in the burned area. Reichenbach said that others will be opened throughout the spring and summer as more campsites and portages are cleared.

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Forest managers are recommending that people who plan to visit the area follow guidelines to avoid damaging the recovering forest: bring a bear-proof food container, be wary of standing dead trees and bring a cook stove and adequate fuel.

"One of the things that's really important is to stay on the established paths, portages, tent pads, stay in the areas that are already compacted," Reichenbach said. "The ground is kind of fragile, we want to encourage the new growth. The ground cover is going to help reduce the potential for erosion."

Most land in the area is burned out, but there are still patches of green forest that survived the fire. The changing environment has already attracted plants animals like the black-backed woodpecker that like to nest in fire-killed trees.

"Over the coming years, we're going to be watching the forest grow back, reestablish itself," Reichenbach said. "People are going to have a chance to see a part of the cycle they don't usually see."

The U.S. Forest Service maintains a website where campers can get updates on conditions at Superior National Forest.