Birch Lake

Bound­ary Wa­ters Ca­noe Area, Min­nesota

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CROWDS AREN’T AL­WAYS a bad thing. Bound­ary Wa­ters is one of the coun­try’s most vis­ited wilder­nesses, and since the area’s cur­rently locked in a de­bate pit­ting min­ing against con­ser­va­tion, the swollen ranks of hik­ers and pad­dlers have never been more wel­come.

In 2016, Chilean com­pany Antofa­gasta pe­ti­tioned the BLM to re­new a min­ing lease in the Su­pe­rior Na­tional For­est ad­ja­cent to Bound­ary Wa­ters Ca­noe Area, hop­ing to start up a sul­fide-ore cop­per mine in the same wa­ter­shed as the wilder­ness area. Min­ing has long been a part of Min­nesota’s econ­omy, but this kind of cop­per ex­trac­tion would re­lease sul­fu­ric acid—the same cor­ro­sive stuff used in bat­ter­ies—into the drink­ing wa­ter of moose, en­dan­gered Canada lynx, and blue-spot­ted sala­man­ders found through­out the Bound­ary Wa­ters. Now, the BLM and U.S. For­est Ser­vice are con­duct­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal anal­y­sis of a pro­posed 20-year­long min­ing mora­to­rium, but Min­nesota con­gres­sional mem­bers are try­ing to block it. The pub­lic com­ment pe­riod has ended, but it’s never too late to show your sup­port.

With 1 mil­lion acres of wilder­ness and more than 1,200 miles of ca­noe routes, Bound­ary Wa­ters has plenty of glacially carved lakes and forested basins to go around. See what the hype is about by stag­ing a pad­dle through Birch Lake, a long stretch of sil­ver nes­tled amid a spruce for­est pocked with as­pens. Put in near Kramer Bay, and camp at any num­ber of lake is­lands. When you re­turn, con­sider call­ing lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives and telling them why the place is worth keep­ing pris­tine for the next 20 years—and be­yond.

TRAILHEAD Birch Lake Boat Ac­cess (47.7355, -91.9423) SEA­SON June to Oc­to­ber PER­MIT Re­quired; re­serve six months in ad­vance at recre­ation.gov (start­ing at $16 per per­son). CON­TACT bit.do/bound­ary-wa­ters

Pad­dlers ply Birch Lake at sun­rise.

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