Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a stunningly beautiful region of the United States that is found in the northeastern corner of Minnesota, across the border from Canada and just north of Voyageur Brewing Company. It has been protected since the early 1900s and is filled with lakes and rivers that provide excellent canoeing, fishing, hiking and more. While it is not distinguished as a national park, the area is protected under the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and is managed as a part of the Superior National Forest under the control of the U.S. Forest Service. It is one of the most visited Wilderness areas in the country.
BWCAW covers about 150 miles of land in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, a name reflective of the pointed shape of the northeastern end of the state. It connects to Voyageurs National Park and Superior National Forest in Minnesota as well as Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks in Canada to make up one very large Wilderness area. About 20% of the region is water while the other 80% consists of forests. It is also the largest area of forestland in the United States that was never harvested which has resulted in some incredible old-growth forests.
Concerns over deforestation and its effects on natural habitats were the driving forces that led to the protection of the area. Like much of the region, the first Europeans to explore the area were French. As they continued to chart new territory they opened up many new areas to fur trappers and inevitably brought more people into the area. (French-Canadian fur trappers were called Voyageurs.) The border between the U.S. and Canada was in dispute for many years following the Revolutionary War as it was originally laid out using an inaccurate map. In 1842, the border was finally defined by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty using an old trade route. Only a few decades later gold, silver and iron were found in the area and mining companies came pouring in, heavily working the area through the late 1800s. Logging also began around the same time, mostly to support the mining industry, and continued until the 1930s.
In 1902, Minnesota Forest Commissioner Christopher C. Andrews convinced the state to preserve about 500,000 acres of the land and soon added another 141,000 to the total. He also reached out to officials in Ontario and convinced them to keep the area free from loggers and industry as well. This led to the creation of Superior National Forest and Quetico Provincial Park. Over the next many decades the region became more deeply admired and protected and it officially became known as Boundary Waters Canoe Area in 1958 with the “Wilderness” tag being added in 1978, adding more protections, especially against motorized boats and vehicles.
BWCAW has an abundance of beautiful canoeing and kayaking paths, and about 95% of overnight visitors in the area use non-motorized boats to find their way around. Along the way, visitors may see deer, moose, bobcats, beavers, loons, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, wolves, black bears or dozens of other animals. They may even come across Native American petroglyphs and pictographs on rock ledges and cliffs. Fishing is also very popular in the region with a variety of trout, bass, panfish, pike and walleye, and hikers can find their way to short day hikes or take on adventures that cover more than 100 miles.
There are only a few breweries on the planet that allow beer lovers to sit outside on a patio that overlooks one of the Great Lakes. Voyageur Brewing Company rests along the north shore of Lake Superior in the town of Grand Marais and the brewery makes a continual effort to support their local community as well as the beautiful waterways and woodlands of northeastern Minnesota, and not just in the names of their beers. Voyageur Brewing Company has weekly fundraising efforts, contributes to numerous organizations and works hard to minimize their impact on the local ecosystems.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is an American treasure. It now covers over one million acres and when combined with Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park grows to over two million acres, all of which provides hundreds of miles of hiking and canoeing adventures in one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world.
From the Brewer: All you hear is paddles in the water as you cross the wilderness lake. In the forest with a canoe and a pack on your back, you wonder how the Voyageurs did it, and made beer out of wild rice to enjoy along the trail. Just when your burning muscles think you can’t go any farther you see your campsite is just ahead. The day is over and you celebrate your accomplishments like a Voyageur. ABV 4.3%, IBU 25
Michael Prom, Susan Prom, Bruce Walters, Ritalee Walters - Founders & Owners