BWCA Cell phone coverage? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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lincolnmurdoch
member (7)member
 
05/04/2017 06:07PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
Planning on being on Ensign Lake starting May 22. Anyone know if AT&T has coverage there. Been to Back Bay on Basswood several times. Great coverage there.
 
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Grandma L
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05/04/2017 09:25PM  
Welcome to the board!
I have not gotten very predictable service in that area.
05/04/2017 09:43PM  
My BW career only covers about 7 years and things have obviously changed. My first trip we lost cell service about 1/3 of the way between Duluth and Grand Marais. 20 miles north of GM you could get one old hippie FM radio station in the vehicle. There was basically zip when you dipped a paddle in the water. There have been efforts to improve service to help firefighters, etc, but I don't think there's a lot you can do. I can't answer your specific question but I would recommend approaching this expecting to have no communication at all unless you want a sat phone or something like that.
billconner
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05/05/2017 06:22AM  
I had great service on se end of Bald Eagle I'm sure as result of new Fernberg Road tower. Ensign seems to be similar distance so possible, perhaps better on northern shores, but no personal experience.
ParkerMag
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05/05/2017 06:26AM  
I have AT&T and didn't have service there. Wood and Good are the only lakes I can recall even spotty service. Gunflint - forget about it!
QueticoMike
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05/05/2017 07:09AM  
Welcome to the board! I always look for places where coverage sucks, those are the best places to be :)
dele
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05/05/2017 09:10AM  
quote lincolnmurdoch: "Planning on being on Ensign Lake starting May 22. Anyone know if AT&T has coverage there. Been to Back Bay on Basswood several times. Great coverage there.
"


To each their own, but isn't the whole point of a canoe trip to get away from things like cell phones?
Grandma L
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05/05/2017 09:32AM  
quote dele: "quote lincolnmurdoch: "Planning on being on Ensign Lake starting May 22. Anyone know if AT&T has coverage there. Been to Back Bay on Basswood several times. Great coverage there.
"

part of our
To each their own, but isn't the whole point of a canoe trip to get away from things like cell phones?"


To each their own is "the whole point". Cell phones, SPOT, InReach, Ipods are all part of trips for us. Appropriate use is the key. All things in moderation. Most of my trips are multi-generational and multi-ability. Often, communication with "home" is essential for safety and success.
Grandma L
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05/05/2017 09:37AM  
I just had a conversation with one of my kids. He confirmed that cell service is spotty but can be found on most of the lakes in that area. When he is on solo he calls to check in and has service gotten service on Ima, the narrows between Thomas and Fraser, and a couple of spots on Ensign. You might have to check as you paddle.
BigCurrent
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05/05/2017 09:53AM  
Plan on not having service. You may get it in some small areas, but you can't rely on it anywhere in the park.
NotLight
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05/05/2017 03:29PM  
quote BigCurrent: "Plan on not having service. You may get it in some small areas, but you can't rely on it anywhere in the park."

I believe these isolated reception areas have been refered to on this site before as an "oasis of cell phone service". :/

I recall getting service on Moose and Snowbank but not Ensign, unless somethings changed.

yogi59weedr
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05/05/2017 06:36PM  
You don't need no stinking cell phone..
Forgot what movie part of that line came from
old_salt
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05/05/2017 07:00PM  
I wouldn't count on cell coverage anywhere.
billconner
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05/05/2017 07:03PM  
Oddly, I've gotten 4 stars on Ranger Bay. And entire trip from Lake One - Kawishiwi - Bald Eagle. And reports of service as far as Quadaga. The Fernberg tower opened a lot. Enough so that I don't carry mine any longer.

I suspect the day is not that far away when there is coverage everywhere. Check the cell company's coverage maps. ATT

Too bad but I gave up wishing progress away.
lindylair
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05/05/2017 07:59PM  
Cell phone coverage is a new concept for the BWCA, I am not qualified to say whether that is good or bad. Last year on Gabbro I checked my phone perhaps once a day, had decnt coverage and sent a couple texts with photos of the beautiful scenery - because i could. If I didn't have coverage I wouldn't have done it..no big deal.

The reality is that cell phone coverage is likely to increase in the coming years. that does not diminish the wilderness, what diminishes the experience is how dependent we become on communication with others outside the wilderness.

I personally don't feel the need to have that daily communication and my wife is okay with that. The fact of the matter and herein lies one of societies big problems - you control the usage of your cell phone...it does not control you.

Cell phone coverage in the BWCA could someday save my, or your life. Overall i guess I still feel that it detracts from the wilderness experience and the feeling of isolation and self dependence. But if I break my leg or hip or have a heart attack somewhere in the BWCA and I am able to contact help, I guess it will be a good thing. Over the last several years my cell phone comes with me but is buried in the bottom of my pack and is not a significant part of the trip. On the other hand, some folks wouldn't go without the ability to communicate.

I am planning a trip with a buddy for late August and he is adamant that he needs to be in communication with his family throughout the trip. He may rent a SAT phone, depending on where we go. Doesn't bother me one bit, I would rather be able to trip with him under those conditions than not to go at all.

(the times they are a changin(who said that?)

Guess I am lucky that my wife is confident enough in my abilities to be safe and that I don't need to check in. Although I do worry, not about myself but more about her and the kids. I hope, for the younger generations's sake, that cell phone coverage never becomes so prevalent up there that they become glued to their phone and miss the point altogether, and that none of us as parents allow that to happen.
mutz
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05/06/2017 09:42AM  
I wonder if cell phone coverage will increase BW use by this generation of can't be more than two feet from my phone. The last number I heard was 75 percent of this generation has never owned a watch because they have a cellphone 24/7. Since this generation is very exercise oriented, biking, running, kayaking, etc. maybe if they have the ability to communicate while there, they will go. Personally I think it's great in an emergency, but wouldn't use mine on a regular basis.
QueticoMike
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05/06/2017 10:52AM  
quote lindylair: "Cell phone coverage is a new concept for the BWCA, I am not qualified to say whether that is good or bad. Last year on Gabbro I checked my phone perhaps once a day, had decnt coverage and sent a couple texts with photos of the beautiful scenery - because i could. If I didn't have coverage I wouldn't have done it..no big deal.


The reality is that cell phone coverage is likely to increase in the coming years. that does not diminish the wilderness, what diminishes the experience is how dependent we become on communication with others outside the wilderness.


I personally don't feel the need to have that daily communication and my wife is okay with that. The fact of the matter and herein lies one of societies big problems - you control the usage of your cell phone...it does not control you.


Cell phone coverage in the BWCA could someday save my, or your life. Overall i guess I still feel that it detracts from the wilderness experience and the feeling of isolation and self dependence. But if I break my leg or hip or have a heart attack somewhere in the BWCA and I am able to contact help, I guess it will be a good thing. Over the last several years my cell phone comes with me but is buried in the bottom of my pack and is not a significant part of the trip. On the other hand, some folks wouldn't go without the ability to communicate.


I am planning a trip with a buddy for late August and he is adamant that he needs to be in communication with his family throughout the trip. He may rent a SAT phone, depending on where we go. Doesn't bother me one bit, I would rather be able to trip with him under those conditions than not to go at all.


(the times they are a changin(who said that?)


Guess I am lucky that my wife is confident enough in my abilities to be safe and that I don't need to check in. Although I do worry, not about myself but more about her and the kids. I hope, for the younger generations's sake, that cell phone coverage never becomes so prevalent up there that they become glued to their phone and miss the point altogether, and that none of us as parents allow that to happen.
"


The times they are a changing......was a song sung by a guy from Bemidji, MN. His name was Robert Zimmerman, now he goes by the name Bob Dylan.
ellahallely
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05/06/2017 11:17AM  
Paul Bunyan was from Bemidji !

It is always a good idea to have away of getting help! For yourself or someone else.
WHendrix
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05/06/2017 12:08PM  
Actually, Bob Dylan/Zimmerman was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing. He's right BTW, about "The Times They Are A Changing".
QueticoMike
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05/06/2017 01:27PM  
quote WHendrix: "Actually, Bob Dylan/Zimmerman was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing. He's right BTW, about "The Times They Are A Changing"."

Shoot....that's right, I knew it was one of those little towns up there. Not sure why I thought Bemidji, but yep, Hibbing. Thanks for the correction :)
Grandma L
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05/06/2017 02:25PM  
If you don't like cell phones in the BWCA or iPods, or other technology -
There is a simple answer - DON'T USE IT.
Most of us embrace the new technologies in light weight equipment and canoes - the electronic and communication technology is just another example of "to each their own"!

schweady
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05/06/2017 03:13PM  
Sigh.

The original post inquired about strength of signal in a specific area with a specific provider. A reasonable query. I'm guessing that those who are adamantly opposed to cell phone use in wilderness areas would have no experience of note either way and therefore have no helpful information for lincolnmurdoch. Likewise, I've never been on Ensign and I don't use AT&T, so why am I posting?

Fair enough. Just put me in the camp of those who feel that having a cell phone out there is not all that important, but there are times when it's good to know what possibilities for service exist: My wife calls her dad every night. She brings her phone on our trips, turning it on at 7:30 pm for that one specific purpose, then shuts it down. So far, our excursions together with a phone along have not been ones on which we go more than a few portages in (Gabbro, Horse, N Kawishiwi R), and she has been successful. And happy. And so is Dad.

Everyone has a reason. It's not the end of the world. Enough chest beating.
yogi59weedr
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05/06/2017 09:30PM  
I actually like listening to my music on my phone
05/08/2017 11:19AM  
I do too, but I download playlists so I don't have to take my phone out of airplane mode. Nothing worse than having to deal with life outside of the BWCA when in the BWCA.
Renol
member (29)member
 
05/11/2017 09:25AM  
I have AT&T and lost cell coverage a few min drive down Gunflint Trail when leaving GM. After that the only other time I had coverage was when I was on top of a bluff with nothing else around and even then it was a few bars. I only went as far west as the Gunflint Trail outfitters so I can't speak to specifics beyond that.
Grandma L
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05/11/2017 10:34AM  
quote Renol: "I have AT&T and lost cell coverage a few min drive down Gunflint Trail when leaving GM. After that the only other time I had coverage was when I was on top of a bluff with nothing else around and even then it was a few bars. I only went as far west as the Gunflint Trail outfitters so I can't speak to specifics beyond that."
Yup, the east and west have very little or no coverage - the middle has fair to spotty coverage.
jamotrade
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05/11/2017 01:18PM  
I use my phone as a camera on my trips and also upload Google Earth and Navionics contour maps for the trip so I can get to them without coverage. I have never been anywhere in the BWCA that has coverage yet but I'm sure it is not far off and I am ok with that.
shoreviewswede
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05/12/2017 06:45AM  
Schweady... yes. Thank you.
illbefine
member (5)member
 
06/28/2019 08:21AM  
To be sure you'll be in touch it's better to take care of it beforehand. You can buy a booster, a cheap one and give it a try. myamplifiers.com I bought mine here about five years ago and it has been working nice since.
longblueveil
member (17)member
 
06/28/2019 03:46PM  
For what it's worth, the AT&T coverage map looks like it paints the east side of most lakes in that area. I'm guessing the tower is to the West of there? No personal experience, but your best bet may be paddling to an Eastern shore of some bigger water.
07/01/2019 09:48AM  
I have never gotten service anywhere up there, but I always have my phone on hand there.
why? because its the best camera I own
:)
salukiguy
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07/01/2019 06:32PM  
I got pretty good coverage in the numbered lakes which was great because I left one barely adult kid at home and her car broke down. As previously mentioned no coverage on the east side.
gravelroad
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07/02/2019 07:43AM  
QueticoMike: "quote WHendrix: "Actually, Bob Dylan/Zimmerman was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing. He's right BTW, about "The Times They Are A Changing"."


Shoot....that's right, I knew it was one of those little towns up there. Not sure why I thought Bemidji, but yep, Hibbing. Thanks for the correction :) "


OMG. I recommend you wear a disguise once you get past Hinckley, or you might end up swimming with the stocked fish at the bottom of a mine pit. ;-)
07/02/2019 08:04AM  
Ely side seems to have spotty service all around it. Gunflint side you lose it completely it seems. I never let any of the young ones bring any electronic with.
07/02/2019 07:44PM  
Had great coverage (with Verizon of course) on Indiana.
Savage Voyageur
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07/03/2019 04:10PM  
I’ve only got a weak cell for text messages and phone calls at LaTourells parking lot. After that, nothing.
Bearpath9
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07/03/2019 06:17PM  
yogi59weedr: "You don't need no stinking cell phone..
Forgot what movie part of that line came from"


"Treasure of the Sierra Madre".
WalleyeHunter24
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07/05/2019 09:21AM  
Wondering why anyone would want cell phone coverage within the BWCA/Quetico anyway?

I bring mine with strictly for the camera functions, but still use hand held maps for navigation since it's the most reliable source.

Let's pretend it's 1994, put the mobile phones away for a bit and take in the beauty and solitude of the wilderness. Maybe have a conversation with the person you're with? Just a thought...
gravelroad
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07/05/2019 12:47PM  
WalleyeHunter24: "Wondering why anyone would want cell phone coverage within the BWCA/Quetico anyway?

I bring mine with strictly for the camera functions, but still use hand held maps for navigation since it's the most reliable source.

Let's pretend it's 1994, put the mobile phones away for a bit and take in the beauty and solitude of the wilderness. Maybe have a conversation with the person you're with? Just a thought... "


When you stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the families of other BWCA travelers who are waiting at home, the question answers itself. (As has already been pointed out in this thread a couple of times.) It's the reason I take an InReach device with me, and why I wouldn't need one if I were single.
07/05/2019 03:52PM  
Back in the "olden days" when there were no cell phones, we just trusted that the family back home would be OK, and then at the end of the trip we called (on a pay phone!! Imagine that!!) to see if that was, indeed, the case. We left our two children with our good friends in Minneapolis for anywhere from 4 to 14 days, depending upon the length of our planned trip, and it was all good. Only had one "family emergency" during all of our years of canoe-tripping and that was an auto accident that severely injured a sister-in-law and niece. If we had known, we would have been praying, but there was nothing else we could do anyway.

Our parents worried. Especially our mothers. But they got used to it through the years and the only thing they requested was that we call as soon as we could once we were off the water. We always did.

Now that there is texting, I don't mind cell phones in the wilderness at all. When it was "ring, ring!! HELLO!!" and then a loud conversation (used to drive me nuts in nice, quiet restaurants) that would bother me. It is fine to say "If you don't like it, don't use it", but I do think you need to have a lot of respect for the fact that many people still go to the wilderness to enjoy peace and quiet, and as much solitude as they can reasonably attain.

And I have no idea about the original question, as our phones and my iPad cellular service is Verizon. :-)
WalleyeHunter24
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07/05/2019 07:14PM  
gravelroad: "WalleyeHunter24: "Wondering why anyone would want cell phone coverage within the BWCA/Quetico anyway?


I bring mine with strictly for the camera functions, but still use hand held maps for navigation since it's the most reliable source.


Let's pretend it's 1994, put the mobile phones away for a bit and take in the beauty and solitude of the wilderness. Maybe have a conversation with the person you're with? Just a thought... "



When you stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the families of other BWCA travelers who are waiting at home, the question answers itself. (As has already been pointed out in this thread a couple of times.) It's the reason I take an InReach device with me, and why I wouldn't need one if I were single."



It's a broad sweeping conclusion to assume I have no family based on my opinion of cell phone coverage in a secluded place as the BWCA. I bring my cell for the camera, and also bring a satellite phone and GPS beacon for those potential emergency situations. The GPS beacon has a function that allows you to send a ping notification to contacts indicating your "OK" (I use this to notify my family). "Checking In" on a regular basis via cell phone call while in the BWCA is ridiculous IMO, but to each their own I guess.

If someone is that concerned with being "out of touch" or needing to have cell phone coverage to "stay connected", maybe the BWCA is not the best option in regards to getting back to nature and unplugging from the grid.

If cell phone coverage is "your thing", perhaps you should stick to the State Park system... rookie.
Bill Dugan
Guest Paddler
 
08/08/2021 12:38PM  
Is the cell tower operational at Gunflint Lake? I am hoping not. I will be up on Gillis the last week of August and am bringing some friends that have never been and want them to disconnect.
tumblehome
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08/08/2021 05:48PM  
No coverage that I know of up the Gunflint thankfully.
I dropped in at Gunflint lodge in June to use their guest Wi-Fi to check in after a trip. I went inside and did some shopping too.

TOm
Savage Voyageur
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08/08/2021 06:01PM  
I’m only commenting on a 5 year old thread to possibly help others on this question. I was on Ensign in June this year and turned on my phone to take a picture. To my surprise I started to get my text messages and emails. I could send and receive text messages with my wife. Normally I would not have tried because it stays off.
jamdemos
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08/09/2021 08:22AM  
mutz: "I wonder if cell phone coverage will increase BW use by this generation of can't be more than two feet from my phone. The last number I heard was 75 percent of this generation has never owned a watch because they have a cellphone 24/7. Since this generation is very exercise oriented, biking, running, kayaking, etc. maybe if they have the ability to communicate while there, they will go. Personally I think it's great in an emergency, but wouldn't use mine on a regular basis."
I highly doubt the lack of cell service is keeping “this” generation from going to the BW. I’m part of “this” generation and have never heard of someone that doesn’t want to go because they can’t check their Facebook or Instagram or whatever else on their cell phone. It’s normally other reasons - aka just the lack of desire to do something like the BW.
 
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