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01/17/2021 05:05PM  
Every time I pull out all of my maps and start searching for possible trips each year I always seem to run into a route that looks like it might be great sans access to these lakes. Why is it that so much of the million acres in the BWCA don't ever get used?

Do they want to leave space for wildlife to be untouched?
Is it a fire issue?
Is there no feasible portage routes?

It's a question that has been on my mind for a very long time. I'm totally fine with they way things are, but I don't get it. Anyone know?
 
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Savage Voyageur
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01/17/2021 05:13PM  
Some of the areas might be primitive management areas, PMAs. Some are dead end lakes, or swampy areas that don’t allow portage trails. Even some of the PMAs I have been to it’s hard to stay on the so called portage trail because it’s overgrown with small trees. Try looking at a USGS topographic map and you might see a lot of marshes, swamps there.
 
billconner
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01/17/2021 06:43PM  
USFS manpower. They have trouble keeping a handful of rangers in the park in peak season now.
 
01/17/2021 07:14PM  
It would seem that areas excluding PMA's could be opened up. But agree most likely a manpower issue.
 
lindylair
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01/17/2021 08:01PM  
I get the budget thing but finding the resources to create some campsites on lakes that have none would address a significant problem. It would be a good use of the budget dollars available for the future of the BWCA. There have been many lakes that I have thought would be good candidates for campsites that currently have none. Create one 3-4 star site on these and help the campsite availability issue. Examples include Lizz Lake(beautiful long narrow lake, could support one campsite on the way to a very busy area), Morgan Lake(another very pretty lake, kind of wasted), Whack Lake, Little John Lake, Veggie Lakes for those that want remote...I am sure there are plenty more.

Keep the overall permit availability the same so there aren't more folks using it, just spreading them out more. There may be some good reasons these lakes don't have campsites. Everything changes, perhaps we need to change the approach to management of the BWCA along with it. Not advocating more folks, in fact just the opposite. Spreading the usage out more, good for visitors and the wilderness.

These are just lakes along current paddling routes...creating portages to some of the remote lakes is another question, and potentially a good idea too but that involves a lot more resources. Still in the big picture and in the long run...lots of interesting spots up there with virtually no access for the majority of paddlers. The overall question is what's good for the folks who use the wilderness AND what's good for the wilderness itself. I don't claim to have insight to that balance.

 
01/17/2021 08:19PM  
That's I guess where I am on the subject as well. No increase in visitors but increased routes and campsites. I get the PMA thing and the resource thing. That said, I can't recall walking over a tree stump on any of my portages in the past. Isn't it true that they take the least work available route? Maybe increased routes would lead to portages not being used enough and growing over?
 
Michwall2
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01/17/2021 09:08PM  
Not only is it harder to keep all those miles of portage maintained, there is a changing of usage by us.

We are base camping more. And base camping closer to the entries. The reports from this year confirmed this. How many here complained that there were no campsites near entries. It is obvious that the FS usage theories assume a certain amount of travel by most visitors to the wilderness. Is that happening any more?

Many of the PMA's used to have portage routes through them. They were abandoned and campsites closed. Why? Lack of usage? Lack of interest? Lack of fish or the "correct" species?

Single campsite, dead end lakes - How many people are willing to take the risk of making a 90-180 rod portage to a single campsite, dead end lake only to turn around and have to portage back out again if the site is in use?

For example - How many would portage into Wonder Lake south of Alton Lake or continue on to Sunhigh Lake? The portage is not daunting at 140 rds. The campsites receive low ratings on this site. Do we even know if there are game fish there? Why are they not used more? They are certainly not a hard day's travel from Sawbill lake. Alton, Sawbill, and Kelso are some of the busiest lakes around. Why don't people visit/use these as overflow?

 
bottomtothetap
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01/17/2021 10:32PM  
Michwall2
We are base camping more. And base camping closer to the entries. The reports from this year confirmed this.



"


It's because we are all getting older!
 
billconner
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01/18/2021 06:41AM  
Michwall2: "Many of the PMA's used to have portage routes through them. They were abandoned and campsites closed. Why? Lack of usage? Lack of interest? Lack of fish or the "correct" species?
"


They became PMAs because of budget - lack of funding.
 
tumblehome
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01/18/2021 07:23AM  
PMA’s have been around a long time. Much longer than people are aware of. Before the internet they were a secret among the USFS and those asking a lot of questions.

The PMA’s were designated as primitive where they were never maintained by the USFS. That was and is the point of them. Only in the past 10-15 years have they become known to the masses.

I found out about them from a friend here in MN whose Father was a FS manager. This was before you could Google them.

Tom
 
01/18/2021 08:34AM  
Getting old and been a mappi9ng geek for a long time, so I have quite a set of files and mapping programs. This got me looking. Starting with just BWCA, Quetico, and Superior NF showing BWCA is less than half of the surrounding NF.
Start adding items like campsites. And the BWCA starts looking filled up. I can add more items EP's Trail's PMA's and what looks unused begins to show that access gets very limited. Few conected lakes, large areas of marshy ground, PMA's. Looking at the area this way you can see very little of the BWCA is unused.
Area around Wolfpack Lake west of the Pauness.
 
01/18/2021 08:34AM  
Getting old and--------- fat finger double posed. But as long as I'm here this is where the 6 largest fires occurred. Pagami Ham, Cavity outlined in red shades 3 smaller purple Alpine, Famine, Red Eye. Some little used some heavy use.


butthead
 
01/18/2021 11:39AM  
BH, great contribution to the discussion.
 
scat
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01/20/2021 03:03PM  
Yeah, and what fun would it be for the Bushwhack Jamboreers if everything was easy to get to. I would like to get in to Barto Lake some day. It’s a long shot. Maybe best kept that way.
 
01/20/2021 03:36PM  
Yeah, some of the pma’s were routes back in the day. Some of my old maps still had the portages on them. Just not real clear. But the other thing is why do you want to open it up more? Isn’t it better that we keep areas a little more wild? I like the idea there are not people crawling around every square inch of the BW, and I’ll bet there are animals that appreciate it too.
 
scat
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01/20/2021 03:55PM  
It’s like my home town, Lake Villa, one time I said wouldn’t it be nice if the ‘downtown’ was more of a ‘bustling’ type of strip like Grayslake or Antioch. Wisely said was, watch what you wish for, this is mellow, let’s keep it that way. Don’t need a Starbucks or sushi bar anytime soon.
 
01/22/2021 10:12PM  
nctry: "Yeah, some of the pma’s were routes back in the day. Some of my old maps still had the portages on them. Just not real clear. But the other thing is why do you want to open it up more? Isn’t it better that we keep areas a little more wild? I like the idea there are not people crawling around every square inch of the BW, and I’ll bet there are animals that appreciate it too. "

I like the idea there is a destination I can reach with more effort that others will not put forth.
 
mschi772
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01/23/2021 08:21AM  
It's actually the BWCAW, not BWCA, and that last W stands for Wilderness. It is a wilderness, not a park--different priorities. Anyway, I think BH did a fine job and illustrating just how "crowded" the area really is. In summer, even in a PMA, you're probably never *that* far away from another human as the crow flies.
 
billconner
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01/23/2021 09:04AM  
I tried to find a little more history of PMAs and found this instead. Interesting read imho. BWCA changes

This us around 1986. Wish some academic would write an update as seemingly objective and unbiased as this.
 
01/23/2021 09:19AM  
billconner: "I tried to find a little more history of PMAs and found this instead. Interesting read imho. BWCA changes


This us around 1986. Wish some academic would write an update as seemingly objective and unbiased as this. "


I remember when they were established. Reason was to have areas that would give a person a chance at more remoteness and primitive. Good idea.
Also long before the BWCA was established in its present form most lakes had a portage trail.
Also best way to reduce over fishing is a limited access, meaning trail difficulty or distant to travel.
 
billconner
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01/23/2021 09:25AM  
Anyone know when the distinction between pristine management areas and primative management areas was lost? Here's a 2004 USFS management plan that includes both: Plan
 
marrowoflife
member (17)member
 
01/23/2021 04:42PM  
butthead: "Getting old and been a mappi9ng geek for a long time, so I have quite a set of files and mapping programs. This got me looking. Starting with just BWCA, Quetico, and Superior NF showing BWCA is less than half of the surrounding NF.
Start adding items like campsites. And the BWCA starts looking filled up. I can add more items EP's Trail's PMA's and what looks unused begins to show that access gets very limited. Few conected lakes, large areas of marshy ground, PMA's. Looking at the area this way you can see very little of the BWCA is unused.
Area around Wolfpack Lake west of the Pauness. "

Butthead,
I'm sure you've answered this question plenty of times before, but if you don't mind sharing what software/programs do you use?
Thanks,
marrowoflife
 
schweady
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01/23/2021 06:42PM  
marrowoflife: "Butthead,
I'm sure you've answered this question plenty of times before, but if you don't mind sharing what software/programs do you use?
Thanks,
marrowoflife"

I'll quickly share part of the answer for him here... For one, the maps he shows here are screenshots of Garmin BaseCamp, an app he uses to save and organize data compiled on his Garmin GPSMAP 62st. I'm sure he has more, including his Birdseye subscription.
 
Stumpy
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01/23/2021 07:27PM  
nctry: "Yeah, some of the pma’s were routes back in the day. Some of my old maps still had the portages on them. Just not real clear. But the other thing is why do you want to open it up more? Isn’t it better that we keep areas a little more wild? I like the idea there are not people crawling around every square inch of the BW, and I’ll bet there are animals that appreciate it too. "

Yeah, they can go uninterrupted, while eating each other.
;)
 
lindylair
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01/23/2021 07:33PM  
Camping is the most intrusive activity in the BWCA, I suspect we could all agree to that. My thought from my previous post was to add additional campsites on lakes that currently are on well travelled routes but have no campsites and/or perhaps add a few on lakes that are currently accessible but not necessarily on a well travelled route and have no campsites. Maybe even carve out a portage trail on a few lakes that are currently "bushwhack" lakes and add a campsite. On larger lakes that currently only have one campsite, maybe see if there is anther suitable spot.

Seems like the most important point here is that I would not advocate increasing permits or visitors but just spread them out more so that folks can find a little more "solitude" which seems like a major motivation for going, and also spread out the usage of campsites so their usable life is longer and the impact of visitors is less.

More campsites means potentially less folks with horror stories of going in and not finding a campsite and having to either camp on a portage ending or head back out for a ruined trip. Or hoping for that campsite close to the entry point for that last night but finding them all occupied and having to cut their trip short by a day. Spread the same number of visitors out on a larger number of lakes and campsites equals less impact in each individual spot and potentially better experiences for the folks who have planned for a year or more and spent significant dollars to visit. PMA's aren't for everyone and I don't think they are the solution, especially for the newer BWCA traveler.

With the same number of visitors I do not think the wild aspect of the BWCA would be compromised, just possibly better experiences for those that go. And we want folks to go, right?
 
01/23/2021 10:34PM  
schweady, hit the source on the head!

butthead
 
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