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01/18/2021 10:04AM  
Was going to post this question in the "Should sites be cleared more" thread, but thought maybe it was a different enough topic for it's own.
Does anyone know if there is an official policy on ongoing maintenance of sites with little use?
For example, I visited the site on Elm Lake off of Little Sag a couple years ago. The site was completely overgrown and darn near impossible to land at due to debris and growth. The portage into Elm was almost impossible to find as well and the landings very difficult due to neglect. However, once we were able to find the site we found a clearing and firegrate were still present. The lake is gorgeous to boot. I would camp there.
Likewise you have sites like the one on Batista off the Dahlgren River, or the sites on Jig and Maxine which are still present but completely overgrown. Many other examples exist.
With the comments on the other thread suggesting adding new sites on dead end lakes etc., made me wonder if there is a policy or intentional approach by the FS on why they do not maintain them but allow these sites that already exist to slowly disappear. Is it simply a recognition that the demand does not exist for these sites? If visitor numbers to the BW remain high could they reconsider the maintenace plan for these sites?
 
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01/18/2021 10:27AM  
I have actually looked at going to Jig and Maxine just to do it. It's on the list.
 
01/18/2021 10:31AM  
Can I say funding. Good questions that the forest service might appreciate in making their case for the crumbs left for boots on the ground. I appreciate the work they do in managing sites now. It is use more than FS effort that "maintains" campsites per the other thread.
The questions about the condition of little used sites suggests some places to seek out.
 
Speckled
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01/18/2021 10:39AM  
We've come across sites like you describe as well and have witnessed one on a dead end route that we've camped at numerous times over the last 20 years that went from a great site, that I would give 4 or 5 stars to a site thats more like a 3. Tent pads are over grown, fire log seating is rotten and unusable, shoreline has brushed up.

I've also come across portages in the same situation, comepletly overgrown, downed trees and more resembles a game trail at this point.

My guess is theres a rotating schedule for FS maintenance, with certian higher traffic areas getting touched/checked every year, others every other year, and others maybe 5 yrs or on an as needed/squeky wheel basis?

I'd be curious to know.
 
01/18/2021 10:54AM  
I thought the site on Elm was a good example because it exists within a 40min trip from a fully stocked ranger cabin on Little Sag. Makes me think it must be an intentional decision to let this site and portage disappear back into the forest. Based on what I saw, it would be two days work to clear both the portage and site. You'd think it would have been on the schedule by now for rangers stationed so close.
 
mschi772
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01/18/2021 12:32PM  
The majority of "maintenance" performed on sites is simply through repeated use. I put that in quotes because I'm not talking about moving a latrine or clearing a dangerous widowmaker but the kind of "maintenance" that keeps herbaceous growth from over-taking the tent pads and fire grate area and shrubs growing up through the fire grate. USFS personnel don't have to do anything to these ends because people will just keep showing-up and using the site, keeping the soil comacted and keeping the trails trampled.

Some sites just suck because they don't get used often, so nature moves back into them. This is where I feel like people obsessing over site ratings is a bit of a downer. Some sites would be much better if people just used them more, but because everyone avoids them so much in the quest for the "5-star" site, they get less and less appealing.

Some sites just genuinely suck due to utterly stupid or even dangerous firegrate or latrine placement. I've seen theories that these kinds of sites stem from a time when the USFS thought it was a good idea to relocate sites more often but would force sites into inappropriate places nearby in order to keep maps accurate. My opinion on this is that whenever we encounter such sites, we should make specific reports/complaints to the USFS because maybe they'd like to relocate such sites but don't know where they all are to do so. Couldn't hurt to help them by providing them with the info on which sites have inherently bad/dangerous grate/latrine placement so that they can address them.

The BWCA is huge with an insane number of sites and portages to look after, and the USFS is far from ideally staffed/equipped to be able to stay on top of it all. It never hurts to communicate information to them that might help make their duties more efficient.
 
TreeBear
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01/18/2021 01:49PM  
I don't know what is and isn't intentional in terms of letting some things go, but I do know that it is the variety in the BWCA that allows it to accommodate such a wide range of people. I deeply feel and understand the concern of increased traffic in the BW and all of the concerns that come with it, but I personally love those hard to reach campsites and the out of the way places. The people that want more of a "state park" experience have the huge campsites on Moose, Basswood, Lake One, or other big entries. Those that want an easier wilderness experience can base camp and still see other people in routes like the Numbers, Nina Moose, Knife, and others. The dead end campsites and the PMA's exist for those that still want some figment of a true wilderness experience. Intentionally or not, they serve that purpose. Because of the traffic it sees, a good chunk of the BWCA doesn't feel like a wilderness area, but sometimes people forget the consequences can be the same as any other wilderness (look at this year's SARs.)

Back to this topic, the "abandoned" campsites fascinate me, same as the truly abandoned routes. And as you were getting at, there definitely is a sliding scale of "abandonment" if you will. There are sites, like Elm, that are on an out of the way lake that never was on the way to anywhere and thus one could assume that a lack of traffic slowly gave up the site. There are others, such as Batista or maybe Sunhigh, that definitely still are close to maintained routes, but something changed that made them tougher to get to or less convenient, so they got swallowed up. There are other campsites that have always been a big "?" to me. Why was there ever a campsite on Bear west of Phantom or Barter for instance? I also have a soft spot for the isolated campsites that used to connect to routes that have since become PMA's and so the sites themselves are super remote now such as can be found on Gabi, Insula, Fishdance, or Neewin. And, of course, there are plenty of abandoned maybe closed sites on the big lakes such as Sag, Knife, Basswood, Insula, LLC, and so on that aren't on any maps anymore, haven't been maintained for decades, but never got totally cleaned up (grate may still be there, biff could still be there, old signage could still be there) that feel a lot more like the USFS forgot about the site more than anything. It's amazing how much "history" is scattered around.

Beyond the abandoned sites, it's amazing how many abandoned routes there are beyond just what became PMA's. As others have said, the traffic that utilizes each route is what keeps stuff maintained, perhaps even more than the USFS. If a route had a similar length but easier alternative, maybe it faded away. Some disappear to big forest fires and wind storms and it just didn't make sense to clear it. And some become unfeasible thanks to beaver dams breaking or water level changes. Still, there are some routes that I always wondered what caused them to disappear.

For example: What was the motivation for maintaining the North Moose River and not the Portage River that shares the permit? Or why did Mudro become an entry and the old Range River EP closed? And then routes like Cheokee into Ranger/Guard/Wing/Noodle or Cash/Gunstock/Cleft/Jay/Ash both vanished at some point. Former cut throughs like Crag or Pup or the Sema to Kek portage disappeared for more convenient options. I'm sure most of these have logical explanations, but, at least to me, it's really interesting to learn about the why's as routes appear and vanish.
 
01/18/2021 05:31PM  
TreeBear: "I don't know what is and isn't intentional in terms of letting some things go, but I do know that it is the variety in the BWCA that allows it to accommodate such a wide range of people. I deeply feel and understand the concern of increased traffic in the BW and all of the concerns that come with it, but I personally love those hard to reach campsites and the out of the way places. The people that want more of a "state park" experience have the huge campsites on Moose, Basswood, Lake One, or other big entries. Those that want an easier wilderness experience can base camp and still see other people in routes like the Numbers, Nina Moose, Knife, and others. The dead end campsites and the PMA's exist for those that still want some figment of a true wilderness experience. Intentionally or not, they serve that purpose. Because of the traffic it sees, a good chunk of the BWCA doesn't feel like a wilderness area, but sometimes people forget the consequences can be the same as any other wilderness (look at this year's SARs.)


Back to this topic, the "abandoned" campsites fascinate me, same as the truly abandoned routes. And as you were getting at, there definitely is a sliding scale of "abandonment" if you will. There are sites, like Elm, that are on an out of the way lake that never was on the way to anywhere and thus one could assume that a lack of traffic slowly gave up the site. There are others, such as Batista or maybe Sunhigh, that definitely still are close to maintained routes, but something changed that made them tougher to get to or less convenient, so they got swallowed up. There are other campsites that have always been a big "?" to me. Why was there ever a campsite on Bear west of Phantom or Barter for instance? I also have a soft spot for the isolated campsites that used to connect to routes that have since become PMA's and so the sites themselves are super remote now such as can be found on Gabi, Insula, Fishdance, or Neewin. And, of course, there are plenty of abandoned maybe closed sites on the big lakes such as Sag, Knife, Basswood, Insula, LLC, and so on that aren't on any maps anymore, haven't been maintained for decades, but never got totally cleaned up (grate may still be there, biff could still be there, old signage could still be there) that feel a lot more like the USFS forgot about the site more than anything. It's amazing how much "history" is scattered around.


Beyond the abandoned sites, it's amazing how many abandoned routes there are beyond just what became PMA's. As others have said, the traffic that utilizes each route is what keeps stuff maintained, perhaps even more than the USFS. If a route had a similar length but easier alternative, maybe it faded away. Some disappear to big forest fires and wind storms and it just didn't make sense to clear it. And some become unfeasible thanks to beaver dams breaking or water level changes. Still, there are some routes that I always wondered what caused them to disappear.


For example: What was the motivation for maintaining the North Moose River and not the Portage River that shares the permit? Or why did Mudro become an entry and the old Range River EP closed? And then routes like Cheokee into Ranger/Guard/Wing/Noodle or Cash/Gunstock/Cleft/Jay/Ash both vanished at some point. Former cut throughs like Crag or Pup or the Sema to Kek portage disappeared for more convenient options. I'm sure most of these have logical explanations, but, at least to me, it's really interesting to learn about the why's as routes appear and vanish."


My guess is that many of these campsites just don’t get used, so the Forest Service has no incentive to maintain them. Ramshead Lake used to have 7 sites. One is not even shown on a map anymore, even though the fire grate is still there. Another site is still marked on a map but is overgrown. And this is not untypical in many lakes I’ve paddled. I saw one on Finger and one on Eugene this past summer. When the campsites were created the Forest Service, I assume, created them with the assumption they’d be used. If nobody uses them, why maintain them?
Range lake use to be an entry point but the decline of the Cloquet Line caused that entry to be closed. Thus, you have the two for one entry at Mudro. You can still enter at Range but you need the Mudro permit. Currently the road is good enough for most vehicles. In fact, this entry might be a little better if you’re heading to Basswood or Crooked.
The portage River and the Moose River were two ways to get to Canada from Ely back before the Echo Trail was built. Obviously, the easiest way now is the Moose River. Most people are concerned with getting somewhere as fast as possible and with little difficulty. Not many use it, so why spend the resources maintaining it?

 
TreeBear
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01/18/2021 06:16PM  
egknuti: "TreeBear: "I don't know what is and isn't intentional in terms of letting some things go, but I do know that it is the variety in the BWCA that allows it to accommodate such a wide range of people. I deeply feel and understand the concern of increased traffic in the BW and all of the concerns that come with it, but I personally love those hard to reach campsites and the out of the way places. The people that want more of a "state park" experience have the huge campsites on Moose, Basswood, Lake One, or other big entries. Those that want an easier wilderness experience can base camp and still see other people in routes like the Numbers, Nina Moose, Knife, and others. The dead end campsites and the PMA's exist for those that still want some figment of a true wilderness experience. Intentionally or not, they serve that purpose. Because of the traffic it sees, a good chunk of the BWCA doesn't feel like a wilderness area, but sometimes people forget the consequences can be the same as any other wilderness (look at this year's SARs.)



Back to this topic, the "abandoned" campsites fascinate me, same as the truly abandoned routes. And as you were getting at, there definitely is a sliding scale of "abandonment" if you will. There are sites, like Elm, that are on an out of the way lake that never was on the way to anywhere and thus one could assume that a lack of traffic slowly gave up the site. There are others, such as Batista or maybe Sunhigh, that definitely still are close to maintained routes, but something changed that made them tougher to get to or less convenient, so they got swallowed up. There are other campsites that have always been a big "?" to me. Why was there ever a campsite on Bear west of Phantom or Barter for instance? I also have a soft spot for the isolated campsites that used to connect to routes that have since become PMA's and so the sites themselves are super remote now such as can be found on Gabi, Insula, Fishdance, or Neewin. And, of course, there are plenty of abandoned maybe closed sites on the big lakes such as Sag, Knife, Basswood, Insula, LLC, and so on that aren't on any maps anymore, haven't been maintained for decades, but never got totally cleaned up (grate may still be there, biff could still be there, old signage could still be there) that feel a lot more like the USFS forgot about the site more than anything. It's amazing how much "history" is scattered around.



Beyond the abandoned sites, it's amazing how many abandoned routes there are beyond just what became PMA's. As others have said, the traffic that utilizes each route is what keeps stuff maintained, perhaps even more than the USFS. If a route had a similar length but easier alternative, maybe it faded away. Some disappear to big forest fires and wind storms and it just didn't make sense to clear it. And some become unfeasible thanks to beaver dams breaking or water level changes. Still, there are some routes that I always wondered what caused them to disappear.



For example: What was the motivation for maintaining the North Moose River and not the Portage River that shares the permit? Or why did Mudro become an entry and the old Range River EP closed? And then routes like Cheokee into Ranger/Guard/Wing/Noodle or Cash/Gunstock/Cleft/Jay/Ash both vanished at some point. Former cut throughs like Crag or Pup or the Sema to Kek portage disappeared for more convenient options. I'm sure most of these have logical explanations, but, at least to me, it's really interesting to learn about the why's as routes appear and vanish."



My guess is that many of these campsites just don’t get used, so the Forest Service has no incentive to maintain them. Ramshead Lake used to have 7 sites. One is not even shown on a map anymore, even though the fire grate is still there. Another site is still marked on a map but is overgrown. And this is not untypical in many lakes I’ve paddled. I saw one on Finger and one on Eugene this past summer. When the campsites were created the Forest Service, I assume, created them with the assumption they’d be used. If nobody uses them, why maintain them?
Range lake use to be an entry point but the decline of the Cloquet Line caused that entry to be closed. Thus, you have the two for one entry at Mudro. You can still enter at Range but you need the Mudro permit. Currently the road is good enough for most vehicles. In fact, this entry might be a little better if you’re heading to Basswood or Crooked.
The portage River and the Moose River were two ways to get to Canada from Ely back before the Echo Trail was built. Obviously, the easiest way now is the Moose River. Most people are concerned with getting somewhere as fast as possible and with little difficulty. Not many use it, so why spend the resources maintaining it?


"


Exactly. And it's a two way street with most wilderness maintenance. If the governing agency (in this case USFS) maintains something, it will be easier to use and may get used more as a result. If something gets used more, it generally requires less maintenance and is likely to get prioritized when it does.
 
mgraber
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01/18/2021 11:01PM  
After speaking with a FS person a few years ago, I can say that most people grossly overestimate the amount of "maintenance" that they do on campsites. The goal is wilderness, even though that is difficult with the amount of usage it gets, that is the goal. In fact one of them said that often when a site gets to be very popular and clear, is when they close them, which I have seen a few times. Little used sites are ALWAYS overgrown, you have to go there and embrace the "imperfection!"
 
01/19/2021 07:17AM  
mgraber: "After speaking with a FS person a few years ago, I can say that most people grossly overestimate the amount of "maintenance" that they do on campsites. The goal is wilderness, even though that is difficult with the amount of usage it gets, that is the goal. In fact one of them said that often when a site gets to be very popular and clear, is when they close them, which I have seen a few times. Little used sites are ALWAYS overgrown, you have to go there and embrace the "imperfection!""

I enjoy the little used sites a lot. Usually means solitude! However, a site like the one on Elm is literally unusable unless some clearing gets done (which LNT does not allow of course), so it's a catch-22. The site will be gone forever if no clearing is done.
 
01/19/2021 08:17AM  
mgraber: "After speaking with a FS person a few years ago, I can say that most people grossly overestimate the amount of "maintenance" that they do on campsites. The goal is wilderness, even though that is difficult with the amount of usage it gets, that is the goal. In fact one of them said that often when a site gets to be very popular and clear, is when they close them, which I have seen a few times. Little used sites are ALWAYS overgrown, you have to go there and embrace the "imperfection!""

I'll repeat that as well, and has come up in past discussions with FS personel.
Primarily all maintenance is done by volunteer teams, the FS only establishes/decommissions sites. And outlines directives for volunteer maintenance teams. I have seen signs posted by USFS in decommissioned campsites.
As primarily a soloist I only have problems finding campsite in groups. By myself the most marginal site can accommodate me, I'm only concerned it has a fire grate and latrine as per rules.

"djwillco, 01/19/2021 07:17AM: I enjoy the little used sites a lot. Usually means solitude! However, a site like the one on Elm is literally unusable unless some clearing gets done (which LNT does not allow of course), so it's a catch-22. The site will be gone forever if no clearing is done."

I assume you are talking about your and your groups perception of usable. There is no guarantee of a "usable" site beyond the rules for a grate and latrine. Your comfort is not necessarily a deciding factor.
"Abandoned site" is quite misleading, The USFS does not abandon sites they establish sites to be used and shut them down when overused/abused. The BWCA visitors are the site abandon-ers, via their own choices.

butthead
 
thistlekicker
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01/19/2021 08:43AM  
mgraber: "After speaking with a FS person a few years ago, I can say that most people grossly overestimate the amount of "maintenance" that they do on campsites. The goal is wilderness, even though that is difficult with the amount of usage it gets, that is the goal. In fact one of them said that often when a site gets to be very popular and clear, is when they close them, which I have seen a few times. Little used sites are ALWAYS overgrown, you have to go there and embrace the "imperfection!""

This is such an interesting perspective and I agree wilderness should be the goal of the BWCA management/maintenance program.

However, a large portion of the BWCA user group has come to view it as a "park", with accompanying expectations regarding facilities and amenities. If maintenance was truly done with wilderness as the priority, rather than access and user experience (whatever that means), I think we'd see a decrease in usage. Although maybe we'd see an increase in demand for guides, as tripping in the wilderness would become more challenging. Personally, I would be in favor of a shift in those directions.
 
01/19/2021 09:24AM  
butthead: "mgraber: "After speaking with a FS person a few years ago, I can say that most people grossly overestimate the amount of "maintenance" that they do on campsites. The goal is wilderness, even though that is difficult with the amount of usage it gets, that is the goal. In fact one of them said that often when a site gets to be very popular and clear, is when they close them, which I have seen a few times. Little used sites are ALWAYS overgrown, you have to go there and embrace the "imperfection!""


I'll repeat that as well, and has come up in past discussions with FS personel.
Primarily all maintenance is done by volunteer teams, the FS only establishes/decommissions sites. And outlines directives for volunteer maintenance teams. I have seen signs posted by USFS in decommissioned campsites.
As primarily a soloist I only have problems finding campsite in groups. By myself the most marginal site can accommodate me, I'm only concerned it has a fire grate and latrine as per rules.


"djwillco, 01/19/2021 07:17AM: I enjoy the little used sites a lot. Usually means solitude! However, a site like the one on Elm is literally unusable unless some clearing gets done (which LNT does not allow of course), so it's a catch-22. The site will be gone forever if no clearing is done."


I assume you are talking about your and your groups perception of usable. There is no guarantee of a "usable" site beyond the rules for a grate and latrine. Your comfort is not necessarily a deciding factor.
"Abandoned site" is quite misleading, The USFS does not abandon sites they establish sites to be used and shut them down when overused/abused. The BWCA visitors are the site abandon-ers, via their own choices.


butthead"


Definitely true. "Usable" is in the "eye of the beholder". In case of the site on Elm, there is no latrine we could find. New growth forest was impenetrable. No paths or opening of any kind. No large enough trees for a hammock, no place for a tent, no place to even land a canoe (we had to tie off to a downed tree) and push through the dense saplings to find a way into the site. Only evidence of a site was a small opening with a fire grate.

Sounds like the answer to my question is that the FS does not do that type of maintenance and lets demand and visitor use determine whether a site gets taken back over by the forest.




 
R1verrunner
member (12)member
 
01/19/2021 11:57AM  
If the rules require use of designated sites they should be maintained.

If as with true wilderness one should be able to camp where one can and needed.

 
01/19/2021 12:01PM  
No latrine means it's not a campsite any more the presance of either a grate or a latrine could have several reasons from someone draging one to that spot or the USFS removing one. Seems easiest to yank a latrine. I have seen sites with latrines and no grate.

787 was closed down in the early 2000's grate removed and dead trees dropped in the grate/seating area. The latrine was left to service the point site, a trail connected the 2. 787 had a USFS sign declaring the site closed posted to one of the dropped trees.

butthead
 
Stumpy
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01/19/2021 12:36PM  
airmorse: "I have actually looked at going to Jig and Maxine just to do it. It's on the list."

I camped on Maxine in June of 2020 & 2019.
I did some site improving...It's not a bad spot....but don't fall into the Thunder Box.
I also went to Ole Lake.
Next trip I do in bwca, I plan to go to Maxine, then Jig, then North to Korb, and over to Buck, for some walleye. Then down to Lunetta, and Hassel, and out through Crab.
Not sure when that will be, as my wife's condition is very poor. 2021 may be the first year since 1974, that I don't get a BWCA trip in.
 
01/19/2021 01:47PM  
Stumpy: "airmorse: "I have actually looked at going to Jig and Maxine just to do it. It's on the list."


I camped on Maxine in June of 2020 & 2019.
I did some site improving...It's not a bad spot....but don't fall into the Thunder Box.
I also went to Ole Lake.
Next trip I do in bwca, I plan to go to Maxine, then Jig, then North to Korb, and over to Buck, for some walleye. Then down to Lunetta, and Hassel, and out through Crab.
Not sure when that will be, as my wife's condition is very poor. 2021 may be the first year since 1974, that I don't get a BWCA trip in."


Cool!!! Good info. How was the fishing on Maxine and Ole?
 
01/19/2021 02:06PM  
To the point raised above basically saying "if they site isn't used, then why bother maintaining?", I'd point out it is a circular argument. Without some maintenance, the site becomes less desirable and used less. One reason why this matters is it puts more pressure on other sites, wearing them down.

I am not sure I agree with the idea that sites that are heavily used are "self-maintaining". These sites have latrines that fill faster (dont you just hate the short drops?), more initials carved into trees, and more trash to take out.

This thread has me thinking about a conversation I had with a ranger at the end of one of my trips when I stopped in the station to report some site damage. This was a couple years ago and maybe I didn't hear it just right, but I recall them telling me that they just don't have the people power and budgets to do as much site maintenance as they use to 20 or so years ago. They went on to tell me that part of what they used to do was replanting trees or bushes in heavily used sites, which I found intriguing.

I suspect, and its just a guess, the reason they don't spend much effort on the overgrown, less used sites isn't because they decide so, its because they just can't get to everything that needs to be done.

Interesting thread. I appreciate the different perspectives being shared.
 
mgraber
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01/19/2021 02:32PM  
R1verrunner: "If the rules require use of designated sites they should be maintained.


If as with true wilderness one should be able to camp where one can and needed.


"


So I am guessing that you don't approve of Quetico either? Camp anywhere you want but no campsite maintenance or clearing allowed other than rangers cutting down "widow makers" and removing any other"impovements" such as furniture as time and manpower allows? If the goal is getting as close to wilderness as possible, without increasing the human footprint, what is wrong with sticking to LONG established campsites but maintaining them the way the campsites are maintained in a park that is closer to wilderness (Quetico) which is practically no maintenance at all? Doesn't this preserve the wilderness feel even more than having people hack out new sites everywhere? Or is it just that you do not like the wilderness feel in the first place? Trying to understand your thinking. This is a disturbing conversation, and I fear the possible changes coming from public pressure.
 
mgraber
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01/19/2021 03:06PM  
For those wanting more campsite maintenance, what exactly are you talking about? Be specific. With no power tools allowed, there is a limit to what would even be feasible if they decided to turn BW in to a campground. These discussions are helping me to realize why we saw so much destruction last year. I hope "the maintenance folks" stay out of Quetico, even though that behavior is getting bad there also.
 
01/19/2021 04:28PM  
Even simpler volunteer for trail maintenance work and do some, Trail Clearing Expeditions into the Boundary Waters Volunteer: Gain While You Give

butthead
 
Stumpy
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01/19/2021 04:34PM  
airmorse: "Stumpy: "airmorse: "I have actually looked at going to Jig and Maxine just to do it. It's on the list."



I camped on Maxine in June of 2020 & 2019.
I did some site improving...It's not a bad spot....but don't fall into the Thunder Box.
I also went to Ole Lake.
Next trip I do in bwca, I plan to go to Maxine, then Jig, then North to Korb, and over to Buck, for some walleye. Then down to Lunetta, and Hassel, and out through Crab.
Not sure when that will be, as my wife's condition is very poor. 2021 may be the first year since 1974, that I don't get a BWCA trip in."



Cool!!! Good info. How was the fishing on Maxine and Ole?"


Fishing was ok.... Just as DNR site says.... largemouth, perch, sunfish.
We only caught one pike.
I figured out a good route into Ole.
I left a quarter on the fire grate at Maxine. I do that sometimes to see, if anyone has been there between my visits to a lake. Although I suppose many might just leave it there.
By campsite improvement, I'm only referring to clearing dead branches, and cutting many off dead downed tree, that was crowding the site. Fixing up rocks around grate too, so there are flat warming spots for the cookware.
Email me if you want more info.
 
01/19/2021 04:56PM  
mgraber: "For those wanting more campsite maintenance, what exactly are you talking about? Be specific. With no power tools allowed, there is a limit to what would even be feasible if they decided to turn BW in to a campground. These discussions are helping me to realize why we saw so much destruction last year. I hope "the maintenance folks" stay out of Quetico, even though that behavior is getting bad there also."

Not advocating for maintenance. Was just wondering what the policies/philosophy was for unused sites.
 
01/19/2021 05:37PM  
mgraber: "For those wanting more campsite maintenance, what exactly are you talking about? Be specific. With no power tools allowed, there is a limit to what would even be feasible if they decided to turn BW in to a campground. These discussions are helping me to realize why we saw so much destruction last year. I hope "the maintenance folks" stay out of Quetico, even though that behavior is getting bad there also."

I won't put words in anyone else's mouth, but I'd be happy to tell you what my idea of campsite maintenance is.

For one, digging a new latrine when the old one gets so full that when it rains water runs out from it down the path like at a campsite I stayed at on Knife two years ago. I also am happy to see the new square latrines that have lids, though they seem needlessly big to me.

I think of maintenance as occasionally scraping out the fire pit and policing up any garbage and packing it out. I usually try to do this my self and expect others do to, but I know sometimes messes are just left for someone else.

I'm glad they took out the picnic tables and portage rests, but I don't mind that there are usually two logs, often propped up slightly to sit on next to the fire pit. I've twice the past two years taken the time to pull downed logs from the woods so that there was at least a minimum sitting area by BWCA standards.

Sometimes maintenance means eliminating large rock configurations people have build around the fire beyond what is needed to block onshore winds.

Maintenance to me also means removing any fixture showing someone was there, like nails in tree's or removing peoples initials that have been carved into either trees or the sitting logs, which is something I'll admit I enjoy erasing.

And like I mentioned above, I could see where on some heavily used sites, occasionally undertaking efforts to loosen some heavily compacted soil and replant some of the vegetation that has been pushed back and diminished by heavy use. And while I'm not sure I quite advocate it, I can understand why someone would ask if it makes sense to remove just enough vegetation from some seldom/never used campsites so that people could and would actually use it, as some are being completely reclaimed by the forest.

I'll admit that even having a pit toilet and established fire pit (let alone a sitting log) makes the BWCA slightly less of a wilderness than some places like Quetico, but it still feels a long way from being a campground or state park. And yet Quetico is slightly larger than the BWCAW and yet gets only about 1/8th to 1/10th the number of visitors every year - considerably less pressure. I shudder to think what the BWCAW would look like if people were free to camp anywhere they wanted, build fire pits where they wanted, and poop where they wanted. These "improvements" have made the place sustainable in the past 40 years despite heavy usage.





 
mgraber
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01/19/2021 07:50PM  
Jaywalker, I agree with everything you said, so I guess we can agree that maintenance like you describe, trying to fix or repair wear and tear, and overuse and abuse, is good.

Some of the improvements that I think people would like to see is where I differ. It would probably help to raise fees a bit and get more rangers in the field, I know they are stretched very thin, especially being limited to hand tools.

I am not bothered by simple camp furniture, but some are. When they began removing it in Quetico (not the logs to sit on, but the more elaborate stuff), I wasn't sure what I thought about it, but am now glad they have. You at least need logs to sit on, imo.
 
01/20/2021 10:07AM  
Jaywalker: "To the point raised above basically saying "if they site isn't used, then why bother maintaining?", I'd point out it is a circular argument. Without some maintenance, the site becomes less desirable and used less. One reason why this matters is it puts more pressure on other sites, wearing them down. "

I disagree with the order of causality here. Popular sites that get over used eventually get closed to allow nature to reclaim the area to an extent. This pushes people to other, less used, sites and people start to gradually maintain those sites though use and compacting the soil. This leads to different sites becoming more popular and higher rated. So I don't think that the USFS needs to do much to maintain sites other than showing up often enough to ensure fire grate and latrine are in good condition and clearing widow makers. Them being there that often should be enough to ensure that there is a landing point, trail to the latrine and some seating around the fire grate.

 
Argo
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01/20/2021 03:23PM  
mgraber: "For those wanting more campsite maintenance, what exactly are you talking about? Be specific. With no power tools allowed, there is a limit to what would even be feasible if they decided to turn BW in to a campground. These discussions are helping me to realize why we saw so much destruction last year. I hope "the maintenance folks" stay out of Quetico, even though that behavior is getting bad there also."

It is going to be interesting in Quetico if the border doesn't open this year. Most sites we stayed at last summer in Quetico required maintenance such as moving branches, sweeping pine cones - particularly sites in the interior. Some could have used a weed-whacker. This was in late July when you can usually count on prior visitors performing routine and ongoing maintenance. A second summer of neglect is really going to make it interesting.

On another note, I do wish the wardens would deal with fallen trees in campsites more aggressively. They are the only ones in the park with chainsaws. Sure, their first priority should be portages. But one downed tree can render a site useless.
 
mschi772
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01/21/2021 11:11PM  
Argo: "On another note, I do wish the wardens would deal with fallen trees in campsites more aggressively. They are the only ones in the park with chainsaws. Sure, their first priority should be portages. But one downed tree can render a site useless. "

I'm sure there are exceptions made, but even USFS personnel and authorized volunteers are still limited to hand tools.
 
mgraber
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01/23/2021 12:24PM  
mschi772: "Argo: "On another note, I do wish the wardens would deal with fallen trees in campsites more aggressively. They are the only ones in the park with chainsaws. Sure, their first priority should be portages. But one downed tree can render a site useless. "


I'm sure there are exceptions made, but even USFS personnel and authorized volunteers are still limited to hand tools."


Yes we spoke with rangers up there on a couple of occasions and they are strictly limited to hand saws and hand tools. Quetico does not have this restriction.
 
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