BWCA It's not busy... just add more campsites. Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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05/24/2021 07:18AM  
blog article

Here is an outfitter's perspective on crowding in the bwcaw.
 
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Michwall2
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05/24/2021 07:48AM  
He makes it sound so easy! Just add campsites!

Did he stop to think there may not be spots suitable for a campsite? There are long swaths of real estate in the BW that have one fatal flaw or another for establishing a campsite.

Lack of a suitable landing.
Where do you put a fire grate.
Can you find a spot to dig a latrine
Is it visible from another campsite? (most campsites in the BW are not)
Are there places for tent pad(s)?
Is it next to a bug source (swamp, creek, etc.)?

Then there is the fact that if you build them, they will come. Use will expand past capacity no matter how many campsites you build on entry lakes.

There are also other factors to consider.
Resource use: The fisheries on such lakes are limited resources. Entry lakes such as Brule already face heavier fishing pressure due to day use. Larger lakes like Brule can probably handle that, but smaller lakes like Baker, Kawishiwi, Pauness, etc. could have their fisheries reduced dramatically.

Human use inevitably brings pollution. More fire pits, more soaps, more DEET, more plastics, more human waste, etc. It all builds up.

Can the infrastructure outside the BW handle the expanded usage? Gravel roads parking lots, camp grounds, etc. It is all a delicate balance.

The other thing that bothers me about the scenario that the author describes - canoes loaded with coolers full of rare meats, lots of loose tackle boxes and other camping gear, etc. - strikes me as someone looking for an slightly expanded state park visit rather than a visit to a wilderness backcountry. (With all due respect to Stu Osthoff and his fresh food wilderness safaris!). No one is guaranteed a campsite on any lake in the BW and to arrive without the capability of efficiently portaging seems arrogant.
 
mschi772
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05/24/2021 08:24AM  
"Just add more campsites" is naive and fails to understand the primary purposes of the "wilderness" designation that the BWCAW has. The USFS is under no obligation to accommodate more visitors to the BWCAW. While perhaps they could with little to no harm in some areas, in others, doing so would interfere with many of the other reasons for an area being designated a wilderness under the Wilderness Act.

Beyond that the naiveté continues with them assuming that there are additional spots suitable for more campsites at all. Even if there are, like pastureland, it may be desirable to "rotate" campsites to allow heavily used campsites some time to recover. Anyway, there might just not be any other good spots for campsites with suitable clearings, stable shores, safe landings, safe firegrate location, suitable location for latrine a safe distance from the water...

Furthermore more campsites means more work for the USFS--a group that already struggles to keep up with its workload and enforcement duties as things are.

And why the heck can't all these fair-weather base-campers just go to one of the many lakes in the SNF that are outside the BWCAW? I bet most Brule basecampers could be just as happy camping on Homer or Cascade or Two Island or W/E Twin. The BWCAW is great, but there is a weird fixation on it among people who have no intentions of experiencing the tiniest fraction of what actually makes it special--people who could get exactly the same experience outside of the BWCAW. I really with the SNF would be regarded more highly and the BWCAW spotlighted just a little bit less, especially for people whom it may not actually be the most appropriate destination.

No matter what is ultimately done, I'm certain that a part of any solution begins with the community of BWCAW enthusiasts voluntarily shifting the paradigm away from entry congestion by discouraging long-term entry basecamping and leading by example. You don't hear about hikers going to famous hiking trails to basecamp on a single site for a week; why should that be the norm for the BWCAW?

Sue's final words about how Brule was much busier before the Wilderness Act and how it is so much less busy that other types of areas disturb me. She should know better. She's ignoring the reasons for the Wilderness Act and why certain activities and levels of activity are counter to the goals of protecting wildernesses. If we want the BWCAW to be protected and remain preserved as the wilderness we know, that level of activity cannot be allowed. I'm surprised and disappointed at her attitude toward the ecosystem she claims to know so well. I hope she takes some time to learn a bit more ecology so that she might understand how a wilderness can easily be exploited to death even by those who claim to love it.
 
tumblehome
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05/24/2021 08:26AM  
The truth of the problem is in the blog. There has been a sudden shift in user habits in the BWCA. And that is—- People are base camping on entry lakes where they used to paddle on—-.

That is the problem.

The new generation of campers are wanting to go camping but are not wanting to work for solitude. A campsite on a entry lake is perfectly suitable to them. I have seen this first-hand while camping and just reading the forums. Many people talking about base-camping for the week. This is writing on the forums that is new. My generation rarely based-camped. We were taught to move and it’s what we did. Now we are being taught to stay which is what we do (not me though)

The problem is not that there aren't enough campsites. It's how people are not dispersing. And yes, there are still too many people.

Tom
 
Porkeater
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05/24/2021 08:26AM  
This is such a complicated issue, I don't know that there is one right answer. One thing does seem to be clear - there is an imbalance between the number of available campsites and the number of users at peak times. Compared to years past, or at times of year when large percentages of permits are full, there seems to be an increasing issue with people being able to find open campsites. A few solutions, and I have no positions on which, if any, are the right ones, are:

- reduce the number of permits
- increase the number of campsites
- limit people to specific campsites or lakes on their permit (i.e. Sylvania or Algonquin, or BW permits with lake restrictions).

I think one of the critical questions is whether the current surge in usage is sustained or will fall off once people get back to their regular vacation habits.
 
05/24/2021 02:23PM  
If Sue likes the city atmosphere, there is still a opening on Metro lakes this weekend or Gull lake and its jet skiis.

Most campsites in the BWCA are worn into the ground.
 
05/24/2021 02:42PM  
tumblehome: " My generation rarely based-camped. We were taught to move and it’s what we did. Now we are being taught to stay which is what we do (not me though)

Tom"


Who is teaching people to stay? Where does that idea come from? Sounds a lot like a "back in my day" type of thought. Plenty of younger people are paddling many miles on their trips. Others go deep in the park and base camp. Does it really matter which way people like to trip?

Sue is getting ripped here for simply stated one idea of adding campsites. I agree, it's not that simple. But she did not recommend more visitors as some of you seem to be alluding to.

I don't have answers and I also get annoyed with the busy entry lakes. But making blanket statements doesn't really do much. Maybe make several sites on a lake like Brule reservable for those kinds of campers. Lowering entry points is probably not an option as that is less $ coming in.
 
tumblehome
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05/24/2021 03:13PM  
@Aldy1

I know new campers that are just wanting to base camp. More importantly, I read a lot of new posts on the trip planning forum by new members stating ‘we are going on our first trip to the BWCA this summer and want to go to xxx lake and base camp for the week.

The words “base-camp” is a term being used frequently. And... it is factual that that entry lakes were loaded up last summer. I saw it myself.

I apologize if I grouped you into the rest of them, it wasn’t my intention. But it is factual that new campers are learning from each other and that base camping is going way up. Add more campsites to entry lakes means just more campsites that will be occupied by base-campers.

Tom
 
mgraber
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05/24/2021 03:23PM  
Aldy1: "tumblehome: " My generation rarely based-camped. We were taught to move and it’s what we did. Now we are being taught to stay which is what we do (not me though)


Tom"



Who is teaching people to stay? Where does that idea come from? Sounds a lot like a "back in my day" type of thought. Plenty of younger people are paddling many miles on their trips. Others go deep in the park and base camp. Does it really matter which way people like to trip?


Sue is getting ripped here for simply stated one idea of adding campsites. I agree, it's not that simple. But she did not recommend more visitors as some of you seem to be alluding to.


I don't have answers and I also get annoyed with the busy entry lakes. But making blanket statements doesn't really do much. Maybe make several sites on a lake like Brule reservable for those kinds of campers. Lowering entry points is probably not an option as that is less $ coming in. "


Actually, there are never any dollars "coming in". The BWCA loses many thousands of dollars a year. The permit price isn't enough to cover operating costs.
 
05/24/2021 03:32PM  
Interesting article. I am going into Brule at the top of the bell curve as far as permits go. I have no intention of camping on Brule simply because I don't really enjoy large lakes. I also understand that wind can really be a factor of how far I can take a group on that first day so we may have little choice.

The Superior Hiking Trail campsites used to be first come first served. Now, sites are to be shared as needed. I would hate to see that happen in the BWCA. Weekend hikers often do spend their time at one site and hike back out the way they came in.

I often paddle and think "that would be a good site, they should make another site there". I am not against more campsites in the BWCA, but I don't think it would solve all issues surrounding overcrowding.

I'm sure many outfitters would love to see more people, more permits, more sites and more money.

We do need more rangers.

 
greywolf33
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05/24/2021 03:52PM  
The writer states, "All I know is if you want solitude in the BWCA it most times doesn’t even take a portage to find it." I have been a regular visitor for the BWCA since the early 1990's and unless my definition of "solitude" is wrong, this statement has never been true. Is watching a dozen plus canoes paddle by your entry lake campsite everyday, in route to deeper regions of the park really solitude?

I would argue that if you really want solitude, you need to paddle and portage until you get far away from entry points.
 
05/24/2021 03:59PM  
tumblehome: "@Alry1


I know new campers that are just wanting to base camp. More importantly, I read a lot of new posts on the trip planning forum buy new members stating ‘we are going on our first trip to the BWCA this summer and want to go to xxx lake and base camp for the week.


The words “base-camp” is a term being used frequently. And... it is factual that that entry lakes were loaded up last summer. I saw it myself.


I apologize if I grouped you into the rest of them, it wasn’t my intention. But it is factual that new campers are learning from each other and that base camping is going way up. Add more campsites to entry lakes means just more campsites that will be occupied by base-campers.


Tom"


Thank you for clarifying, Tom. I get your point now. I didn't know if you meant that Base-camping was being taught or pushed by a particular organization. But rather you are saying, that new members are advocating base-camping and that the method is being adopted by other new campers.
 
WIMike
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05/24/2021 04:53PM  
Why are base campers on entry lakes a problem? Aren't you going to paddle on by them anyway?
 
mschi772
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05/24/2021 05:12PM  
WIMike: "Why are base campers on entry lakes a problem? Aren't you going to paddle on by them anyway? "

I've played with this question myself. What I've decided is that even travelers can still want to spend a night or two on an entry lake--there are some pretty remarkable lakes that are entry lakes which I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to spend some time with.

I think the one that's the biggest deal, however, is that it isn't uncommon to want to spend a final night of a trip on an entry lake on one's way out, and the way people congest the heck out of entry lakes can either force someone to choose between doubling-back or ending their trip early...or planning to spend their final night a good distance from exit to be on the safe side.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've enjoyed some basecamping trips, but I make it a point to do them away from entry points. I'd hate to contribute to forcing someone to choose between backtracking or being forced to go home early because they couldn't find a final site near their exit.

On the way IN, however...I don't care. My trips start early, and I never have any intentions of making camp on the entry lakes regardless of how busy they are. The only thing that bugs me about entry basecampers is that they're missing so much of what actually makes the BWCAW special by treating it like a variation of a state park visit.
 
TreeBear
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05/24/2021 05:22PM  
The problem with base camping on entry lakes continues to be outfitted groups and guided groups that need a pickup at a certain time AND groups who are less physically able to go deeper. Traditionally, those groups would stay close to an EP to make a pickup, but last year and this year (more than likely) entry point lakes have filled up. It's not really a problem in the literal sense of who decides which users "deserve" to fill those sites. It's a wilderness and with campsites first come first serve, it's what we get.

And no, as has been discussed many times before on this website, the number of campsites isn't the main issue, it's where people travel. As more groups stay closer to the EPs, the existing campsites fill up and then what? The BWCA has something like 2200 active campsites (though that number is a little blurry with campsites that are barely official and the hiking campsites) and offers up to 265 canoe permits a day. By that reasoning, if people utilized every permit every day for 8 days and spaced themselves out perfectly, there are enough campsites for all of them. But it doesn't work that well. Places like Seagull/ the Numbers/ Basswood/Brule fill up fast because of the type of EP they are. Other entry points by design, terrain, or portaging difficulty either cannot sustain any sort of traffic or force people to work extremely hard to move on. Bog and Crocodile, for instance, only have so many campsites. When they are full that's it. Entry points such as Little Indian Sioux South or Island River/Little Isabella have very limited campsites so, unless groups are willing to keep moving (neither EP is designed for basecamping anyways) there can be major traffic jams. And other EP's like Hog Creek have a mental barrier that often prevents people from going further (it's a long trip on the Parent River to get to other campsites.) My point being, it's an EP by EP issue and the changing mindsets of groups only amplifies any issues we are seeing. Staring at older maps from the 50s-80s, there are well over 100 campsites that are no longer in existence that are marked on those maps. Why would they have vanished if we are having a crowding issue? It's the same problem we so often discuss, most people are seeking easy to access campsites, not too far from their vehicles, often with great fishing, and a quality campsite doesn't hurt either. With that, campsites across one more portage to a dead end lake or that are in places lacking other variables people often look for stop being maintained and disappear from the maps. And yah, there are quite a few sites that may have helped with crowding but were closed for other reasons, but for the most part, more campsites will not permanantly fix the issue and will only further degrade the wilderness character of the already busiest lakes.
 
05/24/2021 06:57PM  
Hey I've got an idea...instead of adding more campsites to the popular entry lakes, how about the FS just - wherever possible - moves the parking lot so its about 180 rods from the water? Make as many as possible like Moose River North? That will ease some crowding.
 
05/24/2021 07:24PM  
Jaywalker: "Hey I've got an idea...instead of adding more campsites to the popular entry lakes, how about the FS just - wherever possible - moves the parking lot so its about 180 rods from the water? Make as many as possible like Moose River North? That will ease some crowding.
"


This is actually a good idea, where practical. (Of course, it might be impractical most of the time.)

Another idea: EPs that have a popular lake right at the EP could have permits split with some being restricted to staying anywhere EXCEPT on that EP lake. Might encourage more folks to push a little deeper.

Kind of the opposite of what they do for Brule...
 
tarnkt
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05/24/2021 07:26PM  
I could not agree more with the author. I have done huge loops and fishing basecamps and love both experiences.

If you want to get away from people be prepared to go deep. If you’re not going far be prepared to see other people. Both of those things are true already. More campsites reduces the main (possibly only?) source of stress on a trip up there.
 
05/24/2021 07:52PM  
mgraber: "Aldy1: "tumblehome: " My generation rarely based-camped. We were taught to move and it’s what we did. Now we are being taught to stay which is what we do (not me though)



Tom"




Who is teaching people to stay? Where does that idea come from? Sounds a lot like a "back in my day" type of thought. Plenty of younger people are paddling many miles on their trips. Others go deep in the park and base camp. Does it really matter which way people like to trip?



Sue is getting ripped here for simply stated one idea of adding campsites. I agree, it's not that simple. But she did not recommend more visitors as some of you seem to be alluding to.



I don't have answers and I also get annoyed with the busy entry lakes. But making blanket statements doesn't really do much. Maybe make several sites on a lake like Brule reservable for those kinds of campers. Lowering entry points is probably not an option as that is less $ coming in. "



Actually, there are never any dollars "coming in". The BWCA loses many thousands of dollars a year. The permit price isn't enough to cover operating costs."




I think he’s referring to the outfitters bottom line...
 
05/24/2021 08:00PM  
tarnkt: "I could not agree more with the author. I have done huge loops and fishing basecamps and love both experiences.


If you want to get away from people be prepared to go deep. If you’re not going far be prepared to see other people. Both of those things are true already. More campsites reduces the main (possibly only?) source of stress on a trip up there."




I would think more campsites would mean more upkeep and burden on forest service. One thing on a lake like Brule might be to have a few more sites. But I think it’s worked pretty good for all these years... maybe the outfitter should try to encourage people go in more... but that would mean their equipment might get used and loose resale. Less outfitters might be the better solution. The BWCA is just so big... if you want less “stress” there are less busy times.
 
thegildedgopher
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05/24/2021 08:02PM  
We already have several “only” permits where folks can’t leave the entry lake. Why not have the opposite for busy entry lakes, where people can enter there but not stay there on their day of entry. Those EPs could have a select number of “only” permits available for base campers. They could control the number of base campers just like they control the number of motor boats on motor lakes.

Other than that all I know is I’m beyond tired of reading gripes about base campers. They are breaking no rules and they are enjoying the wilderness in a way that suits them. Just because you’ve always done it a certain way doesn’t make it the only correct way to do it.
 
schweady
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05/24/2021 08:23PM  
thegildedgopher: "We already have several “only” permits where folks can’t leave the entry lake. Why not have the opposite for busy entry lakes, where people can enter there but not stay there on their day of entry."
+1. Like #22-Mudro Restricted: no camping on Horse Lake. More like this would be welcome, but leave some percentage 'as is' to allow for entry lake basecamping.
 
WIMike
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05/24/2021 10:21PM  
thegildedgopher: "
Other than that all I know is I’m beyond tired of reading gripes about base campers. They are breaking no rules and they are enjoying the wilderness in a way that suits them. Just because you’ve always done it a certain way doesn’t make it the only correct way to do it. "


I agree. The wilderness experience means different things to different people. Seems easier, and more productive, to modify my behavior to adapt to others than to try to “educate” others on the “right way” to enjoy the BWCAW experience.
 
05/24/2021 11:05PM  
WIMike: "Why are base campers on entry lakes a problem? Aren't you going to paddle on by them anyway? "

Touché
 
05/25/2021 12:22AM  
It's a wilderness, not a campground. Adding more campsites is only a solution for one of those.
 
Michwall2
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05/25/2021 03:32AM  
WIMike: "thegildedgopher: "
Other than that all I know is I’m beyond tired of reading gripes about base campers. They are breaking no rules and they are enjoying the wilderness in a way that suits them. Just because you’ve always done it a certain way doesn’t make it the only correct way to do it. "



I agree. The wilderness experience means different things to different people. Seems easier, and more productive, to modify my behavior to adapt to others than to try to “educate” others on the “right way” to enjoy the BWCAW experience. "


The "adaptations" required to deal with the expanded use of base camping certainly limit my options for strategies when "tripping".

e.g. As a "tripper", I now must stay at least a half day's and often a full day's paddle/portage away from the entry point the night before. I cannot plan on spending my last night 1-2 lakes away from the entry to get up early and leave the BW and get started on a 15 hour drive. Now I am required to cut my trip short by a night, paddle a whole day out and get another night's accommodation outside the BW. This all to avoid approaching an entry point, not find a campsite, and have to leave the BW without any recourse and without a reservation to spend the night. E.g. If we are looping through LIttle Sag back to Sawbill, we will often stay on Mesaba Lake until the last day, leave at first light, and travel out to Sawbill. Crossing the Lujenida/Zenith portage means that we have to be willing to end our trip early. On the Lady Lakes route, we will not cross the 280 rd portage from Grace to Beth unless we are willing to end our trip early.

It also limits my planning choices as I pass nearby an entry point.

E.g. I would never consider traveling from Sawbill to Kelly Lake or South Temperance to Kelly Lake on the the Cherokee Loop and expect to find a campsite on Kelly Lake. It is too close to Baker Lake Entry. If I were doing the Little Sag Loop East out of Sawbill, I now would never plan to stop anywhere near Cross Bay Lake, Snipe Lake, or Tuscarora Lake. They are too close to entry points. We got shut out on South Temperance one trip and I realized that it is too close to Brule Lake entry to plan on staying there. It is nice if I find a site there, but I don't plan on it anymore. (I just realized that most of the Cherokee Loop is inadvisable to travel during most of the season.)

So far, these self-limiting strategies have worked. I don't see these practices changing anytime soon.

Have I "adapted" enough?

 
WIMike
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05/25/2021 06:13AM  
Michwall2: "WIMike: "thegildedgopher: "
Other than that all I know is I’m beyond tired of reading gripes about base campers. They are breaking no rules and they are enjoying the wilderness in a way that suits them. Just because you’ve always done it a certain way doesn’t make it the only correct way to do it. "


I agree. The wilderness experience means different things to different people. Seems easier, and more productive, to modify my behavior to adapt to others than to try to “educate” others on the “right way” to enjoy the BWCAW experience. "


Have I "adapted" enough?
"


I can’t answer that for you, only you can answer it.

“to arrive without the capability of efficiently portaging seems arrogant.“ What seems arrogant to me is some people thinking that they are doing things the right way while others need to change their behavior even though that behavior is within the rules.
 
R1verrunner
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05/25/2021 06:26AM  
All the base camp haters.

In time as they get older.

Might just find themselves base camping.

It is one thing to plan far and wide when one is young.

It is another when one gets into the 60's 70's and 80's.
 
mschi772
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05/25/2021 07:13AM  
WIMike: "“to arrive without the capability of efficiently portaging seems arrogant.“ What seems arrogant to me is some people thinking that they are doing things the right way while others need to change their behavior even though that behavior is within the rules. "

There doesn't need to be a rule for everything. There isn't actually a rule about wearing your PFD on the water, but those who don't are fools. I'm not against basecamping, but I will also agree that groups who arrive relying on entry basecamping without the willingness or ability to portage are foolish/arrogant, missing part of what makes the BWCAW special, and contributing to a real problem.

Would I ban basecamping? Heck no. I would encourage basecampers to consider others they are sharing the wilderness with and to try to avoid monopolizing areas of "strategic importance" like entry areas where groups existing may need to stay for a final night or late arrivals might need a site lest they end-up night paddling, tired after a long drive. If policy changes were to be made, they'd be made by the USFS, not us, and I imagine that if something were to change, they'd issue more permits with restrictions like ones that prohibit camping on entry lakes for the first day or two. Knowing the USFS, they'll bungle it up somehow, though.

R1verrunner: "All the base camp haters.


In time as they get older.


Might just find themselves base camping.


It is one thing to plan far and wide when one is young.


It is another when one gets into the 60's 70's and 80's."


Your point might mean more to this discussion if entry lakes were congested with elderly campers, but they aren't. Most have appeared to me to be much younger.
 
billconner
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05/25/2021 07:37AM  
It seems all about dignity and respect. So many so quickly exhibit intolerance towards different or other than the way they believe it should be done.
 
WIMike
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05/25/2021 07:57AM  
mschi772: I will also agree that groups who arrive relying on entry basecamping without the willingness or ability to portage are foolish/arrogant, missing part of what makes the BWCAW special, and contributing to a real problem.

Would I ban basecamping? Heck no. I would encourage basecampers to consider others they are sharing the wilderness with and to try to avoid monopolizing areas of "strategic importance" like entry areas where groups existing may need to stay for a final night or late arrivals might need a site lest they end-up night paddling, tired after a long drive.


The reasons people basecamp, at entry lakes or elsewhere, are myriad and need neither explaining nor defending. Not for you to determine “what makes the BWCAW special” for others. The “real problem” seems to be some people insisting their way is the right way and others need to comply. Arrogance indeed. (My last post on this subject)
 
thegildedgopher
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05/25/2021 08:15AM  
X2 to billconner and WIMike
 
Speckled
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05/25/2021 09:00AM  
There's alot more going on in the blog than "Just add more campsites". That was one line at the end, that could very easily be interpreted as being said tongue and cheek. Hard to know the intent, but it certianly could be a viable solution to open up the current crowding at entry lakes.

Regarding the crowding at entry lakes, interesting thoughts in what's driving it. If I look only to my personal tripping experience, we've been on somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 trips. Probably 75% of those were base camp type trips. We live close and most of our trips are 2-3 nights. For the first 15 or so years even on base camp trips - an 8 hour entry day was fairly normal. I think our longest entry paddle was from moose lake, up through Knife to Kekekabic. On that day...I didn't start to feel tired until heading down from knife through those last few lakes to Kekekabic.

As we aged and bodies began to ache earlier and earlier...we began to wonder why? We paddled through alot of lakes and past alot of campsites on our way though an 8-10 hour paddle. I bet those were nice lakes and nice campsites. So for the last 5 or so years, our entry day or in the case of a loop trip, our travel day is limited to about 3-4 hours.

This fishing opener we went to Long Island Lake...it was about a 4 hour trip in. By the time we got there, I had tweaked a surgically repaired knee and was starting to feel it in my lower back as well. My trip partner's knee was starting to swell up. Hey - we're getting old and I've used my body through the years. Played basketball well into my 30's. Ran track breifly collegiately, 5K's, mtb races, kayak races, triatholons...joints are sore. Add to that the covid 20 lbs we each added in the last year and we were completely spent! Could have we gone further...ya, but why? We weren't looking to have a trip where we saw no one. We camped on Long Island and saw other canoes, no one was close, one canoe paddled by fishing mid afternoon and we had brief chat about some techniques that were succesful for us earlier in the day.

My guess is the the crowding around entries is two-fold, an aging population of trippers and to a degree a new wave of trippers looking for a different experience then maybe some of us sought when we first started going 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I'm ok with it, design your own trip, be respectful and if the FS happens to add more campsites on entry lakes...I got no problem with that. To the point of the original blogger...busy is relative. We can each make our trip.
 
Chieflonewatie
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05/25/2021 09:04AM  
I'm just guessing but I think this summer and fall will not be as bad as last year and it will get better going forward.
 
Chieflonewatie
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05/25/2021 09:04AM  
I'm just guessing but I think this summer and fall will not be as bad as last year and it will get better going forward.
 
Michwall2
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05/25/2021 09:14AM  
WIMike: "mschi772: I will also agree that groups who arrive relying on entry basecamping without the willingness or ability to portage are foolish/arrogant, missing part of what makes the BWCAW special, and contributing to a real problem.


Would I ban basecamping? Heck no. I would encourage basecampers to consider others they are sharing the wilderness with and to try to avoid monopolizing areas of "strategic importance" like entry areas where groups existing may need to stay for a final night or late arrivals might need a site lest they end-up night paddling, tired after a long drive.



The reasons people basecamp, at entry lakes or elsewhere, are myriad and need neither explaining nor defending. Not for you to determine “what makes the BWCAW special” for others. The “real problem” seems to be some people insisting their way is the right way and others need to comply. Arrogance indeed. (My last post on this subject) "


Frankly, I regret the choice of the word "arrogant" and apologize for its use because of the connotations associated with that word.

However, and also, frankly, I don't care how people choose to enjoy the boundary waters. None of my business. What struck me the wrong way was that here I am "adjusting" to the new reality of usage in the BW which requires me to give up on the idea of finding a campsite on lakes near an entry point and the author of the article, it seems to me, assumes she is entitled to a campsite on those lakes.

Why does she not also have to "adapt" and realize that usage has changed and change her approach to Boundary Waters camping?
 
thistlekicker
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05/25/2021 09:15AM  
I suspect large groups splitting up to claim more than one campsite is also part of the problem. There just aren't a ton of sites that can comfortably accommodate 9 people. I couldn't believe the number of large groups I ran into last summer, and some were clearly set up on multiple sites. I guess it's possible for a "group" to have more than 1 permit so I shouldn't jump to conclusions. But I had a lot of time to think about this while paddling all the way from Ima to our (early) exit point on Snowbank without seeing a single vacant site.
 
thegildedgopher
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05/25/2021 09:40AM  
Michwall2: "WIMike: "mschi772: I will also agree that groups who arrive relying on entry basecamping without the willingness or ability to portage are foolish/arrogant, missing part of what makes the BWCAW special, and contributing to a real problem.



Would I ban basecamping? Heck no. I would encourage basecampers to consider others they are sharing the wilderness with and to try to avoid monopolizing areas of "strategic importance" like entry areas where groups existing may need to stay for a final night or late arrivals might need a site lest they end-up night paddling, tired after a long drive.




The reasons people basecamp, at entry lakes or elsewhere, are myriad and need neither explaining nor defending. Not for you to determine “what makes the BWCAW special” for others. The “real problem” seems to be some people insisting their way is the right way and others need to comply. Arrogance indeed. (My last post on this subject) "



Frankly, I regret the choice of the word "arrogant" and apologize for its use because of the connotations associated with that word.


However, and also, frankly, I don't care how people choose to enjoy the boundary waters. None of my business. What struck me the wrong way was that here I am "adjusting" to the new reality of usage in the BW which requires me to give up on the idea of finding a campsite on lakes near an entry point and the author of the article, it seems to me, assumes she is entitled to a campsite on those lakes.


Why does she not also have to "adapt" and realize that usage has changed and change her approach to Boundary Waters camping?"


Personally I commend you for taking a step back on the "arrogance" stance.

To the rest -- I don't know what to say. It's first come, first served. She is entitled to the site if it's available when se reaches it, and same for you. Sometimes life requires adjustments and compromise, and there are no guarantees in the BWCA.
 
THEGrandRapids
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05/25/2021 10:36AM  
Other than anecdotal evidence, there are no "facts" out there that basecamping is any more or any less of an issue based on historical basis usage. While you may have witnessed it first hand on the first and last day of your trip, that was only twos day, one lake, and one entry point that you observed it, out of how many days and entry points throughout the year. Maybe you saw it on multiple trips. Last weekend we went through an entry point that had 7 permits/ day and not a single campsite was filled on the entry lake with 8 sites. And I'm betting we were the last one through that day. On our way out, 1 of the 8 were filled....

As far as people coming on the forum and asking about basecamping, I'm sure that has vastly increased from 20 years ago.... but that's because communication has changed... you can't really compare that on a historical perspective, as most weren't using the internet that way... or even when the internet didn't exist....

Were more permits used last year? that's about the only facts you can rely on.. the rest is just anecdotal
 
05/25/2021 10:54AM  
Chieflonewatie: "I'm just guessing but I think this summer and fall will not be as bad as last year and it will get better going forward."

I would have thought that too, but the amount of permits reserved in April exceeds that of last year. There are more people going into the BWCA than last year.
 
RunningFox
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05/25/2021 10:59AM  
What do the animals, land, and water want? Probably something not aligned with the chamber of commerce. Or the outfitter in question.

Immigration is the reason behind the US population problem.

There, I said it. Now you can hate me or whatever. Wont change how I feel (or should I say “don’t feel”?).

Do you think the US parks and wilderness areas will be the same when we have 450 million people here (as projected to happen by 2050)?

 
05/25/2021 11:00AM  
Soledad: "Chieflonewatie: "I'm just guessing but I think this summer and fall will not be as bad as last year and it will get better going forward."


I would have thought that too, but the amount of permits reserved in April exceeds that of last year. There are more people going into the BWCA than last year."


Does this simply mean their were more permits reserved this April than last April? Or does it mean there were more permits pulled by the end of April than there were for the entirety of last year?

If the first, then I was wondering if much of that could be explained by many more people reserving permits early this year because of the busyness from last year (more people rushing to make sure they get the permit they want). I know I jumped on a permit much earlier this year than I usually do. I suppose it's impossible to know until we see how many permits are pulled by the end of the paddling season...
 
05/25/2021 11:09AM  
Permit types can also be modified. Could include one night maximum on particular, busy lakes, or only specific permits would allow camping on entry point lakes, etc.

Could have seasonal restrictions as well, along with "No Fires Allowed" on heavilly used lakes.
Pretty easy. Lots of tools.
 
05/25/2021 02:23PM  
In reality I think the system is working fine. I would like to see getting the quota back up in lakes like Isabella which dropped due to the fire I believe, We do need more law enforcement.
 
05/25/2021 02:27PM  
I also think younger generations ae trending back to the outdoors and areas like the BWCA don't exist any where else. Also other natural resource areas are getting over built and over run.
Yes like Vermilion state park-created more for RV-Wifi etc-really a park it may not be in many eyes?
 
tobiedog
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05/25/2021 02:47PM  
I like watching Minnesota Bound and they always conclude their episodes with "introduce a kid to the great outdoors." We learn as we go, I think. Someone new with their kids might have a great experience on an entry lake, learn a few things and come back again and go deeper. A deep dive into the wilderness might not be the best choice for a newbie. But, we still need more people to love the wilderness.
 
billconner
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05/25/2021 06:38PM  
Just a reminder, it's not just BWCAW, and probably BWCAW is not as bad as other places. America needs more-campsites
 
05/25/2021 08:00PM  
billconner: "Just a reminder, it's not just BWCAW, and probably BWCAW is not as bad as other places. America needs more-campsites "

Great article.
 
05/25/2021 08:40PM  
billconner: "Just a reminder, it's not just BWCAW, and probably BWCAW is not as bad as other places. America needs more-campsites "

What is ironic I know many Mn DNR State Park Managers. Just a couple of years ago they were worried about all the empty campsites and they were cutting staff because some parks were very empty. Times and things change fast sometimes.
 
mgraber
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05/25/2021 08:50PM  
I, for one, am not in any way against base camping. That being said, the congestion at entry lakes is a real problem in some areas. It is only logical to look at ways to spread people out a bit more, it seems to be the best solution. Just as travelers need to adjust their expectations a bit, base campers may have to do the same.
 
billconner
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05/25/2021 09:59PM  
Replace portages with canals and locks? (I hope no one takes this as a serious suggestion - 16 hour travel day - mostly airports and planes.)
 
Duckman
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05/26/2021 06:21AM  
Interesting thread.

Not sure the best solution. There have been several cases, on this board even, where base camping on an entry lake was recommended - the complete newbie a little nervous, the new parents who want to take their kid, the groups with a member with a medical condition or physical limitation, etc. It just makes sense for them to be on a lake with a quick exit or near an outfitter.

We certainly can't require the people issuing a permit to make a judgment call on each group's situation. They don't have the time and don't need that hassle.

The pass through permits is an interesting idea, but even then, those groups may get in a bind or have to cut their trip short on their way out. My hunch is that all that can be done is more education, encouraging people to move a few more portages in, and for the lifers to be patient and adjust to this likely temporary influx of people.

A few posts back someone made a pretty good point. There are several lakes up there that are outside the BDUB and offer the exact same experience these entry lake base campers are after. That probably needs to be better promoted.
 
heavylunch
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05/27/2021 09:25AM  
I am late to the party for this thread but it made me wonder how the number of permits available for BWCA compares to the number of permits available for Quetico. Quetico is slightly larger than the BWCA and it doesn't seem as busy. Is it because of less visitors, less permits, or a combination of both?

If, for example, they only offer 1/2 the number of permits that the BWCA does, maybe that is worth considering to reduce wear and tear and give nature some breathing room.
 
mschi772
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05/27/2021 09:53AM  
heavylunch: "I am late to the party for this thread but it made me wonder how the number of permits available for BWCA compares to the number of permits available for Quetico. Quetico is slightly larger than the BWCA and it doesn't seem as busy. Is it because of less visitors, less permits, or a combination of both?


If, for example, they only offer 1/2 the number of permits that the BWCA does, maybe that is worth considering to reduce wear and tear and give nature some breathing room."


For the purposes of comparing the BWCAW to something Canadian, you'd be better off comparing it to Algonquin Provincial Park.

Quetico is much less busy. Lots of reasons for this, not least of which is how many more options for a similar experience Ontario has in general. Almost half of Ontario's population lives around Toronto, so Algonquin Park gets hammered while other provincial parks like Quetico get ignored by many because, "Why drive 16 hrs to Quetico or book a flight when Algonquin is 2 hr away?" Winnipeg is the next-nearest metro area and is still over 6 hr from Quetico, is only 1/4 the size of Toronto, and Manitobans have many options closer than Quetico as well.

This is all al long way of saying that Canada has fewer people and more wilderness, so unless a provincial park is right next to a population center like Algonquin is to Toronto, they're just not going to see the kind of pressure that the BWCAW sees from Americans since we have more people and dramatically fewer options to choose from, at least in terms of this specific kind of wilderness.
 
mschi772
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05/27/2021 10:07AM  
Duckman: "A few posts back someone made a pretty good point. There are several lakes up there that are outside the BDUB and offer the exact same experience these entry lake base campers are after. That probably needs to be better promoted."

Thank-you!

I'm also a car guy, and an analogy has been creeping into my brain lately. There are many situations where people find themselves tempted to buy "the best" version of a car even when it is totally inappropriate. If you're never going to go offroading, why buy a Wrangler Rubicon instead of a Sport or Altitude? If you're never going to race on a track, why buy a Porsche Cayman GT4 instead of a GTS? Why pay for features you'll never use? I mean, there isn't anything forbidding people from doing this, but it's so silly, and people camping in the BWCAW like they would in an average state park seems about as silly to me.

I think some people are entering the BWCAW with similarly flawed logic. I feel like there are people thinking "The BWCAW is 'best' because it's a huge wilderness with special rules, and I want the best, so I'm going to go there!" even when they don't have the ability or interest in making use of it, and for their goals and style, there are many more options that would serve them just as well where they wouldn't be wasting their time/money entering the BWCAW and wouldn't be adding unnecessary competition over a limited resource for others who can't as easily find the experience they seek elsewhere.

I'm not saying that anyone is better than anyone else or that there are people who shouldn't be allowed to visit the BWCAW. I'm saying that people should be more realistic about their goals and abilities and what their destinations offer. If they're visiting the BWCAW, I'd appreciate it if they would try to tap its potential while they're there. If they just want to chill next to a cooler in one place for a week relaxing and fishing, that's great, but I would like it if more people considered that the BWCAW might be overkill for them--other side of this coin: I wish we would promote alternatives to the BWCAW more, and I've made a post about this very subject because I feel like the surrounding SNF gets largely ignored.

We don't need all BWCAW visitors to become hardcore travelers that rack-up tons of miles, and I'm not suggesting anyone should be forced to justify or prove themselves. It should just be enough for everyone to be encouraged to try to make the BWCAW function just a little better for each other. We already do a lot of this by following LNT guidelines and respecting each other's space, so is it really asking to much to ask--just ask, not demand or require--people to limit the time they spend camped near entry/exit points or other areas of "strategic importance" with limited site options (if other such areas exist).

Just as I finished, another variation on all the spitballed rule proposals entered my head. A few sites on congested entry lakes could be designated as something like "staging" sites where people are only allowed to stay for one night (people exiting, mostly I'd think). Kinda like pick-up/curbside parking at restaurants. Sure, it would be directly enforced as infrequently as every other rule, but I'd like to think a small sign posted at these sites explaining what they are would be honored/respected by most people.
 
billconner
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05/27/2021 10:44AM  
The concept of "developing" more backcountry sites in SNF outside the BWCAW and marketing them, especially for their base camp advantages, may help. It's still more work and area to cover and things to maintain, and they don't have enough people now by a significant amount.

I didn't see the answer to permits but I believe that Quetico has 65 permits per day and BWCA has - total overnight paddle and overnight motor or paddle - 259.5 (for the every other day) plus overnight hiking permits - I couldn't find that. So 4 times as many in BWCA?

I think a little over 2000 sites in BWCA I think and one Ontario PP web site said 2200 in the Q - but none or unlimited wouldbe valid as well. In any case, never a problem there.

 
tumblehome
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05/27/2021 01:50PM  
Yeah, it’s something like Quetico allows 70% fewer daily permits.
Meaning the Q only has 1/3 as many visitors per day in a park that is about the same size as the BWCA.

And this is why so many people complain that the BWCA is over-crowded and the quota system is bloated. Going to Quetico truly feels like a wilderness experience whereas the BWCA feels like a crowded noisy recreational area. One has to experience both to compare.

Additionally, Quetico maintains far few portages into lakes allowing visitors to bushwhack to many, many lakes in a true back country experience.

In the BWCA money drives the permit system. In the Q it’s the wilderness experience that drives their quota system. The two areas are managed very differently from each other.
Tom
 
HayRiverDrifter
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05/27/2021 02:50PM  
My first thought is to not change anything. A lot of problems solve themselves over time. I like the current system of limited permits per entry point, then you do as you please. To each his own whatever your style.

Another thought is to add what I would call 'primitive' camp sites that have no fire pit or latrine on entry lakes and maybe one lake in. Just a big tent pad where people could camp while passing through. These would be equivalent to campsites that are ranked a 1. No one who is base camping would camp on them so they would be available for people entering late in the day, or on their way out.

Or they could get really radical and just allow camping anywhere (except on portages) like they do in PMAs and let these 'primitive' camp sites develop organically. No 'hater' comments please, just an idea to ponder.

 
05/27/2021 03:46PM  
I really don't see the problem, if for instance you enter on Brule and there are no campsites you have two choices- move on or go home. There are no "reserved" sites in the BWCAW. The base camper vs tripper argument is stupid too -one is good and the other bad?

I hope there are no new knee jerk (WE GOTTA DO SOMTHING SO WE LOOK LIKE WE'RE DOING SOMTHING!!) rules or regulations thrown together. I think the rules now in place do a good job of managing the BWCAW for all types of visitors.
The change I feel needs to be in the wording of the LNT message, instead of PLEASE don't leave a trace it should be you WILL NOT mess up the BWCAW and put some bite in it.
 
05/27/2021 05:57PM  
Leave the system alone. Entry points were usually meant to have higher usage and allows us who want to paddle a little more too get away. Forcing base campers to move on would only cause more usage farther inland and over crowding.

Ironic two years ago we talked about low usage of the BWCA and outfitters doing the same. Build
it and they will come. Just don't love it to death. The place is special.

You don't put more people in a ballgame all at once than is allowed. Reason it creates chaos and destroys what you enjoy and cherish.
 
Lawnchair107
senior member (97)senior membersenior member
 
05/27/2021 07:02PM  
Pinetree: "
Leave the system alone. Entry points were usually meant to have higher usage and allows us who want to paddle a little more too get away. Forcing base campers to move on would only cause more usage farther inland and over crowding.


Ironic two years ago we talked about low usage of the BWCA and outfitters doing the same. Built it and they will come. Just don't love it to death. The place is special.

You don't put more people in a ballgame all at once than is allowed. Reason it creates chaos and destroys what you enjoy and cherish."


Exactly this. Well said.
 
casualbriday
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
05/27/2021 08:34PM  
billconner: "The concept of "developing" more backcountry sites in SNF outside the BWCAW and marketing them, especially for their base camp advantages, may help. It's still more work and area to cover and things to maintain, and they don't have enough people now by a significant amount.
"


I just looked up canoe routes in SNF and found the campsites around Pine/East Twin/West Twin. Looks like a pretty good way to spend a long weekend. Anybody know if those sites are hard to come by?
 
05/27/2021 09:22PM  
Ah I am not a fan of the article. One the person states they know how busy it can get and yet leaves late on a Friday to a popular spot. Should have expected the results imo. If I was leaving late on a Friday to Brule I would expect to portage.

JayWalker had a great idea. Make every entry a 180 rod portage. That would cut down on a ton of traffic.

All in all though times just seem to be busy up there. Plan accordingly and you should be fine.

Lol sigh it just bothers me that they resort to more campsites because of lack of foresight that according to their history they should have been prepared for.
 
blackdawg9
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05/28/2021 06:26AM  
this is something that frustrates me, when trying to plan a trip. i have done algonquin big loops. they don't want you staying at a single campsite for 2nights. 1 night, then move on. when you make a reservation, they want your intenerary for trip movement. 1 night here, 1 night here, 1 night here. so crowds are not just loading up at the entry point. if something happens they know where to look. you know things happen, and you get wind bound and are behind occasionally. so maybe you plan for 85%to 90% capacity for camp sites.

if you get people stacking up because of weather and someone comes around the bend, and there is room for another pair or single canoe, be good hosts.

i think alot could be done to move people around more. is adding a common trip shadow route, like you see on a gps. with common routes and maybe how hard of travel for distance, for age or experience. [kind of like how golf courses have different tee off cones. ]

canada is never reopening with out the mark of the beast, so we better figure this out. hopefully i will make it up in late august
 
heavylunch
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05/28/2021 09:06AM  
tumblehome: "Yeah, it’s something like Quetico allows 70% fewer daily permits.
Meaning the Q only has 1/3 as many visitors per day in a park that is about the same size as the BWCA.


And this is why so many people complain that the BWCA is over-crowded and the quota system is bloated. Going to Quetico truly feels like a wilderness experience whereas the BWCA feels like a crowded noisy recreational area. One has to experience both to compare.


Additionally, Quetico maintains far few portages into lakes allowing visitors to bushwhack to many, many lakes in a true back country experience.

In the BWCA money drives the permit system. In the Q it’s the wilderness experience that drives their quota system. The two areas are managed very differently from each other.
Tom"


This makes sense to me. Pretty accurate characterization in my opinion. Curious.
 
mjmkjun
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05/28/2021 11:03AM  
R1verrunner: "All the base camp haters.


In time as they get older.


Might just find themselves base camping.


It is one thing to plan far and wide when one is young.


It is another when one gets into the 60's 70's and 80's."


Thumbs-up!
Me at 70 yrs bracket: change the first line to "all bwca trippers". That'll learn ya! hahaha
 
billconner
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05/28/2021 07:21PM  
Just googling and looking here, BWCAW has about 10 times the number of visitors that Quetico sees, and approx same area.
 
05/28/2021 08:34PM  
billconner: "Just googling and looking here, BWCAW has about 10 times the number of visitors that Quetico sees, and approx same area. "

Quetico has far less entry points. Also if you think about it there is not one site or lake that can not be reached in one day of paddling in the BWCA. Can't say that about Quetico.
 
billconner
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05/29/2021 06:13AM  
Pinetree: "billconner: "Just googling and looking here, BWCAW has about 10 times the number of visitors that Quetico sees, and approx same area. "


Quetico has far less entry points. Also if you think about it there is not one site or lake that can not be reached in one day of paddling in the BWCA. Can't say that about Quetico."


I was just responding to a question above, but kind of hard to compare since BWCA quotas are based on specific entry points at the perimeter and Quetico quotas are based on passing through a lake.

Ultimately, I think the fees and fishing regs account for a substantial portion of the different usage.
 
lindylair
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05/30/2021 09:43AM  
Not sure how I feel about adding campsites because I don't have enough knowledge of all aspects of it but...at a basic level it would do some good things. Adding (a few here and there) sites on entry lakes but also interior lakes where the terrain allows would minimize that risk or stress many feel about finding a site because the number of visitors stays the same but there are more options to camp - fairly simple concept.
Less need for anyone to share campsites, bushwhack camp or cut their trip short.

It would also spread out the usage of all campsites somewhat thereby reducing the impact to each individual site. It would not, by itself, increase the impact or create more visitors if the quota system remained the same. When you add a site to an entry lake that already has sites it could create a little less solitude(if that bothers you keep going) but at the same time if you added a site on some lakes that currently don't have any, or a site to a large lake with only a couple sites currently it could accommodate more campers without increasing the feeling of too busy.

I don't get the argument that it would be bad for the wilderness when it is not creating any more visitors and actually spreading out the usage somewhat. How crappy would it be if you drove a long ways for your BWCA trip only to not be able to find a campsite your first night and have to cut your trip short or change plans? Hasn't happened to me but I am sure it has happened. More campsites would seem to address this issue without adding visitors or impact. Don't change the number of permits or visitors, just create more options for camping and spread folks out a little more by strategically adding campsites as needed and available terrain makes it possible on certain routes that experience a lot of traffic.

Key concept here - it would not create more impact on the wilderness as a whole.
 
mschi772
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05/30/2021 06:39PM  
lindylair: "It would also spread out the usage of all campsites somewhat thereby reducing the impact to each individual site. "

Especially on interior lakes, I doubt that additional sites would have this specific effect. I'm not necessarily picking on any other point you made, but this one jumped-out at me because I'm going to a very interior area next month that is almost never heavily occupied, so there are always more sites than campers in this area already. What seems to have happened is that some sites have been favored over others and because people seem to have a thing for big, open sites, the more the favored sites are used, the more worn-down and open they become, making them even more attractive to most people. Meanwhile, there are sites that are considered poor because they are overgrown, but this is self-fulfilling as the overgrowth wouldn't be as much of an issue if more people used these sites...but no one does, so they just become more and more unattractive and less-used.
 
billconner
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06/01/2021 09:27AM  
I like lindy's thinking. Aside from the cost of more sites, would it be better if there were a lot more sites - like 3000 instead of 2000 - and some especially worn ones were closed for a year or two? Still get a net increase but also give some a rest. Aside from cost....
 
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