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256 Custom map of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

  • 3250

Located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is roughly 1 million acres of amazing and unique landscape. Stretching more than 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Quetico Provincial Park, Canada, and sharing boundaries with Voyageurs National Park, BWCA features roughly 1200 miles of canoe routes, some 2000 designated campsites, and a dozen hiking trails. Before the name was changed to BWCA, the region was called Superior Roadless Area, and in 1964, the area was incorporated into the National Wilderness Preservation System in an effort to maintain its primitive features.

Arriving after the Sioux who sparsely populated the area, the first prehistoric settlements in the area are believed to have been established by the Ojibwe tribe. The BWCA is known for hundreds of prehistoric pictographs and petroglyphs displayed on rock ledges and cliffs. In 1688, Jacques de Noyons became the first European known to paddle the waters through the lakes and streams of the BWCA. Trade was introduced in the region during the 1730s, when La Verendrye and other traders began commercial activities in beaver pelts.


BWCA has a diversity of fauna and flora that adds to the appeal of the region. Animals that call the BWCA home includes, moose, deer, timber wolves, lynx, pine martens, wolverine, painted turtles, cougars, red fox, mink, fisher, otters, beavers, and black bears. It is also an important bird habitat that shelters loons, bald eagles, gray jays, ospreys, ravens, and peregrine falcons.


The BWCA is situated within the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, also known as the “North Woods,” which is a transitional zone that features the characteristics of both the boreal forest in the north and the temperate hardwood forest in the south that envelopes this zone. A diverse array of tree exists within this area, which includes red pine, eastern white pine, balsam fir, Jack pine, Labrador tea, black spruce, white-cedar, and white spruce, along with deciduous birch, ash, maple, and aspen. Bunchberries, blueberries, red berries, and raspberries, can also be found during specific seasons.

A true wilderness is what you can experience in the BWCA without modern amenities such as electricity, motor vehicles, no designated roads to the interior, and telephone lines. Canoeing, hiking, camping, bird and wildlife watching, horseback riding, along with winter activities such as skiing, dogsledding, and snowshoeing are some of the activities that can be enjoyed in the BWCA.

All sizes are approximate. 

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