Portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are reopening on Saturday thanks to recent rains, cooler temperatures and progress crews have made fighting wildfires.
The Superior National Forest said Wednesday it is lifting the full closure of the BWCAW and Crooked Lake closure near the fires in Canada. It is also "slightly modifying" the closer maps for the Greenwood fire, the John Ek Fire and the Whelp Fire.
Closures in areas with active fires will continue, including the closure of Forest Service land at the upper Gunflint Trail. The majority of the area still closed is on the Gunflint and Tofte ranger districts, with some on the Kawishiwi Ranger District (see details below).
“We’re thrilled to reopen some of our public lands to visitors. The drought is not over but we’re starting to see more rain and lower temperatures. These conditions moderate fire activity and lessen the chance of new fires showing up,” Connie Cummins, supervisor for the Superior National Forest, said in a news release.
“After talking with our fire experts about the latest data and weather conditions, we believe we have the capacity to manage the potential risk to the public of wildfire in some portions of the Forest,” Cummins added.
The Forest Service says it is evaluating other current closure orders and will share any updates with the public. The latest information can be found on the Forest Service website here.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service continues to remind people that restrictions across the entire Superior National Forest remain in place amid the ongoing drought. That means no open flames, including campfires and charcoal grills.
Of the 65 fires reported in the Superior National Forest this year, nearly half (29) were caused by humans.
Cummins notes the change in seasons does mitigate the risk of fires, but low humidity, high winds and high temperatures in the fall can cause a fire to spread. The typical fire season in northern Minnesota extends through September.
BWCAW closure details
The full BWCAW closure is being lifted, and the west side of the BWCAW will reopen on Sept. 4. (Permits for after Sept. 4 are still valid, and available quote permits will be live for reservations at noon on Sept. 2 here.)
The closure includes the following entry points: Seagull Lake Entry Point #54/#54A/L, Saganaga Lake Entry Point #55/#55A/J, Missing Link Lake EP #51, Brant Lake Entry Point #52, Cross Bay Lake Entry Point #50, Kekakbic Trail Entry Point #56, Skipper and Portage Lakes Entry Point #49, Kawishiwi Lake Entry Point #37.
Here's the new map of the closure:
The John Ek Fire and Whelp Fire are both in the BWCAW and were both started by lightning strikes. The John Ek Fire is located within the BWCAW about 2.5 miles south of Little Saganaga Lake and extends from John Ek Lake to the southeast corner of Elton Lake.
The Whelp Fire is about 5 miles northwest of Sawbill Lake.
Gunflint Trail closure details
The upper Gunflint Trail closure, prompted by the John Ek Fire, is still ongoing and includes Forest Service lands and roads along the upper Gunflint Trail, including Trails End and Iron Lake campgrounds.
That being said, private lands and resorts along the upper Gunflint Trail are open.
Here's a map of the Gunflint Trail closure:
Greenwood Fire closure details
Closures remain in place for the Greenwood Fire in Lake County, which has burned 26,089 acres and is 37% contained, but the closure are has been slightly modified.
The Stony Spur and a portion of the prospector Loop Trail have been reopened, while the following entry points are still closed: Island River EP #34, Isabella Lake EP #35, Bog Lake EP #67, Little Isabella River #75, Snake River EP #84, Pow Wow Trail EP #86 are all still closed.
Here's a map of the Greenwood Fire closure:
The Greenwood Fire on the Laurentian Ranger District is between Greenwood Lake and the intersections of Highways 1 and 2. The cause of the fire was lighting, and officials believe they'll have it contained by Oct. 10, about a month later than previously expected.