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Portions of Boundary Waters to reopen, closures around fires remain

Due to rain and lower temperatures decreasing fire activity, the full closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will be lifted on Sept. 4.

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A map of the Greenwood Fire closure which remains in place in the Superior National Forest. Contributed / Superior National Forest
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The Superior National Forest announced Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, that the full closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will be lifted, although some closures will remain in place around active fires.

Crediting recent rains, cooling temperatures and progress made on active fires, forest officials state that the full closure and the Crooked Lake closure near Canada have been lifted. New closure maps for the Greenwood Fire and John Ek and Whelp fires have been created. The Upper Gunflint Trail closure of Forest Service land remains in place.

“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,” said Connie Cummins, supervisor for the Superior National Forest 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."

If you had previously reserved a permit for after Sept. 4, your permit is still valid. Available quota permits will be live for reservation on Sept. 2 at noon at recreation.gov.

Of the 65 fires reported in the forest in 2021, nearly half, or 29, have been caused by humans. To minimize risk of human-caused fires, fire restrictions remain in place across the entire Forest. Open flames are not allowed, including campfires and charcoal grills. However, visitors may use propane or gas-powered devices with on/off switches.

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“Although risk is being mitigated by the change in the seasons, it’s not completely eliminated. In the fall, we can get an alignment of low humidity, high winds, and high temperatures and a fire can get up and moving. This has happened in the past. The typical fire season for northern Minnesota extends through September,” said Cummins.

The Forest Service is evaluating other current closure orders with state partners and will notify the public with additional updates.

Closures still in place:

  • BWCAW Closure due to John Ek and Whelp fires: A new closure area has been drawn for the John Ek and Whelp Fires: Seagull Lake EP #54/#54A/L, Saganaga Lake EP #55/#55A/J, Missing Link Lake EP #51, Brant Lake EP #52, Cross Bay Lake EP #50, Kekakbic Trail EP #56, Skipper and Portage Lakes EP #49, Kawishiwi Lake EP #37, Hog Creek EP #36.

  • Upper Gunflint Trail closure: Forest lands and roads along the upper Gunflint Trail remain closed. However, the Gunflint Trail and private land and resorts are open. Trails End and Iron Lake campgrounds remain closed.

  • Greenwood Fire closure: A closure remains in place for the Greenwood Fire, however it has been slightly modified to open the Stony Spur and a portion of Prospector Loop Trail, which allows ATV riders to safely ride from Babbitt to Ely. The following entry points are closed due to the Greenwood Fire: Island River EP #34, Isabella Lake EP #35, Bog Lake EP #67, Little Isabella River #75, Snake River EP #84, and Pow Wow Trail EP #86.

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