As the BWCA remains closed, tourists find other destinations

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Due to extreme drought, active and increasing fire activity, and limited resources, the Superior National Forest decided to close the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for at least seven days, effective August 21. This is the first time the BWCA has closed since 1976.

Rick Rice was looking forward to going this weekend but had to cancel his trip.

“This is an annual trip that we take every year,” Rice said. “There’s a group of eight or nine guys, kind of a core group that go with us every year and it’s a time of great bonding for us. It’s something that we always really look forward to. “

The BWCA is not only a unique area to explore, but it is also crucial to the local economy.

“The boundary waters and tourism in general is Ely’s lifeblood,” explained business owner Tanner Spicer. “The boundary waters canoe area is one of the biggest untamed wilderness areas in the country. “

Spicer owns Voyageur North Outfitters, a business that provides people with everything they need for fishing, camping, canoeing, or any other outdoor activities. Once word got out that the BWCA was closing, Spicer and his team quickly got to work finding alternative destinations for customers. As more areas close, he is hopeful that they can continue to help tourists and locals alike have a wonderful time in the wilderness.

“We monitor the fires,” Spicer stated. “We monitor what the forest service is telling us about the progression of fires, where they’re at, and find the safest routes for people to keep them out of harm’s way and give them the best experience possible.”

The latest information about evacuations can be found here.