Boundary Waters Canoe Area

My Special Place in the Natural World

By Miriam Kashia

On the Northernmost border of Eastern Minnesota lies one of the most popular wilderness areas in the USA. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is a pristine and beautiful string of lakes nestled in nature’s wild garden of fir and pine stretching for thousands of acres along the Knife River border with Canada. Ancient trails, created by indigenous people and later used by voyagers, trappers and traders, connect this interwoven network of sky-blue lakes.

Inhabited by moose, black bear, beaver, otter, mink, loon and many other waterfowl, the BWCA is still a wild place where there is no sound of motors. Foot and paddle-power provide all the energy. It is one of the most precious places on Earth for me, and I have made the trek there from my home in Iowa many times.

But, like so many precious and wild places, the BWCA is threatened by climate change. A few years ago a massively destructive straight-line wind leveled hundreds of acres of old-growth trees and made a huge area inaccessible to wilderness lovers. Sulfur from coal plants is turning the lakes acidic and threatening the entire ecosystem. Even human appreciation of the beauty and serenity is taking a toll through overuse. Increasing frequency and severity of storms threatens canoeists and campers.

I don’t know the current status of the BWCA ecosystem. I do know that like most remaining wild places, it is threatened. In undertaking this March for sounding the alarm about our rapidly escalating climate crisis, I am hoping to preserve that which is threatened in the BWCA and in such places around our fragile and wounded planet.