A Boundary Waters


About This Web Site

Over 775 Pages and Growing

In the Hairy Lakes PMA

Into the Hairy Lake PMA, southbound for Sora Lake


The purpose of the Boundary Waters Compendium, the Swanson Party BWCA web pages, is twofold. First, to enhance the quality of the Boundary Waters wilderness experience for visitors by providing a comprehensive and integrated body of information, suggestions, background, commentary, links, and trivia. Second, to allow its creators the sheer joy of pulling all of this together.

There are a number of fine BWCA sites on the Internet, with a good deal of useful information.  Do check them out. This is our contribution to that effort.

Principle Sections of the Boundary Waters Compendium


This is a non-commercial, family Web site. We accept no advertising and have no plans to do so. Any reference to commercial ventures, such as outfitters and map publishers, is at our sole discretion and done for the benefit of visitors to the site. No consideration is asked, offered, or given for these commercial references. While we endorse no commercial ventures, we have no qualms about making comments drawn from our opinions and experience. YMMV. We all work full time plus outside of Northern Minnesota and no financial interests in the area.

Who We Are

We are three brothers-in-law, joined over the past ten years by nephews and niece, sons and daughter, and various other family and friends, for our annual canoe trips in the BWCAW. As individuals, we have been visiting the Boundary Waters for over twenty years, including some time in Quetico and hiking the Kek. While not professing to be experts, we have put a lot of miles on our boots and under our boats over the years. We've seen a lot, learned a lot, and come to love the land. We'd like to share that with you.

Where We Come From

Everyone has their own preferences and opinions when it comes to the BWCA and ours come through fairly clearly on these pages. If you'd like some advance warning, consider this:
  • We like to emphasize the second W in BWCAW when we travel, so
    • we try to avoid popular lakes, routes, and entry points
    • we expect to portage, a lot (upwards of 1000 rods on busy days)
    • we tend to avoid large, open lakes, especially those with motors
    • we are fond of small, wilderness rivers and out-of-the-way lakes
    • we travel light, and will not carry aluminum boats
    • we find bushwhacking, Primitive Management Areas, abandoned portages, and blank spots on the map very appealing
    • we have no sympathy for motorized recreation in the BWCA. 'Nuff said.
  • However, we do not subscribe to the "Canada or bust" philosophy which drives so many visitors to seek the shortest, quickest route to a Crown Customs station. (And which makes the Moose Lake the most popular entry point year after year). If you think you have to go to Canada for a wilderness experience, you don't know what you're missing in your mad rush north.
  • We try to practice leave-no-trace travel and try to respect the wilderness, its visitors, and its residents
    • we keep a clean and quiet camp
    • we don't dive off shoreline rocks or shoot rapids
    • we do hang our food every night
    • we cook with gas and do not carry, or have need of, an axe
    • we treat or filter our water
    • we expect bad weather

Do we know what we're talking about

You can be the judge of that. In some 20 years of BWCA travel:
  • we've never rolled or swamped a boat; never wrecked a canoe
  • we've never been sickened by bad food or water; never sustained injuries from accidents arising from foolish or ill-advised behavior.
  • we took a nine-year-old first-timer on a trip where it rained hard every day, and she enjoyed it.
  • only one of our group has ever experienced bear problems, and that was in a US Forest Service campground, the night before departure.
  • we've seen a great variety of wildlife; eagles diving for fish, otter families at play; we've enjoyed a number of wolf howl choruses in the night, and had the rare opportunity to watch a pack of wolves chasing a bull moose.
  • we've come to know the plants that surround our campsites, portage trails, and travel routes
  • and, finally, we've always had a good time. We think you will, too.

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Last updated on 11 April, 2004