Staff work to ensure safe and sustainable recreation opportunities for all

Recreation opportunities abound on the Superior National Forest – from camping to paddling to hiking and everything in between. The 2020 spring and summer recreation season looked a bit different due to COVID-19 and the need to prioritize employee and public health and safety.

Wilderness and Recreation staff on the Forest worked hard to modify processes in order to mitigate risk and allow visitors to still enjoy the Forest. Forest employees coordinated with local businesses, counties, state, federal and international partners to expand access to recreation sites as quickly as possible within the context of CDC guidance. 

With the desire to find solace and rejuvenation during chaotic times, the Superior experienced a higher than normal number of visitors, including newcomers. Forest staff were committed to providing all visitors with excellent customer service amid elevated pressures and challenges.

Challenges included increased trash, damage to property and natural resources, some illegal access in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the need for some search and rescue operations.

USFS Pilot Joel “Henny” Jungemann has participated in multiple search and rescue missions this summer.  Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties cooperate closely with the Superior National Forest and Minnesota Interagency Dispatch to respond rapidly when life-threatening situations arise.  When the unthinkable happens, preparation goes a long way.  Henny says, “We repeatedly see that the most successful missions are not dependent on the pilots and first responders, but on how prepared the folks who need assistance are.  From providing accurate information on location, campsite, portage, and the nature of injury, to having some signaling device and basic first aid skills, the folks going into the wilderness are directly responsible for initial treatment of injured individuals and how quickly help can arrive by the information they provide.”

In order to be proactive, Superior staff continued to highlight Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles and Responsible Recreation as the foundation of every visit.  Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness Program Manager Ann Schwaller stated, “We’ve worked with staff, local cooperators/outfitter guides/resorts, other partner agencies and non-government organizations to assist with educating visitors before they begin their BWCAW trip. These strategies included a variety of virtual or in-person social distant methods such as LNT text and emails, alerts, video links, social media messages, print and radio media interviews.”  Recreation staff also worked closely with forest volunteers to coordinate forest cleanups when visitors didn’t recreate responsibly. The Forest is very appreciative of these efforts and the efforts of other recreationists to leave no trace.

Visitors are reminded to prepare for each trip in advance regardless of expertise level and research regulations for the area you plan to visit. This is especially essential when heading into the Wilderness where remoteness combined with highly variable conditions can recreate potentially dangerous situations without adequate preparedness. The Forest’s website has a ton of resources to help you prepare:

Respecting other visitors, the land, water and wildlife will not only keep the Forest healthy but also allow for a more natural and sustainable experience for all.

Superior National Forest staff don COVID-19 personal protective equipment to maintain the forest rec

Superior National Forest staff don COVID-19 personal protective equipment to maintain campground latrines and other facilities.

Beaver plane and staff assist visitors needing help during a Search and Rescue mission.

Superior National Forest Beaver plane and staff assist visitors needing help during a Search and Rescue mission in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.