The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a million acre wilderness area in northern Minnesota established to protect pristine boreal forests and historic and recreational canoe routes. It has over 1,000 lakes and 2,000 campsites. If you use a GPS unit, finding GPS data for BWCA campsites and portages was difficult. Now, you can get that GPS data for free. If you’ve read my Free Garmin Topo Maps article you know the basic procedure. If you don’t here it is:
You need to download several maps to make this work:
- BWCA Campsite and Portages Map: This has all the portages and campsites as of 2009. This will change a bit especially after the Pagami Creek Fire.
- Minnesota Topo Maps: This gives you all the lake and topographical data needed for the BWCA.
- Download both of the files.
- Run both of the files. They are both .exe files, so on Windows, they will automagically install and you can find them in both Garmin BaseCamp and in Garmin MapSource.
- Hook your GPS up to your computer and install them according to the instructions for the computer program you’re using. Essentially, select the map, highlight the area and push a button. Afterward you’re good-to-go.
This is a great resource for canoeists who use GPS units in the BWCA, but it’s not a substitute for good compass and navigation skills. If you don’t have a GPS unit and are itch’n to buy one, consider the Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator. It has a color screen, it’s expandable and it uses AA batteries to get 20 hours of battery life. It weighs 5 oz with the batteries.