The Lowdown, Trip Planning

BWCAW Bears and Canoe Packs

August 19, 2011
Black Bear in Woods

It has just been one of those summers in which the black bears of Minnesota have visited a lot of campsites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Visitors to the wilderness must continue to be ever vigilant and keep the campsite clean to remove any and all temptations for curious and hungry bears.

Here is the latest I have on our furry friends in the north woods:

There is a bear or bears making the rounds on Bonnie Lake and most likely venturing into the Knife Lake area as well. Reports tell us that a large, persistent bear has been coming into camp on Bonnie Lake during daylight hours looking for a snack. This bear was so unnerving to a group that they moved camp up to Knife.

Another report from Knife Lake, involving possibly the same bear, states that a food pack was damaged and another one was taken. Advice is to keep those campsites clean, and hang those packs when possible.

Back to the west on Basswood Lake there are several reports of a bear or bears with their hungry eyes on food packs. Bears on and around Pipestone Bay have made themselves known through visible activity and raids on some campsites.

On Basswood’s Washington Island a bear tore a screen tent and stole a food pack while the group was out fishing. The report doesn’t state whether the pack was in the screen tent at the time of the pilfering. Doesn’t matter anyway because my advice is always the same: keep any and all food out of the tents. A thin layer of nylon will not stop a hungry bear.

The above report also reminds me to offer this advice: please take your food barrel or pack with you when you leave camp on a day trip. We all love our ursine friends, but let’s remove as much temptation as possible when traveling in areas known for bears with a penchant for thievery.

Still lots of summer left out there, get on the water and enjoy it!

Boundary Waters bear report for July 1, 2011

Dear Bears, keep your paws off my canoe packs



  • Ron September 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    On 9/2/11 we had a big momma bear and 3 cubs robbed our campsite. We were located on South Arm just to the West of the Bonnie Lake portage. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and the bear walked right into camp and stole our food bag. We had just arrived to the site and had not hung the bag up, yet. We chased her off and got half of our food back. After we scared her off, she came back towards us and picked up the rest of the Raman noodles she dropped. No injuries occurred so I would call this a good learning encounter. Three different groups we ran into had a bear encounter.

    Keep a clean camp and keep those foodpacks high.

    • Ron H.

    • BradP September 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      Concerning story, Ron. But some good lessons; you want to keep a clean camp, bears should be given a wide berth, and hang your food pack whenever possible. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure. • Brad

    • Lance October 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm


      The same sow and cubs came into our camp on the north shore of the South Arm of Knife Lake the evening of 9/14/11. We had 5 minutes advance notice from some passing canoeists so we quickly hung our foodpack and got in the canoe to watch the bears pass on thru. Unfortunately the sow is well educated at locating and obtaining foodpacks. I posted a video here:


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