Trail Clearing Expeditions into the Boundary Waters


When’s the last time you swung an axe, or teamed up with another guy or gal to buck a fallen tree?

If your answer was never, or you had to think about your answer, keep reading.

A unique way to experience the Boundary Waters

Though 80 or 90 percent of visitors travel the Boundary Waters by canoe, there are dozens of ways to experience the Boundary Waters and get your Northwoods fix.

One of the most novel and most satisfying ways is to join a volunteer crew and spend a few days — or a few weeks — clearing trails, shoring up campsites and fighting erosion at some of the most popular campsites.

In a nutshell, these trips involve you and a crew of friends or strangers who become friends, wielding axes, working saws and handling some impressively-sized clippers to help maintain the greatest wilderness area in the country.

You find out real quick, that there’s something about the smell pine sap and sawdust that makes for a perfect morning.

So how do you become one of these axe-wielding trail clearer?

Friends of BWCAW and CASP-1714.jpg

Superior Wilderness Volunteers Connection

For a number of years, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has partnered with REI and the Superior national Forest to bring groups of volunteers on trail clearing trips into the BWCA. In the process, they earn $30 a day for their work – and eat some really tasty meals out there as well!

So how do you get on one of these crews?

Whether it’s just you or a group of friends or coworkers who want to go, the chief thing to remember is that the program is very flexible. Anyone in relatively good physical shape, whose willing to work and learn a few things can do this.

All you need to do is call one of the Superior National Forest’s three volunteer coordinators for the area where you’re interested in volunteering. If interested in the western side, please contact Tom Yankowiak at or call (218)-666-0051. If centrally interested, please contact Jamie Lowe at or call (218)365-2080. And if interested in the east side, please contact Cathy Quinn at or call (218)-387-3240. Depending on your skill level, the size and age of your group, and available time, these volunteer coordinators will match you with a suitable project that’s both fun for you and helpful for Wilderness preservation.

Jamie Lowe

Jamie Lowe

In general, most trips last less than a week. However, Forest volunteers have stayed out for 30 days at a time. It all depends on what works for participants.

Trail crews work year round, from the hot and humid height of summer to those days of 40 below in winter, there is always work to be done.

And good thing, too. With 150,000 visitors each year, the Boundary Waters needs your help.

Besides, how much can you know about yourself if you’ve never cleared a fallen tree?


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