Orientation and training

Before volunteers begin work on projects in the Superior National Forest or other public lands they will received training. The type of training varies based on the type of work the volunteer will be completing. All volunteers will participate in a safety talk before beginning work that will inform them of the risks associated and how to avoid accidents and injury. Volunteers travelling by canoe will receive water safety training. Volunteers who wish to use chainsaws or cross-cut saws on the Superior National Forest must be certified through a training course given in the spring each year.

Health and Safety

Some volunteer projects can be strenuous and require lifting heavy packs, moving large rocks. Please be sure that you are able to meet the physical demands of a project before you sign up. If you have any medical conditions that may impact your ability to complete the work required please inform us at the time of registration.

Crew leaders are equipped with a general first aid kit. If you take any prescription medications or have allergies please be sure to bring extra medication (anti-histamine, epi-pen, etc.).

Giardia is present in lakes and streams. Volunteer crews will have access to a water filter. Boiling or chemically treating water is also an option.

From May to July, insects including ticks, mosquitos, black flies, deer and horse flies, and bees or hornets can be a nuisance. Proper clothing and insect repellant are the best measures to limit exposure.

Black bears are common and generally harmless if proper precautions are taken. Food should be hung or placed in a bear-proof pack. If a black bear approaches, loud noises will usually scare it away.

Crew leaders will be equipped with a portable two-way radio. Radio contact is important for emergency situations.

What to expect

  • The topography of northeastern Minnesota is the result of the movement of glaciers in the last ice age. These glaciers stripped the area of soil and carved thousands of depressions in the bedrock creating the lakes we see today. There are so many lakes that it is possible to travel by canoe from to another via portages, or trails on land dividing the bodies of water.
  • The weather can be highly variable in northeastern Minnesota. Temperatures range from 30 to 90 degrees in the warmers months (May through September) and the sky can be cloudless one minutes and filled with thunderheads a few minutes later. 
  • Cell phone reception is not reliable within the Superior National Forest. Make sure you have a good map!
  • Black bear, moose, otters, beavers, wolves and pine martens make the northwoods their home, in addition to several dozen species of birds including the common loon, the bald eagle, and the great blue heron. Keep your eyes peeled and you might catch a glimpse of some of these creatures!

Wilderness Regulations

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964, written specifically to protect areas of federal land from further intrusion by humans, keeping these lands in their natural state for the benefit of the natural community and humankind. Part of the definition of a wilderness is "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by humans, where a person is a visitor who does not remain." In October of 1978, the BWCAW Act was passed by Congress, which took into consideration the uniqueness of this Eastern wilderness. Some of the regulations and wilderness ethics you will be following when working or traveling in the wilderness are:

  • Nine person/four watercraft- No more than nine people and four watercraft may be traveling or camping together at any time in the wilderness.

  • Camping- Camping is permitted only at Forest Service campsites designated by a permanent fire grate and latrine, unless a special permit for a primitive management area is sought.  

  • Cans and bottles- Metal cans and glass bottles in the form of food and beverage are not allowed in the wilderness. Fuel, insect repellent, medicines, or toiletries are permitted.

  • Fires- Fires must be kept inside the fire grate. When leaving the campsite for any period of time, fires must be completely extinguished. Fire restrictions may be imposed due to wildfire danger.  

  • Firewood- Firewood should be gathered well away from the campsite and should be only from downed, dead wood. Live material may not be cut.

  • Noise- Visitors come to the wilderness for the solitude and peacefulness of the area, as well wildlife viewing, so noise levels should be kept to a minimum.

  • Motorized or mechanical uses- At no time are motorized or mechanical devices (such as portage wheels or mountain bikes) allowed within the wilderness unless authorized by law, although the BWCAW does have several designated motor routes.

  • Garbage- all refuse items must be packed out of the wilderness. No garbage should be buried, left at the site, or put in the latrines. Pack it in, pack it out!

  • Sanitation- Use of soap products for dishes and personal hygiene should occur at least 150 feet from any water source. It is also illegal to put fish remains into the water, so burying them a minimum of 150 feet back in the woods is recommended.

Wilderness Ethics/Principals of “Leave No Trace”

Plan Ahead and Prepare                                 Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Minimize Use and Impact of Fires                 Respect Wildlife

Leave what you Find                                      Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Pack it in, Pack it out – Properly Dispose of what you can’t Pack Out