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Loading the Map
When you first load the map, three red messages will appear above the map saying "Loading Map Data...," "Loading Lake Info...," and "Loading Map Index..." (in some browsers this will blink). When the data is finished loading, it will appear on the map. In most cases, the map data will load before the lake information. You can still use the map while the data is loading. However, checking or unchecking any of the boxes under "Map Legend & Options" while the data is loading may cause unintended effects on the map and cause it to function incorrectly.
If you accidently do this, just refresh the page and wait for the map data to load before using any of those options.
Buttons Above Map
Click on the buttons above the map to access the various options and information. Clicking on a button will show the information. Clicking on the same button will hide it again. Clicking a different button will hide whatever is showing and display the new information. Also, each information "section" has a "Hide" button in the upper right corner that will hide the information.
Map Legend & Options
Click on the button "Map Legend & Options" to see the map legend. From this view, you can also turn features on and off by clicking on the checkbox. If you want to save the map as shown as your default map, click on "Set Current Map as My Default". This will save the options checked and unchecked, the center of the map, and the zoom level so the map will appear as it is displayed the next time you load it. The "Reset Default to Original" button resets your default map to the so-called "factory condition". All options will be selected, and the map will be zoomed out and centered on the BWCA and Quetico.
To zoom into a BWCA or Quetico lake, select the lake from the appropriate drop-down box. The lists are in alphabetical order. The map zooms to the center of the lake. On the larger lakes, you may have to zoom out to view it better. Use the two buttons to center on the BWCA or Quetico respectively.
You can also zoom to any entry point. The BWCA entry points are at the top of the list. The Quetico entry points are found at the bottom and are marked as such.
The RouteFinder can be used to estimate the distance and shortest route from any entry point, campsite, or portage in the BWCA (not the Quetico yet) to any other. I will work on getting directions in the Quetico, too, but it is a lengthy process - for the BWCA, I had to manually put in about 25,000 paths connecting all of the campsites, portages, and entry points. The RouteFinder is for entertainment purposes only and should not be relied on for trip planning or navigation.
In putting it together, I had to rely on satellite images, information publicly available, and my own knowledge. There are mistakes, and if you find one, please report it so I can fix it.
Right-click on an entry point, campsite, or portage in the BWCA and select the "Add to RouteFinder" option. This will add the point to the destination list in the RouteFinder. You must have at least two points in the list to be able to find the route. The first location on the list is the starting point. All other locations will be visited in the order they are on the list. You can adjust where the location is on the list by using the up/down buttons. Use the remove button to remove the location from the list. Press the "Find Route" button when you are ready for it to calculate the shortest route.
- You can minimize either the time or the distance. The default is time.
- This is how the distance is reported back to you. Several options are available. The default is miles.
- How many trips do you need to make on a portage? If you double portage, choose 2 (which is the default). If you single portage, choose 1. The ".5" entries are if you make "half" portages. For example, if there are two people and three packs, one person goes all the way with one pack while the other drops one off half way. The person that went all the way goes back and gets the pack that was dropped off while the other gets the last pack. This is called doing a portage-and-a-half and is represented by "1.5" in the list.
Port. Load Minutes
- How many minutes do you spend loading and unloading at portages? This is the time spent not moving on the trail or on the water. The default is 10 minutes.
- These are the units for the paddling and portaging speed. By default, this is in miles per hour. You can change this to kilometers per hour.
- How fast do you paddle? By default, this is 3 MPH. This will vary from paddler to paddler, though, so you modify this to match your own paddling speed.
- How fast do you walk on portages? This has to be an average speed. For example, if you make more than one trip, average your speed while carrying a pack and while not.
Calc Accuracy vs. Speed
- Some route calculations, especially those over long distances, can take a long time. You can set it so it calculates faster. However, by doing this, the accuracy of the calculation may suffer (may not take the shortest route, may make some weird turns on a lake, etc.). If you just want the general idea of the route and don't need it exact, you can use the slider to adjust the calculation speed. By default, the calculation is set to accuracy instead of speed.
- You may want to avoid portages while on your route. With this setting you can adjust how far out of your way you are willing to go to avoid portaging.
When the RouteFinder is done calculating your route, the results will be shown here along with a highlighted route on the map. To show/hide the route on the map, use the applicable buttons. Note
- the portaging distance shown on the summary is the total distance you will have to walk on the portages. If you single portage, this is the length of the portage. If you double portage, you have to walk the portage three times, and this is reflected in the portaging distance shown.
All campsites within about a half mile of the route are shown here (although some campsites up to 1.5 miles away can be included). They are shown in order of straight-line distance ("as the crow flies") from the starting point, which may be different from the order you pass them on the route. Clicking on the campsite link will show where on the map it is located. The status, average rating, possible number of tent pads, PCD rating (for Quetico campsites), number of tent pads shown in the PCD (for Quetico campsites), and a link to the campsite's lake information are shown.
This tab shows, in order, the lakes that you will pass through on this route. Clicking on the lake name will bring up more detailed information. The state/province and an estimate of the acreage are shown. Also, a link to the Minnesota DNR LakeFinder page or the Ontario Fish ON-line site is included.
Portages are shown in the order that you will take them. The approximate number of rods and a link to more information are included.
There are errors in the RouteFinder. If you find an error, please report it using this form. The last route you tried to find is automatically included in the email that is sent. You can make further comments in the box - the more information you give me, the easier it will be for me to fix the route. When you are ready, press the "Send Error Report" button to send an email to me.
Route on Map
The calculated route is shown on the map. The green lines are where you paddle. The red lines are portages. You can left-click on the route to see the distance of the segment, the time required to navigate it, and the cumulative distance and time to that point. You can right-click on the route to show the RouteFinder summary (along with the normal map options) or hide the entire route.
- If the route is too long or complicated, the calculation will return an error. This is automatically reported. If you want to calculate a long route (such as one end of the BWCA to the other), you must specify some intermediate points along the way. This will help the program know which direction to go.
- If a location you have chosen is not connected to the "network," the RouteFinder will show that it is zero distance and zero time. This error is automatically reported. Note - hiking campsites do not have any RouteFinder information connected to them, so they will always return a zero distance.
- To make a route calculate faster, you can either use the "Calc Accuracy vs. Speed" setting (sacrificing accruracy for speed) or specify intermediate points. If you know that you have to take a portage, add it to the RouteFinder. Every point included greatly decreases the time needed to calculate the route. If the route is short and/or simple (i.e. pretty much a straight line with no bends or curves), doing this is probably not necessary as the calculation should be very fast.
- Remember, the RouteFinder feature is for entertainment purposes only. Actual paddle and portage time depends on many different things. Be prepared.
Right-clicking anywhere on the map and selecting "Map Details" will display the latitude and longitude of the location. It will also show the Fisher, McKenzie, and Voyageur maps that cover that location. You can click on the map name to display the area that the map covers. Click on "Hide Maps" to hide the map boundaries.
Link to Map
To get a link to the map as it is currently displayed, press "Link to Map". At the bottom of the box will be a link to the map as it is currently displayed. Using this link will override the default map and show exactly what is shown currently. Using this link would be useful to share the map with someone else and you would like them to see exactly what you are seeing. You can also use it to save a particular map in your bookmarks without having to change your default map.
If the map is moved, a feature turned on or off, or otherwise changed, you must press the "Update" button to refresh the map link as this does not change automatically.
Fisher, McKenzie, and Voyageur map companies all produce maps covering the Boundary Waters and/or Quetico. The Map Index allows you to see which maps cover what areas. Check/uncheck the box next to the map to show/hide the map boundaries. You can click on the box that appears (in an area not covered by lakes, portages, or other map features) to show the map name and, if available, a link to purchase the map. Click on the button named "Reset All Maps" to hide all the map boundaries.
All map boundaries are approximate and may not represent the actual map boundaries.
Campsites (and lake information in Internet Explorer) will not appear until you zoom in. This helps the map run faster and more smoothly.
BWCA Campsites (Active and Closed)
Clicking on a campsite will show the campsite number (just an identifying number) and the latitude and longitude. Closed campsites are gray. However, there are few campsites shown as active that really are closed. Therefore, verify all information obtained from this map with other sources. Getting to a campsite and then finding it closed can be at best an inconvenience and at worst dangerous.
Quetico Campsites (Potential and Unverified)
I received permission from J. Archer Harris to use the data from his Paddler's Campsite Database
(PCD). Unlike the BWCA, the Quetico does not have designated campsites. Commercial maps sometimes show places that are often used as campsites. The PCD obtained data about potential campsites from a few sources, including commercial maps, the Legacy Forest Internet Map Server
, and user input. Clicking on a campsite will show the campsite number from the PCD, a link to the PCD for that campsite, the latitude/longitude, and the campsite rating from the PCD.
Important note about the PCD:
Before using any of the information from the PCD, you should read the PCD description
. As a summary, this says that there is no guarantee of accuracy for any of the information in the PCD. It contains unreliable information. The "campsites" from the Legacy Forest Server are especially unreliable because they sometimes represent places such as lunch spots rather than places that you could set up camp. (This map represents the Legacy Forest Server campsites as gray dots rather than red ones.) One of the goals of the PCD is to have the paddling community help improve the information out there. I would encourage you to help out the PCD and the paddling community by contributing.
I only periodically update my data with the data from the PCD, so this map may not match what is shown in the PCD.
BWCA and Quetico Entry Points
Clicking on an entry point will show the entry point number, its name, the type of entry point, the daily permit quota, and a link to see more information on the entry point. The entry point are positioned at a likely parking lot or trailhead, not at the entry itself. In some cases, especially with the Quetico southern entries, the entry point represents the ranger station where the permit is picked up.
The map includes photos from Panoramio
. Clicking on a photo will show a larger version of it. The photos can be turned off under "Map Legend & Options". Photos uploaded by members of this site are also displayed if they were tagged with a location. To upload your own photo, make sure you are logged in, right-click on the location, and select "Add Photo." You will only be given this option if you are zoomed in far enough to see campsites on the map.
Clicking on a lake in the BWCA (not the Quetico) will show a window with the lake name and, if available, a link to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) Lake Finder page for that lake. Most lakes have this link. The MN DNR has compiled a lot of data for lakes, including fish species, stocking information, lake maps, water quality, and water levels. Not all information is available for all lakes. For some lakes on the map, an link will be included, but nothing will appear on the MN DNR website, meaning no information is available.
Right-clicking on a BWCA (Minnesota) lake will give you an option to view an overlay of the contours from the MN DNR. This option is not available for all lakes. I am working on getting the lake contours put in, and I am generally starting at the large lakes and working down to the small ones. To hide the lake contours, right-click on the lake again and select "Hide Lake Contours."
In Internet Explorer versions 8 and below, you must click on the blue lake icons instead of clicking anywhere on the lake as is available in other browsers.
Clicking on a portage will show the portage number (just an identifying number) and the number of rods (1 rod = 16.5 feet). The portage lengths were calculated using GPS coordinates and probably are not 100% accurate.
Because the length is not totally accurate, it is only included to give a general idea of the distance. The position of the portage also may not be exact. In some cases, the portage shown is old and has been changed since the data was compiled.
Each portage includes a button that says "See Portage Elevation". Clicking on this will show a graph above the map showing the elevation in meters at 2-rod intervals. Hovering over the points on the graph will show the approximate position, the approximate number of rods from the beginning, and the elevation in meters. The first time a portage's elevation data is retrieved may take a few seconds, so be patient. After it is loaded the first time, it will load much more quickly in the future.
Important note about the elevation graph:
The graph uses Google's elevation service to obtain the elevation data. This data may include approximations, so it cannot be considered 100% accurate. The graph is included to show an approximation of the terrain you will have to traverse on the portage. You should also consider the scale of the graph. The graph may make the portage look very hilly, but the scale on the left of the map may only change by a few meters, meaning that the portage actually is very flat. On the other hand, the graph may look smooth, but the scale may change by several dozen meters, making the portage very hilly. (The first situation is much more common than the second.)
Currently, the only information available for hiking trails is the name of the trail.
The boundaries for the BWCA and the Quetico are shown (the Canadian side is the Quetico). No information is available by clicking on them.
Primitive Management Areas
There are 12 Primitive Management Areas (PMAs) in the BWCA. These are areas that have no designated campsites or maintained portages. They can be very challenging both physically and mentally. Though you can enter them on day trips, you must obtain a special permit to be able to camp overnight in them (contact the applicable ranger district
for more information). Each PMA is divided into zones. Only one party per night may camp in a zone. Clicking on a PMA will show the PMA name and the zone.
All campsites in PMAs are shown as gray dots (closed). These are old campsites that may or may not be serviceable to those staying in a PMA. The portage data I obtained included portages in PMAs. However, portages in PMAs are not maintained. These portages probably are just faint trails through the woods (if even that). I have left them on the map for informational purposes.
The boundaries for three major fires are shown: Cavity Lake (2006), Ham Lake (2007), and Pagami Creek (2011). Wildfires are the forest's way of regenerating. In fact, jack pines rely on fires to reproduce. The burned areas are included on the map because some people prefer to either travel through the areas or avoid them. Visiting the burned areas from year to year allows you to see how a forest regenerates. However, the burned trees may detract somewhat from the "beauty" of the area, especially in the first year or two after the fire.
You can download and view the map in Google Earth. Some functions are slightly different in Google Earth than they are on this map. Please be patient as it may take a long time to download the file.
Internet Explorer Issues
When I was testing the map, it did not work very well in Internet Explorer (IE) versions 8 and below. To make the map usable in IE, some features are different. The main differences are:
- In other browsers, you can click anywhere on a lake to get information. In IE, you have to click on a blue dot that is at approximately the center of the lake.
- In IE, you have to zoom in one more level than other browsers to be able to see campsites and other markers.
Even with these changes, the map still is a little choppy in IE. The map works very well in Firefox
, and these are recommended to view to map. I did not test browsers other than these three. You can also install Google Chrome Frame
for Internet Explorer. Installing this plugin will allow you to use all of the features of this map in Internet Explorer. If you use IE, this page will prompt you to install Google Chrome Frame every time you visit it. I did this because the difference in performance between IE and other browsers is so drastic.