We have been hearing a lot of misinformation going around social media recently. Regarding both the wildfires in the area as well as the campfire ban. So, we wanted to make a post clarifying these things. We are also including a map of area wildfires to help ease your mind as to the location of the wildfires and what impacts they may have on your North Shore vacation.
Please Note: The information on this post is current as of August 25, 2021, at 9:00 am. This article and map of area wildfires do not include any additional fires that may start after publishing. When possible, I will update this post with information as it comes in and will update this note with the date. For up-to-date wildfire information please visit the Boreal Regional Wildfire Updates page. It is updated more frequently.
Map of Area Wildfires
First, some people are worried that the wildfires might directly impact their North Shore Vacation. We heard of guests leaving early thinking Highway 61 was about to be closed. This is not true! The wildfires currently burning in the area are nowhere near Highway 61 or any North Shore towns. But, even some locals struggle with knowing where Greenwood Lake, Whelp Lake, and John Ek Lake are and how close or far away they are. So, I have created a map of the current wildfire situation in Northern Minnesota. I manually update this map whenever possible. Click here to reference another fire and smoke map to see the current situation including updates on each fire (size and actions).
Greenwood Lake Fire – Over 25 Miles From Highway 61
The wildfires are marked on the map. The one closest to homes, cabins, and towns is the Greenwood Lake Fire. That fire is currently burning about 25 miles away from Highway 61. The current trend of the fire has it burning north towards the Canadian border, not south or east towards Highway 61. However, the Greenwood Lake Fire is affecting parts of Highway 2 and Highway 1. Highway 2 is closed from Forest Highway 11 to Highway 1. Highway 1 is closed from New Tomahawk Road to Lankinen Road. If your trip plans included travel on these roads, you will need to research alternate routes to get to the North Shore.
If you are visiting the area from the Twin Cities area, Rochester, Wisconsin, Chicago, etc. this closure will not affect you. Highway 61 is open.
Perhaps you heard about area evacuations. The Greenwood Fire is affecting some local resorts and cabins in the Isabella/Finland areas. As a result, there have been many people evacuated from homes, campgrounds, and resorts in the surrounding area. This does not affect any Cascade Vacation Rentals properties. If you are staying elsewhere and are concerned about proximity to the fire, reach out to your resort or host to learn more.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Fires – Contained Entirely Within the BWCA
On August 23rd there were pre-evacuation orders made for the northernmost part of the Gunflint Trail. While this does affect one Cascade Vacation Rentals property, those guests have been notified and do not need to evacuate at this time, it’s simply putting Gunflint Trail residents and guests on alert. This allows them to prepare to evacuate if needed, but that likelihood is still pretty low, at this time. This is due to the John Ek fire and three other fires burning within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). They have also cleared recreation areas north of Poplar Lake on the Gunflint Trail. This means no camping or hiking in areas north of Poplar Lake, including popular hikes like Magnetic Rock.
The Gunflint Trail is still open! You can still visit area restaurants and drive the entire trail. All of these actions are precautionary to ensure there is no person in the wilderness unaccounted for.
The Whelp, John Ek, Gabi, and Petit Fires are currently burning entirely within the BWCA. You can see the two of them on the map of area wildfires burning somewhat close together. Both are far away from civilization. No cabins or resorts are currently being threatened by these fires.
However, out of an abundance of caution, the BWCA is currently closed and has been evacuated. No day or overnight permits are currently being issued. Again, this was done out of an abundance of caution. The US Forest Service made the decision on Saturday, August 21 to remove people from the wilderness. This will hopefully prevent any human-made fires from adding to the current situation. It will also ensure there are no canoers or campers in the wilderness should another lightning strike start a fire. This is not an emergency situation!
The element of the wildfires that may affect your trip is the smoke. We have had several days this summer with poor air quality. In fact, the air quality has been affected all the way down to the Minnesota/Iowa border this summer because of wildfires. If you live in the Twin Cities area, you have likely experienced similar air quality issues this summer.
In the case of Northern Minnesota, most of the smoke you will see in the air is actually coming from wildfires burning in Ontario, Canada over 50 miles away. Not from the three local wildfires, as much. This is due to the way the wild direction carries smoke. Days with bad air quality do tend to be sporadic and short-lasting. For most, outdoor activities can continue. For those with health issues affected by poor air quality, there are many indoor activities you can partake in while waiting for a clear day.
Campfire Ban Continues
After the area received some rain over the weekend, many thought the campfire ban was lifted. This is also not true! The campfire ban is still in effect. It will take a significant amount of rain (several days of steady rainfall) to ease fire danger. We expect that the current campfire ban on public AND private lands will continue through August, at least. At this time, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department has a Zero Tolerance policy. Any parties caught having a campfire will receive a citation. They are not giving out warnings. This is very serious. This includes fires in designated fire rings. There are no fires allowed at all.
Furthermore, Cascade Vacation Rentals has a separate ban on our properties that includes charcoal BBQ grills. At this time, charcoal grills and campfires are not allowed at any CVR properties. Guests caught by staff having a fire while the company fire ban is in effect will be asked to leave immediately.
The fire you need to worry about is the one that hasn’t started yet. By doing our part, we can prevent a potentially dangerous wildfire from starting closer to homes and towns. We thank our guests again for your continued diligence on this matter. We do know it sucks and we are sorry.
The North Shore Is Open! Come on Up!
The three fires are all burning many miles away from any shoreside town. Highway 61 is not being threatened by the fires or even a pre-emptive closure. Guests will be able to come and go just fine. The only way these fires will affect your trip is if you had a planned moose search drive planned on Highway 1 or 2 (both can still be used up to the blockade) or if you had planned a BWCA day trip or a hiking trip on the furthest area of the Gunflint Trail (like Magnetic Rock).
While these are favorite activities done by many guests, there is still plenty to do! Take a hike, visit a museum, go see a waterfall, etc. Yes, the waterfalls are still flowing and still beautiful! Those rumors have also been incorrect. They are low-flow, for certain. But we have personally visited several area waterfalls and they are flowing.
And we want to give a shout-out of support to the local and national firefighters who are banding together to fight the fires. We appreciate all you do!