firewood in Quetico


This is a very stupid question,but here goes anyway. Cliff Jacobsen in his DVD on the old ways,which I found quite usefull,comments that you can’t expect to find firewood easily in Quetico and the Boundary Waters. I’m going on my fisrt trip in Quetico in June. While I’ll carry a stove and adequate fuel, I curious. Is firewood really difficult to find? Thanks for any info.Frogge.

firewood is hard to come by …
paddlers of bygone years with no knowledge of the outdoors, and a predeliction for burning anything that grows, seem to have hacked down most decent wood surrounding many campsites.

please don’t go in there and hack down what may remain. downed wood serves a significant ecological need. fires char the landscape, leave burnt rings, leave charcoal filled fireplaces that have to be cleaned up by rangers and serve no purpose other than to create a false ambiance.

enjoy the water. enjoy the woods. enjoy the flora and fauna you find there … and use a stove to cook your meals. leave no trace.

you are now free to move about the campsite.


I always take an empty canoe to another shoreline away from the campsite and gather downed and dead branches, dead falls, etc. Within 1/2 hour I can have enough wood without hacking anything down or disturbing any live trees. If you get away from the campsites there is generally a lot of firewood. No hacking of live trees or even knocking standing dead timber is necessary, there is a lot just lying on the ground or hung up just off the ground.

That being said. In the Quetico you can build a fire anywhere, but I suggest using existing firepits. Fires leave scars, so if you use an existing pit, you aren’t leaving a new scar. Some minimal-impact advocates discourage fires, and I respect their opinion, but I really like a campfire once in a while.

Leave no trace…
Explain the “Leave No Trace” concept. Do you pack out all your urine & feces? Do you strain your dishwashing water and pack out the food particals? Do you spit? Does your trip to the destination leave no trace? Car/truck burns fuel right? Do you paddle a boat? It was manufactured using toxic and hazardous chemicals, which generate waste. Did the lumber company leave no trace when they cut the trees to make the structural lumber for your house? The list goes on, but you get my point. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t advocate being a willy nilly polluter or an abuser of our natural resources but certain hardline principles do border on the absurd. It’s akin to the vegetarian wearing leather shoes. I’m not one, but a campfire is an integral part of the camping experience. Me I don’t like hunting/gathering for firewood. For one nighters, I bring my own wood. Yeah campfires leaves a mark, but so does mining the coal that powers your local power generation plant that is providing the electricity necessary for you to read this. It’s a trade off. All things in moderation. Peace.

Just to set the record straight. I’m not a big fan of campfires. I,“stealth camp” using hammocks and minimal equipment. I like to spend most of my time on the water and intend to spend a good deal of time fishing. I asked about availability of wood to decide what equipment to bring. I wouldn’t cut anything down since it is too much work and green wood doesn’t burn worth a damn. I’m leaning toward cooking at a separate site from camp for both logistical reasons and to stay out of the way of bears. Thanks for the info,Frogge.

you’re being silly …
no, i don’t pack out my feces and yes, i pee on the ground … but so do the moose and bear so i figure, no harm, no foul. i bury my feces. i bury any food ‘particles’ but trust me, after a hard day portaging and paddling, there’s precious little residual food.

you’ve taken the point to absurdity. leave no trace simply means that when you leave the place in which you’ve camped, nobody coming along after you would be able to know that you were there. parking your car at the ‘put in’ has nothing whatever to do with leave no trace.

paddling to some other spot to cook in order to avoid bears is pointless if you keep a clean camp. moreover, studies have shown that bears are attracted to campfire smoke.

camp on.

cook at your campsite
keep a clean campsite, keep your food up out of reach, and enjoy being where you are. It would be a hassle to have to go somewhere else to cook. If you wanted a cup of tea, would you be able to boil water without going to your “cook site”?

Avoid any campsites with bear scat, visible prints, or dirty campsites. Talk to an outfitter or ranger about any problem bear sites or areas, and enjoy being right where you are.

If you want a fire and there is no burning restriction… burn baby burn.

for engaging the discussion. Yes, silly is correct, thanks for making my point. I was being silly to demonstrate the silliness of the phrase “Leave No Trace”. My beef is not with you, unless you coined that phrase, moreover my issue is that the leave no trace concept is unattainable for all and misleading to new folks. Humans leave a trace everywhere we go. Low impact is a more accurate request of land users. The best we can hope for is that we don’t leave our trash out there and we leave a camp site cleaner than we found it. Like I said initially, all things in moderation.

ok, i’m a low impact kinda guy …

not at campsites
It can be ridiculously easy to find firewood if you paddle five minutes off your campsite and are willing to get your feet a little wet and load firewood into the boat, and do a little woods scourng for appropriate downed trees.

Its true that if you arent inclined to do this or lack the time there will usually be no firewood near your campsite. Sometimes there will be a pile; but its polite to replace what you used. I feel like a mother but please dont saw down trees around your campsite(Im sure youve heard that too much already!)

All bets are off if you camp on islands. Guaranteed there will be no downed wood. I usually pick a mainland site.

two problems one fix
Fire wood around some heavily used campsites can be scarce, especially on island sites. Another problem in these same sites is the abundance of human waste and toilet paper present behind the site. I try not to use these sites, but when I do camp on island sites I paddle to some other non-campsite place to defecate and while I am at it fill the canoe with fire wood. People are not careful enough about how they deal with waste. There needs to be good soil depth to properly bury it and sometimes you have to search a little bit to find a good place.

Clean overnight camps
> paddling to some other spot to cook in order

to avoid bears is pointless …

I think you missed the point. If you stop early, cook your main meal, then travel some distance to your overnight camp, then the overnight camp will be inherently ‘clean’, especially if you never open your cooking/food containers.

For river travel, this is my preferred schedule. I try to pick sites where I have easy water after dinner and to warm up on in the morning.



Making small fires using dead willow works well for me. I carry a pruning saw and can remove dead branches without leaving broken ends that stick out. Some campsites I’ve used had no fire rings. By building a small fire on sand I’m able to hide it easily when done. Crushing all coals then drowning then ensures the fire is out. Covering them with sand or forest debris hides it from others.