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Boundary Waters gains international quiet designation

The million-acre wilderness is only the second park to gain the status.

BWCAW
The Boundary Waters canoe Area Wilderness has received official "Wilderness Quiet Park" destination from the group Quiet Parks International.
Contributed / Jeff Anderson / Quiet Parks International

LOS ANGELES — With an official international dark sky area designation already awarded, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has now been named an official Wilderness Quiet Park thanks to its lack of human noise.

The award comes from the Los Angeles-based group Quiet Parks International. The BWCAW becomes only the second park — following Glacier National Park — to gain the quiet designation.

“The award recognizes the BWCAW's pristine soundscape and lack of man-made noise intrusions, a rare feat even in the United States' most remote Wilderness Areas,’’ the group said in a statement announcing the designation.

Voyageurs National Park could be next for dark sky certfication.

Volunteers collected and analyzed soundscape and noise pollution data in and around the BWCAW throughout 2021 and 2022. The findings were conclusive that the BWCAW met the criteria for a Wilderness Quiet Park Award.

The group said that, other than air traffic, the wilderness designation of the U.S. Forest Service-managed area — with no motors or mechanized equipment allowed — preserves its noise-free soundscapes crucial for healthy ecosystems and human enjoyment.

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"The BWCAW has a dependable noise-free interval of 15 minutes or more, which is a remarkable achievement,’’ Matt Mikkelsen, executive director of Wilderness Quiet Parks, said in a statement. “We hope this award encourages other wilderness areas to prioritize natural quiet and inspires people to experience the beauty of the BWCAW soundscape. We would also like to express our gratitude to our partner, Save the Boundary Waters , for their work protecting this vast wild area from copper mining.”

About 150,000 people each year visit the million-acre BWCAW, mostly by canoe in summer or skis and snowshoes in winter. While motorboats, snowmobiles and other human noises can be heard inside the periphery of the wilderness, deep within the lake-studded area, most human noises fade away.

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