Parts of Boundary Waters to reopen as crews work to contain northern Minnesota wildfires

Portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are set to reopen on Saturday, forest officials say.

The BWCA had been closed since Aug. 21 due to wildfires in the area, and the closure was most recently extended to Friday.

In a video update on Wednesday, Superior National Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins said while some much-needed rain fell across the state over the past week, the forest remains under extreme drought conditions.

Recent moderate weather conditions have given firefighters a leg up in the fight to contain the blazes. The Greenwood Fire, the largest fire burning in Minnesota, has held steady at 41 square miles in size over the past several days and is now 37% contained.

Cummins said favorable conditions have led forest officials to start a phased reopening of the BWCA. On Saturday, parts of the Lacroix, Kawishiw and Tofte ranger districts will reopen to visitors for overnight and day use.

Areas to the east around the John Ek and Whelp fires, particularly near the end of the Gunflint Trail, will stay closed for now, Cummins said. People with permits in these areas through Sept. 10 will be canceled and refunded.

Sign-ups for permits in the open areas of the BWCA will be available starting Thursday.

Campfires are not permitted in Superior National Forest for the time being.

"It’s too risky," Cummins said. "We’re willing to let people back in to enjoy some of the fall but just ask that you do not have a campfire. Those are opportunities for fires to take off."