Help us monitor lakes in the Boundary Waters!

Woman sitting in canoe on lake surrounded by pine trees lowers a flat white disk into the water by a string

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is an iconic slice of wilderness in the far reaches of northern Minnesota. Stretching over 1 million acres, this heavily forested landscape is speckled with gorgeous glacial lakes. Nearly 20% of the BWCA’s total area is water, which makes it a paradise for lake lovers, but a challenge to monitor. Luckily, the BWCA is the most heavily used wilderness in the country, so visitors can play an important role in the monitoring of these amazing lakes.

Volunteer to collect water clarity data on your next BWCA trip

No prior experience or training is needed. The MPCA provides the monitoring kit and it can be used on any lake in the BWCA. It only takes a few minutes of your time to measure water clarity as you paddle through a lake, making it a great activity for both adults and kids.

Hooked? Contact the program coordinator at 800-657-3864 or and let them know the dates of your next trip. You will receive a lake monitoring kit in the mail before your BWCA adventure starts. Then, simply return the kit in the provided postage-paid envelope. It’s so easy to make a difference for lakes in the BWCA!

How are volunteer-collected BWCA data used?

Volunteer-collected data help the MPCA identify changing water quality trends on lakes in the Boundary Waters. Since volunteers collect some of the only data available on lakes in the BWCA, their work is an invaluable component to this process. To find water quality data on your favorite BWCA lake, check out the MPCA’s online data portal.

Volunteer-collected data are also used to groundtruth the University of Minnesota’s Remote Sensing initiative that uses satellite imagery to monitor lake clarity in the state.

Why is water clarity important?

Water clarity is an important indicator of lake health. It signifies the amount of algae in the water, which can affect plant, insect, fish and wildlife communities. Checking water clarity is one of the easiest ways to understand lake health.