Ely adventurers to spend year in BWCA

Amy and Dave Freeman during their 11,700 mile circumnavigation of North America by kayak, foot and dog sled. (PHOTO: Ron Doctor)

Amy and Dave Freeman during their 11,700 mile circumnavigation of North America by kayak, foot and dog sled in 2013. (PHOTO: Ron Doctor)

Dave and Amy Freeman, who split time between Ely and Grand Marais in far northern Minnesota, are adventurers in every sense of the world. It’s their job, their hobby, and their way of life. I’ve written about their adventures in my column and here on my blogAmy appeared on my radio show when Dave was kayaking Rio Roosevelt in Brazil. It’s just fascinating to me how committed they are to challenging themselves and making a statement about the importance of wilderness.

They’ve selected their next adventure and it’s close to home. For the next year, the Freemans will live in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness — experiencing all four seasons in Minnesota’s most pristine forests and lakes.

They are doing this for a cause, to raise awareness of what many wilderness advocates see as the threat of proposed new mining projects in Northern Minnesota.

“We are wilderness guides and educators and this is our way of working to help keep this wilderness wild,” said Amy Freeman in a statement. “We care deeply about this place and we will do everything within our power to ensure that it remains intact for the next generation.”

The conflict between those who support new mining and those who oppose its impact on the land and water is certainly a source of much discussion and controversy here at MinnesotaBrown. Obviously, opinions vary. Nevertheless, it is remarkable to note the Freemans’ commitment to living out their political positions in sometimes uncomfortable conditions.

More details from the Save the Boundary Waters materials:

“On September 23, 2015, Dave and I will launch our canoe in the Kawishiwi River and paddle into the Boundary Waters and become immersed in the Wilderness for a full year,” said Freeman “We will camp at approximately 120 different sites during this Year in the Wilderness and travel more than 3,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team. This trip is about bearing witness to the very land and water we are fighting to protect.”

Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled more than 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places, from the Amazon to the Arctic. They are 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year.

The Freemans also run the Wilderness Classroom Organization, an educational nonprofit geared towards inspiring kids to get outside and explore their world. Wilderness Classroom’s current reach is 100,000 elementary and middle school students, and 3,200 teachers around the world.

Throughout A Year in the Wilderness, the Freemans will invite others on resupply missions that will allow them to personally witness the beauty of the Boundary Waters and what’s at risk from the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining.

Dates and locations for A Year in the Wilderness kick-off events, resupply missions and other information will be announced closer to the launch of A Year in the Wilderness.

Amy and Dave Freeman finished their kayak journey around North American at Key West, Florida. (Bryan Hansel)

Amy and Dave Freeman finished their kayak journey around North American at Key West, Florida. (Bryan Hansel)


  1. I’m going to visit all the beautiful schools (start with Hibbing & Ely), little towns and businesses that mining has funded over the past 100 yrs. I’m going to do it by myself without funding from others or a non profit. I will be doing it by truck mostly but also by foot. Wish me well, no donations please, thank you.

    • Karl Haldorson says

      I am angered by the thought that this adventure is going to take place to raise awareness? Those of us who live or have lived in this pristine area of Minnesota understand entirely what is at hand. This part of the state has not flourished on handouts from the government. Mining is their way of life!!!

  2. Independant says

    I am jealous, I have a hard time getting more than two weekend boundary waters entry permits per year and I love it there. Fill me in on the secrete to getting a full year of access. I personally have no concern about water quality. The should start the trip at miners lake in Ely. A former evil mining pit that has become a recreational destination for locals and vacationers…

    • Blasphemy Independent, I expect you to tie yourself to the nearest tree and burn yourself to a crisp for the not being concerned about our water. You are out of lockstep with the rest of the comrades and I personally love it. I am looking at the lake I live on , fish in, swim in, play on and don’t have any concerns about its quality either.

      • Hopefully your children will be able to have no need for concern over water quality on your lake either. Well, with the help of all the people dedicated to protecting the things you take for granted. Wake up.

  3. No Seth, we take care of our lake.. Just like anything you love you take care of it. Don’t need Big Govt to help me take care of things I hold dear. Must be nerve wracking waiting for someone you don’t know to take care of the things you love… I chose to do it myself.

    • You are making the exact same point about your lake that Aaron has been making about the Range economy. A lot of people are neither opposed nor support mining. The point is mining will never save the Range economy or what tiny bit is left of Range society. The limited amount of people still living on the Range would need to improve the economy on their own. Hoping new mines open in order to fix things is no different than waiting for someone you don’t know to take care of your lake.

      • Independant says

        It is not the same. A lot of people are not hoping, they are working and developing new mining operations that will expand the local mining industry into new materials and processes. Of course diversifying our economy is what we all want but eliminating mining does not accomplish diversification.

  4. So your lake gets overrun with some invasive species that kills fishing and aquatic life of the lake. Or runoff of cabin/home sewers, wastewater is polluting your lake, choking it with weeds and algae. How do you or the other lake residents fix that all by your little old selves? Got unlimited amounts of money?

    Do you really believe you are the master of your own Randian universe and need nuttin’ from nobody else?

    • Imdependant says

      Wow. I am concerned about water quality in general as my home is on St Louis river waterfront. I think I have as much skin in the game as anyone on this one. What I am not concerned about is the effects of projects like Polymet. The 10 year environmental review process has hammered on water quality standards that must be met by law and I have not read anything in the documents or at the three public meetings last year that caused be to be concerned about what would take place on the Polymet project if they follow the law. As a mater of fact I believe some existing conditions will be improved on the former LTV/Erie Mining site because of this project.

    • No I control what I can control and don’t get paranoid waiting for the invasion of the species that decimates our lake, hasn’t happened in 60 yrs of being here. We have a lake council that takes care of sewage that we all oversee and abide by not because it is a rule or law but because we love our lake. Did all this without big Govt telling us what, how, when and why to take care of our lake. Amazing what regular folks can do.

  5. Can those water quality standards be guaranteed? If the water quality is severely compromised, who pays to attempt to rectify that if that is even possible, the company or the taxpayers?

    • Independant says

      What guaranty would satisfy those who oppose Polymet because they oppose mining in general. They already “guaranty” to meet all applicable water quality regulations but that is not enough for the opponents of mining. That is the whole point. If the folks opposed to mining keep everything vague with no specifics it is a never ending cycle of B.S. that never actually solves anything but is rather just a strategic way to drag things out in perpetuity.

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