White Iron Chain Of Lakes Association

News & Updates Blog

Help monitor lakes in the BWCAW!

By the Minnesota MPCA

We need you! Since lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) are so difficult to access, they are rarely sampled by the MPCA or our local partners. Volunteer water monitors collect some for the only water quality data available on Boundary Waters lakes. Our goal is to have visitors to the BWCAW collect water clarity data on the lakes that they paddle through on their trips.

Monitoring procedure

Monitoring is easy and convenient for BWCAW travelers! Volunteers are provided with a monitoring kit which contains a lightweight Secchi disk with a calibrated rope, waterproof cards for data collection, a laminated instruction sheet and a pencil.

Monitoring water clarity in the BWCAW is fun too! Before entering a lake, volunteers collect several stones to weight the disk so it will sink. The stones are placed in a "pouch" connected to the disk (full-weight metal disks are also available if weight is not a concern for you). Volunteers paddle to the deepest part of the lake or to the middle of the lake to take a transparency reading with the Secchi disk. Volunteers lower the disk into the water until it is no longer visible, note that depth from the calibrated rope, then lower it further, raise the disk until it is just visible again for a second depth reading. The two depth readings are averaged and the final number is recorded on one of the data cards, along with a drawing of the approximate monitoring location. This procedure is repeated for each lake along the volunteers' route.

Upon return home, the volunteers return the entire kit (including the data cards) to us in a postage-paid padded envelope provided by the MPCA. Returning the kit as soon as possible is essential to the success of this program as we have only a limited number of disks to be shared between many interested volunteers.

Become a BWCAW Volunteer!

If you'd like to help monitor BWCAW lakes, contact the Citizen Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator at 800-657-3864 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You will be asked to provide the dates of your trip, the number of lakes you expect to be on, and when you'll be able to send the kit back for the next person to use.

Thank you very much for your interest in helping us gather needed information on these little sampled lakes. We appreciate your commitment to Minnesota's natural resources, and look forward to working with you soon!

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PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731

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