A BWCA Glossary


Cacabic
A lake. "Waterfall" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Calcareous
Substances containing or composed of calcium carbonate. An important factor in understanding the differences between bog, fen, and swamp.
Calla
Any of the lily-like arums of the genus Calla. Represented in the North Country by the Wild Calla Lily (Calla palustris) of shallow waters.
Calyx
Flower part. The outer ring of floral leaves (Sepals), usually green, which encloses the base of the flower structure.
Cambium
The thin layer of living cells, sandwiched between the wood and the innermost bark of a tree. Each growing season the cambium adds a new layer of cells on the wood already formed (an annual ring), as well as a layer of inner bark on the its outer face.
Camdre
A lake in the lower Kawishiwi drainage. Name derivation unknown.
Camp Robber
In the vernacular of the North Woods, the scavenging jay of campsites and lumber camps. Less colorfully known as the Grey or Canada Jay, (Perisoreus canadensis).
Canadian Shield
The great expanse of tough, ancient bedrock exposed by the glaciers and stretching across much of Canada south of Hudson Bay and into northeastern Minnesota and the BWCA.

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Canoe
The optimal method of travel in what we call Canoe Country, whether for Ojibwe, Voyageur, or contemporary tripper. From the Haitian canoa; dating back to the expeditions of Columbus, who discovered them in use in the Caribbean.
Canoe Rest
Formerly, poles nailed up between trees, or extending from a tree, at a height chosen to provide optimal support for a portaged canoe. Installed on long portages, often at the top of a long hard climb, they provided welcome relief to tired shoulders. Not compatible with wilderness values, they have been removed from the BWCAW.
Canoe Sign
In the vernacular of Canoe Country, canoes leave signs of their passing much like roving moose and mustelids. Generally these take the form of bright silver streaks on rocks at or near the surface of the water, particularly at portages. At closer range, red and green sign are often seen as well.
Canopy
The highest level of vegetation in the forest, forming a more or less continuous cover from the branches and foliage of adjacent tree crowns. A forest canopy can be closed or open and is a major factor in determining what can grow below.
Cant Hook
Stout wooden lever, having a toe ring and lip at the end, used in rolling logs. Differs from a peavey in that it has no spike in the end of the stock. In the BWCAW, has given its name to a lake and Primitive Management Area.
Capillary Fringe
The unsaturated zone immediately above the water table but containing water in direct contact with the water table. Also known as Zone of Aeration.
Capillary Water
Water occupying small spaces in the soil and held to soil particles by surface tension of the water molecules for each other and for the soil particles.
Caribou
Arctic deer (Rangifer tarandus). The Woodland Caribou of boreal forest and muskeg was once present in the Boundary Waters ecosystem but has since withdrawn well north of the border. It has given its name to several North Country lakes.
Caribou Rock Trail
A hiking trail exending north from Hungry Jack Lake to the Stairway Portage and falls on the south shore of Rose Lake. (BWCAW Entry Point 60).
Caribou Trail
Cook County Road 4, arising from the North Shore of Lake Superior just north of Lutsen and providing access to Brule Lake and nearby entry points.
Carnivore
An animal whose diet is made up primarily of the flesh of other animals. The preeminent carnivore of the North Woods is, of course, the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). From the Latin, caro, "flesh", and vorare, "to swallow."
Carp Portage
A 15 rod Border Route portage, between Seed and Melon Lakes.
Casual
To birders and ornithologists, a bird species which occurs so infrequently in a given locale that it might be seen up to three times over the course of a decade by an active observer. Somewhat more commonly occurring species are termed Rare; less common Accidental. In northeastern Minnesota, the Three Toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) is considered a casual summer visitor and resident. The closely related Black Backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) is considered rare.
Cation
An ion that has a positive electrical charge. That is, an atom that has lost one or more electrons. Important to understanding the chemical properties of bogs.
Cat
Only three wild cats (Felidæ) are native to the North Country, the Lynx (Lynx canadensis) at the southern limit of its range in the BWCA, the Bobcat (Lynx rufus) at the northern end of its range, and the Mountain Lion (Felis concolor), a species of special concern to the Minnesota DNR.
Catkin
A flower structure composed of an often drooping, or pendulous, cluster of unisexual, petal-less flowers, typical of wind pollinated trees and shrubs, such as willows (Salix spp.) and birches (Betula spp.). Also called an ament.
Caudal Fin
Ichthyologist-speak for the fin on the hindmost part of the body of a fish; the tailfin to the layperson.
Caudal Peduncle
On fishes, the area on the lower side of the body between the tail (Caudal Fin) and the Anal Fin.
Cedar
Any of several species of the genus Cedrus, native to Eurasia. Commonly applied to the Northwoods cypress, Thuja occidentalis ("White Cedar"), as well as the native juniper tree, Juniperus virginiana ("Eastern Red Cedar") from just south of our region. From the Old English ceder, derived from the Latin cedrus. Gijik in the Ojibwe.
Cenozoic
The current geologic era, from 66.4 million years ago to the present.
Chemical Sedimentary Rock
Formed from precipitates in the water. Includes limestone, gypsum, and iron ore.
Chickadee
Any of several species of small and hardy birds of the genus Parus, native to North America and Eurasia. Represented in the North Country by two of the region's few year round bird species, the Black Capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus), here at the northern edge of its range, and the Boreal Chickadee (Parus hudsonicus) a northern bird at the southern extreme of its distribution.
Chipmunk
Small striped rodent and frequent campsite visitor, represented in the North Country by two species, the Least Chipmunk (Eutamius minimus), and the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus).
Chippewa
The native peoples of the North Country, also known as Ojibwe, and to themselves Anishinabe.
Chlorophyll
A green, light-absorbing pigment found in plants and other photosynthetic organisms. A magnesium-porphyrin complex, it is an essential electron donor in photosynthesis.
Cilia
On lichens, the hair-like structures extending from the edge of the lobes.
Cinquefoil
Any of a number of species of the Rose family genus Potentilla. Well represented in the North Country by the Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta), Silver Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea), Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), Rough Cinquefoil (Potentilla norvejica), Swamp Cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris), and Wine Leaf Cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata), among others.
Circumboreal
Plant and animal species widespread in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, occurring in both North America and Eurasia. Sometimes referred to as circumpolar. The common Canoe Country shrubs, Sweet Gale (Myrica gale) and Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) are circumboreal, as are the Goshawk (Accipiter gracilis) and Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus). Circumboreal Plants List.
Clastic Sedimentary Rock
Formed from settled particles. Includes sandstones, siltstones, and mudstones.
Clay
Mineral soil characterized by extremely small particles, not necessarily clay minerals, that are less than 0.074 mm in their maximum dimension, the finest of any soil type. Common elsewhere but not so much in the BWCA.
Clear Cut
A method of logging which removes all trees in an area, piling and burning the brush and trees too small to be of economic value. Very efficient. Very destructive.
Clear Length
Portion of the tree between the ground and the point where the lowest limbs join the trunk.
Cliff Brake
Any of nearly 100 small, rock-loving ferns of the genera Cryptogramma and Pellaea. Represented in the North Country by two species, the Slender Cliff Brake (Cryptogramma stelleri) and the Smooth Cliff Brake (Pellaea glabella).
Climax
The presumed stable endpoint of plant succession. It is a self-perpetuating community where the plants and animals can succeed themselves. The climax community for a site is dependent on the topography, climate, and disturbances, characteristic of that site. Well demonstrated elsewhere, it may be only a theoretical construct for much of the BWCA ecosystem.
Clinton, DeWitt
Nineteenth Century governor of New York state. Gave his name to the small genus of woodland bead lilies, Clintonia. Represented in the North Country by the Blue Bead Lily, (Clintonia borealis).
Clone
Multiple individuals of identical genetic makeup. Common among plant species which tend to reproduce more successfully by vegetative means (stolons, rhizomes) than by seed. Because of the harsh growing conditions, this includes many, if not most, BWCA species. The most noteworthy of these may be the Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), clones of which can cover a significant area of forest.
Clubmoss
Any of several species of primitive, creeping plants of the genus Lycopodium. Not true mosses, they are instead closely related to the ferns and horsetails. Represented in the North Country by several species and, as a group, quite common.
Cocoon
A covering, composed partly or wholly of silk or other sticky fiber, spun or constructed by many insect larvæ as protection during the pupal stage of development.
Coltsfoot
Any of several species of low, perennial herbs of the genus Petasites. Represented in the North Country by Early Sweet Coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus). The deeply cleft leaf apparently reminded some of a colt's foot.
Compound
A leaf made up of several leaflets. There is no bud in the angle between the leaflets and leaf stem in a compound leaf. Common North Country examples include the Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra), Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), and Wild Roses (Rosa acicularis, for example).
Conchu
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Conglomerate
A coarse-grained sedimentary rock made up of large, rounded particles of rock cemented together by finer particles. (The large particles must be at least 2mm in size and can be boulder size). Easily identified on portages and around campsites.
Conifer
A woody plant which bears its seed in cones (literally "cone bearing"). Well represented in the North Country by the needle leaf evergreens and one deciduous needle leaf tree, the Tamarack (Larix laricina).
Conk
The visible fruiting body of a wood-rotting fungus, especially of the family Polyporaceae, usually indicating well established rot in the underlying wood.
Continental Divide
A major drainage divide separating the drainage to one ocean from another. In the North Country, the Laurentian Divide separates the streams which flow to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the St. Lawrence River, from those which flow north to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.
Cook County
The easternmost of Minnesota's BWCA counties, extending from the Canadian border south to Superior. Lake County is to the west. The county seat and largest city is Grand Marais.
Cookoosh
A lake. Probably from the Ojibwe kokosh, "pig, hog, swine."
Copepods
A subclass of freshwater crustaceans. From the Latin: cope, "one shell".
Corolla
Collective term for all the petals of a flower, separate or fused together.
Corticolous
Lichens which colonize tree bark.
Corvid
Any of the many birds of the family Corvidæ, the Crows. Represented in the North Country by two northern species resident year round, the Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) and Northern Raven (Corvus corax), and two summer visitors near the northern edge of their range, the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos).
Cotyledon
A "seed leaf" of a plant, which either stores or absorbs food. Whether a species has one or two marks the great division of the flowering plants (Angiosperms) into the Monocots and Dicots.
Courduroy
A method of primitive road construction in which poles were laid side by side to provide a firm, if rough, surface. Still useful in the BWCA for portage trails crossing bogs and other muddy areas. From the French cours du roi, literally the King's Road, and the derivation for the textured fabric of the same name.
Cowbird
A nest parasite which lays its eggs in the nests of other, generally smaller, birds, leaving the eggs to be incubated and young fed by the "adoptive parent". The cowbird hatchling often pushes the younger offspring of its host out of the nest to their death and can have a negative impact on local populations of host species. The cowbird of the North Country is the native Brown Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater).
Crepescular
An animal typically active at dawn and at dusk but at rest during the midday and nighttime hours.
Crossbill
A small finch whose upper and lower bills are of such length and curvature as to cross one another when closed. An evolutionary adaptation for extricating the seed from conifer cones. Represented in the North Country by two species, the Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), and the White Winged Crossbill.(Loxia leucoptera). Ajidêkoneshi in the Ojibwe.
Crown
Upper part of a tree, including the branches and foliage.
Crown Fire
A wildfire of sufficient intensity as to have climbed from the ground to the tree tops and which then spreads at the treetop level. Not uncommon in the northern forests before the days of fire supression, especially in stands of Black Spruce (Picea mariana).
Crown Lands
Those public lands of the Canadian Province of Ontario adjacent to the BWCAW and Quetico Provincial Park, but not a part of Quetico.
Crustacea
Arthropods with a chitinous exoskeleton (ie, hard shell). These are the most abundant zooplankton, feeding on diatoms, copepods, fish eggs, larva, and other small organisms. Also includes the larger crayfish. From the Latin crusta, "shell or crust".
Crustose
An extremely thin type of lichens which gives the impression of having been painted onto the rock or bark substrate, adhering closely to at all points under the thallus. Often raised and bumpy with numerous surface cracks. Removal from the substrata will cause extensive damage. These pioneering lichens can survive in harsher environments than other groups. Also known as "crusties" or "fairy barf."
Culm
The hollow or pithy (non-woody) stem found in grasses and sedges.
Cummings Lake Trail
A 5 mile hiking trail extending west from County Road 644 to Cummings Lake in the BWCAW. Begins on an old logging road.
Curtain Falls
A Border Route waterfall, dropping from Crooked into Iron Lake. Bypassed by a 140 rod portage on the southern (American) side.
Cyanobacteria
Bluegreen Algae. The smallest plankton, sometimes abundant in freshwater. May form large algae cluster mats.
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Last Updated on 11 April, 2004