A BWCA Glossary


Madtom
Any of the small, secretive, and ugly bullhead catfish of the genus Noturus. Thanks to a venom gland at the base of the pectoral spine, the Madtoms can inflict a painful, though not serious, sting. Represented in the North Country by the 4½" Tadpole Madtom (Noturus gyrinus), so named for its small size and resemblance to the immature frog.
Magnetic Declination
The angle of divergence between true north and magnetic north. Measured in degrees east or west of true, or geographic north.
Makwa
A lake. "Bear" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Maniwaki
A lake and creek southeast of Insula. Name derivation unknown.
Manomin
A lake. "Wild rice" in the Ojibwe language of the region
Maraboef Lake Portage
A 36 rod Border Route portage between the northwestern corner of the Devil's Elbow and Maraboef Lake. On the Canadian side.
Marl
A deposit of calcium carbonate resulting from biotically induced changes in the carbonate-bicarbonate balance in freshwater basins; also as a result of evaporation or abrupt changes in temperature causing the escape of carbon dioxide from soluble calcium bicarbonate and the formation of insoluble calcium carbonate.
Marsh
A wetland on mineral soil and under standing water for at least a part of the year. Generally well aerated and rich in minerals with little or no accumulation of peat. Principally inhabitated by partially-submerged herbaceous vegetation. Mashkig or wâbashkiki in the Ojibwe.

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Marten
A furbearing, arboreal weasel (Martes americana) of the North with a pronounced taste for red squirrel. Also known as Pine Marten or Pekan. From the Middle English martren and the Old French martrine, names for the fur of the marten which eventually replaced the name marter (from the Middle English martre; Old English mearð) for the animal itself. Wâbijeshi in the Ojibwe.
McKenzie
One of the two popular map series for navigating Canoe Country. White background at a scale of 2" to the mile.
Meadowrue
Any of several species of perennial herb of the genus Thalictrum. Represented in the North Country by Tall Meadowrue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) and Early Meadowrue (Thalictrum dioicum).
Meander
A sharp bend, loop or turn in a stream's course. When abandoned, called a meander scar or an oxbow.
Median Fins
In fishes, the three unpaired fins -- anal, caudal, and dorsal.
Mercury
A toxic, elemental metal and environmental pollutant. Spread through the atmosphere to the most remote locations, it can pose a risk when eating certain species of fish, from some lakes. See the Minnesota Department of Health's Fish Consumption Advisory for details.
Merlin
The compact, jay-sized falcon of the northern coniferous forests (Falco columbarius). Very vocal in summer and not at all uncommon in the BWCA. From the Old French esmerillon (the modern émerillon). Also known, inelegantly, as the Pigeon Hawk.
Mesaba
Applied to many features and entities in the North Country. "Iron" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Microcrustacea
Those crustaceans between 153 µm and 363 µm in length. From the Greek, mikro (mikro), "small."
Microplankton
Tiny plankton, usually phytoplankton. From the Greek, mikro (mikro), "small."
Mid-Continent Gravity High
A narrow arc of measurably stronger gravitational force which runs northwest from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan through Lake Superior and southwest as far as Kansas. It corresponds with the techtonic rift of the Superior Syncline.
Minerotrophic
Receiving nutrients from the groundwater and therefore rich in minerals as compared to an ombrotrophic situation deriving minerals only from the atmosphere.
Mink
A large, aquatic weasel (Mustela vison) of the northern wetlands. Nocturnal, solitary, and rarely straying far from water, it is most commonly seen swimming at dusk and dawn. Jangwêshe in the Ojibwe.
Minnesota
The North Star State (L'Etoile du Nord), Land of 10,000 Lakes, and home to the BWCAW (where over 1,000 of those 10,000 lakes may be found). From the Dakota, minisota, "sky-tinted waters."
Misquah
A lake. "Red" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Misquah Hills
A range of highlands in the eastern BWCA. Perhaps best viewed from Winchell Lake, which stretches along their northern edge. Formed of red granitic rock of the Duluth Complex, hence their name.
Mistletoe
In the North Country, the Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum), a flowering parasite of Black Spruce (Picea mariana). Not to be confused with that of the Druids and later holiday tradition.
Mites
Small, often minute, arthropods in the order Acarina, class Arachnida, which includes spiders, ticks, and related critters. Mites have four pairs of legs, like ticks and spiders, and unlike the insects, which have only three.
Mitrewort
Any of several species of herbaceous perennials belonging to the genus Mitella. Represented in the North Country by the Naked Mitrewort (Mitella nuda).
Moat
A type of Lagg, the mineral-rich drainage area surrounding a bog, where it is occupied by standing or, occasionally, moving water.
Moiyaka
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Mole
Any of the near-blind, subterranean mammals of the genus Talpidae. Represented in the North Country by a single species, the Star Nose Mole (Condylura cristata).
Monocotyledon
A subclass of the flowering plants (Angiosperms). Named for having only one seed leaf (cotyledon) they tend to have narrow leaves, parallel veins in the leaves, flower parts usually in multiples of three, a scattered arrangement of primary vascular bundles in the stem, and fibrous root systems. Also known as Monocot. Common North Country monocots include the grasses and sedges, and the Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor). See Dicotyledon.
Monoecious
A plant having the male and female reproductive structures in separate flowers but on the same plant. In the North Country, the conifers are good examples of monoecious plants.
Monument Portage
An 80 rod Border Route portage between Swamp and Ottertrack Lakes.
Moonwort
A small, rare, succulent fern (Botrichium lunaria) of the northern forest. Considered a threatened species in Minnesota.
Moose
The largest and most common of the North Country deer (Alces alces) and one of the icons of the North. Mons in the Ojibwe.
Moose Mountain
A 2012' mountain on the south side of the Pigeon River, between Moose and Mountain Lakes.
Moose Portage
A 130 rod Border Route portage on the Pigeon River, between Moose and North Fowl Lakes.
Morraine
The deposit of rocky debris (till), usually in the form of a low ridge, at the point where a lobe of a glacier pauses in its advance. The moraine which marks the farthest advance of a glacial lobe is called a terminal moraine.
Mosquito
Any of the delicate, bloodsucking flies of the familiy Culicidæ, all too familiar to anyone who has spent time out of doors among the lakes and bogs of Canoe Country. Sagimê in the Ojibwe.
Motor Route
In the BWCAW, those lakes and streams where 1) the use of motors is currently allowed by law; 2) the use of motors was once allowed and the routes were maintained with that in mind. Remnants of old motor routes may still be seen in the channels cleared through rocky shallows and the remains of old boat docks at portages.
Mouse
1) Any of several species of small rodent. Represented in the Boundary Waters by three species, the Woodland Jumping Mouse (Napaeozapus insignis), Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), and Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius). 2) Any of the many rodents of the Mouse Family (Cricetidæ), including the lemmings, mice, voles, and muskrat. Represented in the BWCA by 8 species in 7 genera. Wawabigonodji in the Ojibwe.
Muck
The dark, wet, richly aromatic, organic soil of northern wetlands. Composed primarily of well decomposed fen vegetation such as sedges.
Mukooda
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Muskeg
1) An expanse of acid peatland with Black Spruce (Picea mariana) and an understory of low ericaceous shrubs, such as Leatherleaf (Chamædaphne calyculata) in more open areas and Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) beneath the spruce. 2) A lake
Muskrat
The largest member of the Mouse family (Cricetidæ) in the North Country, (Ondatra zibethicus). Aquatic in habit and active year round. Wajashk in the Ojibwe.
Mustelid
Any of the many small carnivorous members of the Weasel family (Mustelidæ). Represented in the North Country by 9 species in 6 genera. Includes weasels, otter, skunk, and wolverine.
Mutualism
A type of symbiosis where two (or more) organisms from different species live in close proximity to one another and rely on one another for nutrients, protection, or other life functions. Both (or all) of the organisms involved benefit from the relationship. The classic example in the North Country is the Reindeer Lichens (Cladonia spp.) which are made up of a photosynthetic algæ and a fungus.
Mycelium
The thalus or vegetative portion of a fungus, consisting of threadlike tubes, or hypæ; "roots" of the mushroom
Mycobiont
The fungal component of the lichen partnership, absorbing nutrients and providing structural support for the plant.
Mycology
The scientific study of the fungi.
Mycorrhizae
A symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots or rhizoids of a plant, providing for greater absorbtion of water and nutrients by the plant roots.
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Last Updated on 11 April, 2004