A BWCA Glossary

A large lake on the Canadian border. Probably derived from Sagaiganan, the Ojibwe for "inland lakes".
Saganaga Batholith
An intrusion of medium to coarse grained grey granite with distinctive "eyes" formed by clusters of quartz crystals. It underlies the area from Saganaga south to Seagull and southeast nearly to Gunflint Lake.
Saganaga Falls
A 6' waterfall on the Granite River where it enters Red Sucker Bay of Lake Saganaga. Bypassed by 36 rod portage on the eastern (Canadian) side.
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Any of the nocturnal amphibians of the Order Caudata. Represented in the BWCA by six species in four genera of three families, the Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus, a Lungless Salamander, Plethodontidæ), and four Mole Salamanders (Ambystomatidæ), the Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), Eastern Tiger (Ambystoma tigrinum), Blue Spotted (Ambystoma laterale), and Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).
The botanical term for a winged seed, as in that of the maples.
Soil composed of large particles. Mitawan in the Ojibwe.
Any of a large variety of small and medium sized wading birds of the family Scolopacidæ. Limited to two breeding species in the BWCA, the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), and the Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia).

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A plant which derives its nourishment from dead organic matter and usually lacks chlorophyll. Represented in the North Country by the ghostly white Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) and the Coralroot orchids (Corallorrhiza spp.).
A small hole made it the bark of a tree in order to tap its sap, not unlike tapping maples for maple sugar. Generally the work of woodpeckers (the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker in the North Country) but used by other animals and especially insects.
Any of a number of species of perennial herb of the genus Aralia. Represented in the North Country by two species, Bristly Sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) and Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis).
Another common name for the shrubs of genus Amelanchier, also known as Serviceberries or Juneberries.
1) A lake on the southern edge of the BWCAW at the terminus of the Sawbill Trail. 2) In the local vernacular, another name for the Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), a diving duck with serrated bill.
Sawbill Trail
Cook County Road 2, which rises from the North Shore of Lake Superior on the northern end of Tofte to trail's end at Sawbill Lake on the edge of the BWCAW.
Any of a large number of species of leaf and needle eating insect of the families Cimbicidæ (Cimbid Sawflies), Diprionidæ (Conifer Sawflies), and Tenthredinidæ (Common Sawflies). Not flies at all but relatives of the ants, bees, and wasps (Order Hymenoptera) they are most commonly encountered in the North Country in the larval (caterpillar) stage, feeding on the needles of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Spruce, and Pine.
Logged trees which are large enough, and otherwise suitable, for sawing into dimensional lumber, such as 2×4's, as opposed to being ground up for pulp.
A term used to describe lichen species which occupy rocks and boulders.
Used to describe a plant with small points or knobs, like a file; scaly, scabby, rough. From the Latin, scabrosus, "rough."
A small North Shore community on US Highway 61, just southwest of Tofte and the turnoff for the Sawbill Trail.
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Second Growth
Plant communities that come up naturally after the first growth of timber has been cut or destroyed by fire. Also known as young timber.
In land survey terms, one of 36 subdivisions of a township, each of which is theoretically one mile square and contains 640 acres. In the actual surveys the dimensions and areas of these sections are subject to variance from the theoretical standards of the system. The township sections are numbered progressively from the northeast corner from 1 to 36. These section lines and numbers are marked on the Fisher, McKenzie, and USGS maps of the Boundary Waters. Section numbers are sometimes taken as names for lakes, a sure mark of desperation. (Township sections diagram)
Any of a wide variety of grass-like, monocotyledonous plants of the family Cyperaceae, having achenes and solid stems which are triangular in cross-section. One of the most important plants in the shaping of the BWCA wetlands. Most "grasses" seen from the canoe are sedges. From the Old English secg.
Sedge Fen
A sedge-dominated peatland, often with some low shrub or tree cover, with mineral-rich, ærated water at or near the surface.
Sedge Mat
Floating vegetation dominated and held together by sedges, extending out onto open water.
Sedge Meadow
A sedge dominated wetland similar to a fen but on mineral soil and generally less waterlogged during at least part of the season.
Seed Bank
The accumulated seed lying dormant but potentially viable at a given site. Some species will build up extensive seed banks in anticipation of the arrival of optimal germination conditions while others bank little or nothing.
Seed Tree
A logging method where a limited number of mature trees are left standing to naturally reseed the area.
The soil upon which wild seeds are deposited. Its characteristics will influence whether or not germination occurs and whether or not the resulting seedlings will thrive. Many North Country species have fairly narrow seedbed requirements.
Self Pruning
The tendancy of some trees to drop their lower leaves and branches as they become shaded by taller growth.
Aging of tissues; growing old.
Of or relating to plant succession.
The organisms in a community at a given point in the successional sequence. The final sere is the climax.
Resin bearing. A classic North Country example is the serotinous cones of the Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) which are sealed tightly closed by the resin until softened by fire, at which point the cones open and the seeds are released.
Another common name for the shrubs of genus Amelanchier, also known as Saskatoon or Juneberries.
A leaf attached directly at its base without support, stalk, pedicel, or peduncle. From the Latin, sedere, "to sit."
Slender, hairlike, or bristly projection arising from the surface of a plant or the epidermal layer on any part of the body of an insect.
Shallow Arch Bottom
In canoe design, a shape providing less initial stability than a flat bottom, but good secondary stability. As the canoe tips, it balances on its side, resisting further tipping. Works well in rough water, generally providing the best all-around performance.
Any of several species of low-growing perennial herb of the genus Pyrola. Represented in the North Country by a half dozen species, including Pink Shinleaf (Pyrola asarifolia), White Flowered Pyrola (Pyrola elliptica), Lesser Pyrola (Pyrola minor), Round Leaf Pyrola (Pyrola rotundifolia), One Sided Shinleaf (Pyrola secunda), and Nodding Pyrola (Pyrola virens).
Shipstead-Nolan Act
The 1930 Act of Congress which prohibited logging within 400 feet of the natural waterline on all federal lands and required the maintenance of natural water levels. Forced the abandonment of plans for hydroelectric dams in the Boundary Waters. Also created a natural buffer which shielded the devastation of logging activities from the view of passing canoists and may have thereby delayed the call for protection of the BWCA and the cessation of logging.
Small holes in a leaf caused by feeding activity and giving the appearance of injury from a shotgun.
Any of several species of small, insectivorous mammals of the family Soricidæ. Represented in the North Country by five species, Short Tail Shrew (Blarina brevicauda), Pygmy Shrew (Microsorex hoyi), Arctic Shrew (Sorex arcticus), Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus), and Water Shrew (Sorex palustris). Not remotely mouselike in anything save appearance, shrews are high-strung bundles of energy that must consume several times their weight in food each day to survive.
In canoe design, the sides of the boat can have Flare, Tumblehome or be Straight-sided. Flare will shed water well and increase stability. Tumblehome gives a narrower beam at the gunwales and allows for easier paddling, however stability will be decreased. Straight-sided canoes are a compromise of the two. Many canoes will incorporate one, two, or all three of these in different areas of the hull.
Physical indicators left, intended or not, which mark the passage of an animal. Includes scat, tracks, and bits of aluminum on subsurface rocks.
Rising magma cooling underground which forms in sheets parallel to existing layers. Dikes and sills of Keweenawan time arose among the older Rove Formation which runs from Gunflint Lake east to Superior (our BWCA Region V). More resistant to erosion and glaciation than the surrounding rock, they delineate the long and narrow lakes which are the hallmark of this region.
The cultivating of forest as crop, controlling the establishment, composition, constitution, and growth of forests. About as far away as you can get from wilderness and still be in the woods. Can you say plantation?
A lake and creek. Name derivation unknown.
Sioux Hustler Trail
A rigorous, 27 mile hiking trail loop in the northwestern BWCA with access from the Echo Trail (BWCAW Entry Point #15). No water crossings are provided; expect to get your feet wet. Named for the Little Indian Sioux River and Hustler Lake.
A small finch of the genus Carduelis. Represented in the North Country by a single species, the relatively nondescript Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus).
A lake. Name derivation unknown.
Any of several perennial herbs of the genus Scutellaria. Represented in the North Country by two species, the Common Skullcap (Scutellaria epilobiifolia), and the Mad Dog Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora).
Any of several boldly patterned, nocturnal omnivores, noted for their pungent defense mechanism. Represented in the North Country by the common Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis). From the Abnaki (Eastern Algonkin) segankw/segongw. Jikaag in the Ojibwe.
In timber cutting, the branches, small trees, and other vegetative material not considered suitable for harvesting. Often piled and burned.
Any of several species of aquatic or semi-aquatic herb of the genus Polygonum. Represented in the Boundary Waters by four species, the Showy Smartweed (Polygonum amphibium), Scarlet Smartweed (Polygonum coccineum), Water Smartweed (Polygonum natans), and Tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum).
Any of the small, slender fishes of the family Osmeridæ, characterized by a large mouth, cycloid scales, a lateral line, an adipose fin, and no spines in the fins. They eat crustaceans. Represented in the North Country by the popular Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax), a small, ocean fish introduced into the Great Lakes early in the last century and arriving in Superior by 1930. Their annual spawning run up the streams of the North Shore is a major event.
The bare trunk of a dead tree, occasionally with a few branches or branch stubs. Often seen standing in the aftermath of a fire or in shallow waters with one end stuck into the muddy bottom and the other at or near the surface where it becomes a potential navigation hazard for the unwary.
The North Country is not snake country. Only three snakes are native to the BWCA, all of the family Colubridæ; the Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), Northern Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata), and the Northern Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus). None is longer than 26" and none is poisonous. From the Old English snaca.
A long billed wading bird of bog and marsh. The Common Snipe (Capella gallinago) is native to the BWCA. Padashkânji or manominikeshi in the Ojibwe.
Snowbank Trail
A partial loop hiking trail around Snowbank and Parent Lakes (a complete loop with a 2 mile walk on the Snowbank Road added). Access is from the Fernberg Road (BWCAW Entry Point #74). Reservations are required for overnight use in summer.
A creeping evergreen subshub (Gaultheria hispidula) of the Wintergreen family. A common plant of the mossy forest floor of Cedar Swamps and Spruce Bog Forests. Not to be confused with shrubs of the genus Symphoricarpos, not native to the North Country, which are also commonly called Snowberries.
A general term for a coniferous tree species and for the wood produced from such trees. Has little or nothing to do with actual or relative wood hardness.
Soil Horizon
A layer of soil which can be distinguished from adjacent layers by characteristic physical properties such as texture, structure, or color, or by chemical composition.
Soil Texture
The physical nature of the soil, according to its relative proportions of sand, clay, and silt.
Under the influence of mineral-rich ground or surface waters. As in fens.
A canoe designed for a single paddler, seated amidships, using either the traditional canoe paddle or the double-bladed kayak paddle. In most cases, a better option for odd numbered parties than traveling three to a canoe.
Solomon's Seal
Any of several perennial herbs of the genus Polygonatum. Represented in the North Woods by two species, the Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and the Hairy Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum pubescens).
Powder-like areas on lichens, usually on the lobe edges.
On a fern, a grouping or cluster of several Sporangia, the miniature capsules that produce the dustlike spores that are the "seeds" by which ferns are propagated.
South Lake Portage
A 57 rod Border Lake portage, between South and Rat lakes.
South Lake Trail
A 3½ mile hiking trail along an old Jeep road, extending from the Gunflint Trail (BWCAW Entry Point 81) north and east to the west end of South Lake.
A flower spike with a fleshy axis and sessile flowers, usually enclosed in a spathe. The most striking example from Canoe Country is the large white flower of the Wild Calla Lily (Calla palustris). From the Latin, spadix, "palm branch."
Small, seed-eating New World finches, represented in the North Country by eight species, all summer visitors: the Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), Clay Colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida), Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), White Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), and the Dark Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). From the Old English spearwa.
A large leaf-like structure enclosing a flower cluster, especially a spadix. Again, best demonstrated in the North Country by the Wild Calla (Calla palustris) of water's edge. From the Greek, spaqe (spathe), "flat blade."
Shaped like a spatula or spoon, gradually widening with a rounded tip, as some leaves. The Spatula Leaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia) of northern bogs is a good example.
A group of interbreeding individuals, not interbreeding with another such group, being a taxonomic unit including two names in binomial nomenclature, the generic name and specific epithet, similar and related species being grouped into a genus. From the Latin, species, "particular kind."
Species of Special Concern
To the Minnesota DNR, "although the species is not endangered or threatened, it is extremely uncommon in Minnesota, or has unique or highly specific habitat requirements and deserves careful monitoring of its status. Species on the periphery of their range that are not listed as threatened may be included in this category along with those species that were once threatened or endangered but now have increasing or protected, stable populations."
Specific Epithet
The second part of the taxonomic naming convention of genus and species.
Any of the mosses of the genus Sphagnum.
Sphagnum Lawn
A poor fen; a flat, wet, acid peatland, under the influence of groundwater, transitional to a bog.
Opening on the heads of some fishes, such as the Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), located above and behind the eyes, and connecting the throat cavity to the outside.
A hybrid fish species resulting from a cross between a Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and a Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Not common but found in some BWCA lakes.
Any of over 660 species of small evergreen ferns, largely tropical, of the genus Asplenium. The name derives from the supposed medicinal properties of the plant. Represented in the North Country by the delicate Maidenhair Speenwort (Asplenium trichomanes).
The reproductive structures of the ferns and fern allies. They are miniature sacks or capsules that produce the dustlike spores that are the "seeds" by which ferns are propagated. Several sporangia grouped together are called a Sorus. The arrangement of sporangia varies greatly, most ferns having their sporangia on the underside of the frond, arranged in an organized pattern usually associated with veins in the pinnule (leaf). Many times (but not always) the ferns provide a protective covering for the Sorus called an Indusium.
The "seeds" of the ferns and fern allies, normally formed in groups of four. Spores contain oil droplets and sometimes chlorophyll in additon to their nucleus. Ferns drop millions, oftentimes billions of spores during their lifetime but very few ever land in a spot suitable for growth.
A spore-producing or supporting structure.
An infectious skin disease caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii, often contracted through the handling of Sphagnum Moss.
Spruce Budworm
The larval (caterpillar) stage of a small brown moth (Choristoneura fumiferana). The spruce budworm overwinters as a young (second instar) larva in a silken shelter (a hibernaculum) and is active as temperatures become warm in spring. Outbreaks usually occur in mature forests of White (Picea glauca) , Black (Picea mariana), and Engelmann Spruce and Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), occasionally reaching epidemic proportions and creating wide areas of dead and dying trees. These, in turn, become potential fuel for wildfire.
A term used to describe lichens similar in form to the crustose lichens except that the edges are turned up from the substrate.
Easily recognized rodents of the family Sciuridæ. Represented in the North Country by five species; two squirrels (Red, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, and Northern Flying, Glaucomys sabrinus), two chipmunks (Least, Eutamius minimus, and Eastern, Tamias striatus), and the woodchuck (Marmota monax).
St. Johnswort
Any of several species of herbaceous perennial of the genus Hypericum. Represented in the Boundary Waters by Common St. Johnswort ( Hypericum majus) and Marsh St. Johnswort (Hypericum virginicum).
St. Louis County
The westernmost of Minnesota's BWCA counties, extending from the Canadian border south to the St. Louis River at the extreme southwest end of Superior. The county seat and largest city is Duluth.
St. Louis Sublobe
A tongue of the Red River ice sheet which, in the last glacial advance in Minnesota (about 12,000 years ago) turned eastward across northern Minnesota, advancing to the Mesabi Range.
Stability, Initial
In describing canoe performance, the sensation of stability at low angles of heel.
Stability, Secondary
In describing canoe performance, the sensation of stability at high angles of heel.
Stable Fly
A medium size species of housefly (Stomoxys calcitrans), grey with a yellow-green sheen. Most noteworthy for its retractable biting proboscis, a drill-like structure extending from the face. Tends to stay close to the ground near water and is that annoying fly that bites at your ankles at North Country campsites.
Stairway Portage
The steep, 80 rod portage which climbs 140' from Rose Lake to Duncan, just to the west of the Stairway Portage Falls.
The male reproductive organs in flowers, situated immediately within the petals, and composed of the filament, and the anther, which is filled with pollen. From the Latin, stare, "to stand."
Producing or consisting of stamens; flowers with stamens but not pistils.
The unique, seven leaf flower of the boreal forest. (Trientalis borealis).
The vernacular term for those Rainbow Trout (Salmo gairdneri) which live in the Great Lakes, but travel up the small tribuary streams, including those along the North Shore, to spawn.
The stem supporting the cap, or pileus, of a mushroom.
A specialized plant stem which grows from a stem above the ground, taking root at the tip, and ultimately developing a new plant. From the Latin, stole, stolonis, "a twig, shoot."
The process of artificially breaking seed dormancy by placing them in layers of moisture-retaining media, under generally cool and moist conditions, for a period of time, so as to simulate winter conditions. Basically, you try to fool the seed into thinking it has endured a long, North Country winter when, in fact, it has just spent a couple of months in your fridge.
Scratches or grooves gouged into surface rock by glacial action. Striations along bedrock indicate direction of ice movement. Often seen on exposed bedrock. Photo.
A cone-like, spore-bearing reproductive structure of horsetails (Equisetaceae) and clubmosses (Lycopodiaceae). A specialized leaf-like organ on which one or more sporangia are borne close together on a main stem.
Stuart Lake Trail
An eight mile hiking trail extending north from the Echo Trail to Stuart Lake. All but the first quarter mile is within the BWCAW.
Any of the large freshwater fishes of the family Acipenseridæ. Represented in the BWCA by the rare Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), a Species of Special Concern to the Minnesota DNR.
The material upon which a plant grows. North Country substrates range from rock surfaces to peat to mucky lake bottom.
Changes in a community at a site following either habitat disturbance or colonization of a new substrate. In the North Country the preeminent disturbance is fire.
Any of the many freshwater fishes of the family Catostomidæ. Represented in the BWCA by the Longnose Sucker (Catostomus catostomus), and the ubiquitous White Sucker (Catostomus commersoni). From the shape of the lips, which suggests these fishes feed by sucking.
Summer Stagnation
1) In northern lakes, the depletion of oxygen in the cool, dense, lower waters of a lake, separated from the warmer oxygen-rich waters near the surface by the temperature differential marked by the thermocline. Remedied by the infusion of oxygen that occurs at the fall turnover. 2) The state of the gainfully employed who would rather be on a wilderness lake with paddle in hand.
Any of several species of insectivorous bog plants of the genus Drosera. Represented in the North Country by two species, Spatula Leaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia) and Round Leaf Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).
Any of the fishes of the family Centrarchidæ. Well represented in the BWCA by the Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), and three Bass: Rock (Ambloplites rupestris), Largemouth (Micropterus salmoides), and Smallmouth (Micropterus dolomieui).
The greatest of the Great Lakes, covering some 31,820 square miles with a maximum depth reaching 1300', some 700' below sea level, at the Superior Syncline. Kitchigami, "great water" to the Ojibwe; Gitche Gumee to Longfellow.
Superior Uplands
The highlands of the Canadian Shield in northeastern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Of ancient Precambrian origins.
The graceful insectivorous aerialists of the family Hirundinidæ. Represented in the BWCA by two breeding species of summer, the Tree Swallow (Iridoprocne bicolor), and the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). Jashâwanibissi in the Ojibwe.
A forested wetland, flooded during part of the year or with moving groundwater, well aerated, rich in minerals, and storing little or no peat. Swamps may be hardwood or coniferous. Coniferous swamps developed on peat, such as White Cedar Swamps, are often called Treed Fens. Wabashkiki or mashkig in the Ojibwe.
Swamp Portage
A 72 rod Border Route portage connecting the west end of Swamp Lake to Mud Bay in the east end of Ottertrack.
A type of organism-organism interaction where one organism lives in intimate association with another. Two types of symbiotic relationship common to the North Country are mutualism and parasitism.
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Last Updated on 11 April, 2004