Visiting the Pagami Creek Fire
Last weekend I took a long-awaited Boundary Waters trip with members of my family. We chose to go in at Lake One, ground zero for the infamous Pagami Creek Fire of 2011. I had been told by a friend who guides BWCAW trips that Lake One was getting less use this summer due to the misconception that the fire had left Lake One and the surrounding “number lakes” desolate and void of life.
Photo courtesy of InciWeb
I found this interesting and sad at the same time. From a young age I learned that fire offered an opportunity for the next stage of succession in a wilderness setting. Nature is a wondrous mystery where life springs anew with each natural disturbance. I found it unfortunate that others did not see the fire in the same light. What a great opportunity to see with one’s own eyes the powerful change that occurs after a wildfire or some other natural disturbance.
It had been nearly 40 years since my father and uncle had been back to the BWCAW for a canoe trip and I was ecstatic to share this trip with them. I was even more excited to share with them the knowledge that I had of the area’s forests and wildlife.
On our second day, we took a day-trip over to the mouth of the Pagami Creek to see just how much the fire had affected the landscape. We could see a few burnt, orange balsam and pine trees off in the distance from our campsite on the northeast end of the lake and eagerly paddled across to the opposite side where the fire originated.
As we approached the bay and passed several islands, the southwest end of Lake One opened up and we were able to get a panoramic view of the burnt shoreline. As with most wildfires, the burn pattern was a beautiful matrix of blackened trees and branches, rocks and soil mixed in with green shrubs, trees and grasses.
My family was surprised to see that it wasn’t just a massive black hole of burnt tree trunks. I explained that in some areas of the fire where it had burned the hottest, one would expect to see that. However, even in those areas the fire may jump or move around an area due to water or wind and leave a perfect green patch of untouched land.